Interactive Map: Where Can Renters Afford to Own?
Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Homebuyer affordability remains near an all-time high, so where are all the first-time homebuyers? According to indexes that incorporate gross measures of house prices, interest rates, and household incomes, affordability remains at unprecedented levels. The National Association of Realtors® index, for instance, shows that the median-income household can afford to buy a home in all but 7 percent of the largest metros. Given that affordability looks good on paper, the lack of first-time homebuyers in all metros has been surprising. In 2013, first-time homebuyers made up 38 percent of home purchases, below the historical average of 40 percent, dating back to 1981. The most recent American Housing Survey shows that 3.3 million households were first-time buyers in 2009-2011, a 22 percent drop from the 2001 survey, which covered 1999-2001. This decline in first-time buyers comes in spite of real mortgage payments for the median home that remain below $800 (levels unprecedented before the recession) and a 7 percentage point decline in the mortgage payment-to-income ratio since 2001.
Historically, the majority of first-time buyers are households aged 25-34. Looking at renters in this age group, most would find the monthly costs of homeownership affordable in many metros across the country. Indeed, in 42 of the 85 metros studied, more than half of renters can afford the monthly costs of homeownership. Nearly 30 percent of the 25-34 year old renters in our sample lived in these affordable metros. Only in six metros, concentrated almost exclusively in California, are renter incomes so low compared to house prices that less than 30 percent of renters aged 25-34 can afford the costs of owning.
So why, given that so many metros are affordable to potential 25-34 year old first-time buyers, has the first-time buyer share remained low? Many demographic and economic forces are constraining the transition to homeownership for renters in their 20s and 30s.
New Policy Makes It Easier for Community Eligibility Schools to Participate in E-Rate Program
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
A new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy will make it easier for school districts adopting the Community Eligibility Provision — through which they can serve meals at no charge to all students — to apply for discounted telecommunications services and Internet access through the E-rate program. The new E-rate policy streamlines the discount calculation process for community eligibility schools so that they do not face any additional burdens relative to other schools.
The Community Eligibility Provision, a relatively new option within the federal school meal programs, eliminates school meal applications. Schools are eligible to adopt the Community Eligibility Provision based on the share of their students who are low-income, as assessed by other programs. Schools that adopt community eligibility must serve all meals at no charge. Community eligibility has been implemented a few states at a time over the past three years and is available nationwide for the 2014-2015 school year.
Since community eligibility schools do not determine which individual children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, the E-rate program has developed ways for them to calculate their E-rate discount level. For school years 2011-2012 through 2014-2015, the FCC (which sets E-rate policy) directed community eligibility schools to continue using the share of students approved for free or reduced-price meals in the year prior to implementing community eligibility for purposes of determining their E-rate discount. Schools with 75 percent or more of their students approved for free or reduced-price meals receive a 90 percent discount; most schools that adopt community eligibility likely fall into this category.
State Exemplars of School Accountability “Report Cards” (PDF)
Source: Education Commission of the States
The profiles provided below link to exemplars of school accountability “report cards” from nine states and the District of Columbia.
- What you will find:
A main “report card” page with school and district
- A sample elementary report
- A sample high school report.
Sample elementary and sample high school names are provided — with embedded links — where possible. In those states where it is possible to generate a printable file, we have provided those links. In some states, it is necessary to look for the school by name from the main page. Be sure to click through tabs and/or categories and other areas that allow users to drill further into data.
Trends in state charter school laws: Authorizers, caps, performance-based closures and virtual schools
Trends in state charter school laws: Authorizers, caps, performance-based closures and virtual schools (PDF)
Source: Education Commission of the States
Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school legislation. ECS analysts reviewed laws in the 50 states in creating an online database that highlights how state charter school laws vary, particularly in how states establish standards and accountability for charter school authorizers, allow for appeals, provide assistance with start-ups and fund charter schools.
Recently, attention to authorizers — the entities responsible for approving and overseeing charter schools — has increased. A growing number of states are establishing standards and reporting requirements that authorizers must adhere to.
Other rapidly evolving policy areas discussed in this brief are limits or “caps” on the number of charter schools allowed in a state, automatic performance-based closures and virtual or “cyber” charter schools.
The Human-Capital Needs of Tech City, London
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Cities are important sites of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially for the tech industry, and skilled migrants can play critical roles in economic development in high-tech clusters such as London’s Tech City (also known as Silicon Roundabout). In the United Kingdom, an undersupply of skilled native-born developers encourages recruiters to look afield, but visa restrictions make hiring the right workers difficult. Evidence that firms are having trouble making the most of immigration point to a number of areas for policy action, as this report outlines.
A raft of policies were introduced to grow the Tech City cluster, but while the United Kingdom is reforming policies to attract and retain skilled migrant workers and migrant entrepreneurs, getting the design of these programs right has proved especially difficult. Policymakers’ control over cluster development is limited: policies that seek to map clusters and maximize their growth rarely deliver expected benefits. However, policies that are not cluster specific—such as human-capital interventions aimed at improving the international supply of workers through migration or the local supply of workers through skills training—are likely to have indirect effects that help clusters grow.
This report analyzes the importance of human capital to the development of Tech City and sets this discussion in a broader framework linking cities, digital sectors, and highly skilled immigration.
The report is part of a series from MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration focused on how policymakers at all levels can work together to help cities and regions get more out of immigration. The reports were commissioned for the Council’s eleventh plenary meeting, “Cities and Regions: Reaping Migration’s Local Dividends.”
Cash for Corollas: When Stimulus Reduces Spending
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via Texas A&M)
Cash for Clunkers was a 2009 economic stimulus program aimed at increasing new vehicle spending by subsidizing the replacement of older vehicles. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show the increase in sales during the two month program was completely offset during the following seven to nine months, consistent with previous research. However, we also find the program’s fuel efficiency restrictions induced households to purchase more fuel efficient but less expensive vehicles, thereby reducing industry revenues by three billion dollars over the entire nine to eleven month period. This highlights the conflict between the stimulus and environmental objectives of the policy.
The Causal Effect of Environmental Catastrophe on Long-Run Economic Growth: Evidence From 6,700 Cyclones
The Causal Effect of Environmental Catastrophe on Long-Run Economic Growth: Evidence From 6,700 Cyclones (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research
Does the environment have a causal effect on economic development? Using meteorological data, we reconstruct every country’s exposure to the universe of tropical cyclones during 1950-2008. We exploit random within-country year-to-year variation in cyclone strikes to identify the causal effect of environmental disasters on long-run growth. We compare each country’s growth rate to itself in the years immediately before and after exposure, accounting for the distribution of cyclones in preceding years. The data reject hypotheses that disasters stimulate growth or that short-run losses disappear following migrations or transfers of wealth. Instead, we find robust evidence that national incomes decline, relative to their pre-disaster trend, and do not recover within twenty years. Both rich and poor countries exhibit this response, with losses magnified in countries with less historical cyclone experience. Income losses arise from a small but persistent suppression of annual growth rates spread across the fifteen years following disaster, generating large and significant cumulative effects: a 90th percentile event reduces per capita incomes by 7.4% two decades later, effectively undoing 3.7 years of average development. The gradual nature of these losses render them inconspicuous to a casual observer, however simulations indicate that they have dramatic influence over the long-run development of countries that are endowed with regular or continuous exposure to disaster. Linking these results to projections of future cyclone activity, we estimate that under conservative discounting assumptions the present discounted cost of “business as usual” climate change is roughly $9.7 trillion larger than previously thought.
DACA at the Two-Year Mark: A National and State Profile of Youth Eligible and Applying for Deferred Action
DACA at the Two-Year Mark: A National and State Profile of Youth Eligible and Applying for Deferred Action
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Since the Obama administration launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, which offers temporary relief from deportation and the right to apply for work authorization for certain unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children, 55 percent of the 1.2 million youth who immediately met the program’s criteria have applied, according to MPI estimates. As the first two-year eligibility period draws to a close, early DACA beneficiaries have begun to apply for renewal, with nearly 25,000 renewal applications submitted as of July 20, 2014.
This report provides the most up-to-date estimates available for the size, countries of origin, educational attainment, employment, English proficiency, age, gender, and poverty rates for the DACA population nationally and for key states, based on an analysis of U.S. Census data. The report also offers DACA application rates nationally and in key states, as well as for particular national-origin groups.
AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs
Source: Pew Research Internet Project
The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. But even as they are largely consistent in their predictions for the evolution of technology itself, they are deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.
A Survey of Public Opinion About Autonomous and Self-Driving Vehicles In The U.S., The U.K., And Australia
A Survey of Public Opinion About Autonomous and Self-Driving Vehicles In The U.S., The U.K., And Australia (PDF)
Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (via The Atlantic)
This survey examined public opinion regarding self-driving-vehicle technology in three major English-speaking countries—the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. The survey yielded useable responses from 1,533 persons 18 years and older.
- The main findings (applicable to each of the three countries) were as follows:
- The majority of respondents had previously heard of autonomous or self-driving vehicles, had a positive initial opinion of the technology, and had high expectations about the benefits of the technology.
- However, the majority of respondents expressed high levels of concern about riding in self-driving vehicles, security issues related to self-driving vehicles, and self-driving vehicle not performing as well as actual drivers.
- Respondents also expressed high levels of concern about vehicles without driver controls; self-driving vehicles moving while unoccupied; and self-driving commercial vehicles, busses, and taxis.
- The majority of respondents expressed a desire to have this technology in their vehicle. However, a majority was also unwilling to pay extra for the technology; those who were willing to pay offered similar amounts in each country.
- Females expressed higher levels of concern with self-driving vehicles than did males. Similarly, females were more cautious about their expectations concerning benefits from using self-driving vehicles.
In comparison to the respondents in the U.K. and Australia, respondents in the U.S. expressed greater concern about riding in self-driving vehicles, data privacy, interacting with non-self-driving vehicles, self-driving vehicles not driving as well as human drivers in general, and riding in a self-driving vehicle with no driver controls available.
The main implications of these results are that motorists and the general public in the three countries surveyed, while expressing high levels of concern about riding in vehicles equipped with this technology, feel positive about self-driving vehicles, have optimistic expectations of the benefits, and generally desire self-driving-vehicle technology when it becomes available (though a majority is not willing to pay extra for such technology at this time).
See: Why Are Americans so Suspicious of Self-Driving Cars? (The Atlantic)
Atlas of African agriculture research & development
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute
The work of agricultural researchers and development workers in Africa has the potential to significantly improve the lives of the poor. But that potential can only be realized with easy access to high-quality data and information. The Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development highlights the ubiquitous role of smallholder agriculture in Africa; the many factors shaping the location, nature, and performance of agricultural enterprises; and the strong interdependencies among farming, natural-resource stocks and flows, and the well-being of the poor.
Organized around 7 themes, the atlas covers more than 30 topics, each providing mapped geospatial data and supporting text that answers four fundamental questions: What is this map telling us? Why is this important? What about the underlying data? Where can I learn more?
The atlas is part of a wide-ranging eAtlas initiative that will showcase, through print and online resources, a variety of spatial data and tools generated and maintained by a community of research scientists, development analysts, and practitioners working in and for Africa. The initiative will serve as a guide, with references and links to online resources to introduce readers to a wealth of data that can inform efforts to improve the livelihoods of Africa’s rural poor.
Password Portfolios and the Finite-Effort User: Sustainably Managing Large Numbers of Accounts
Source: Microsoft Research
We explore how to manage a portfolio of passwords. We review why mandating exclusively strong passwords with no re-use gives users an impossible task as portfolio size grows. We find that approaches justified by loss-minimization alone, and those that ignore important attack vectors (e.g., vectors exploiting re-use), are amenable to analysis but unrealistic. In contrast, we propose, model and analyze portfolio management under a realistic attack suite, with an objective function costing both loss and user effort. Our findings directly challenge accepted wisdom and conventional advice. We find, for example, that a portfolio strategy ruling out weak passwords or password re-use is sub-optimal. We give an optimal solution for how to group accounts for re-use, and model-based principles for portfolio management.
Sales Tax Holidays: An Ineffective Alternative to Real Sales Tax Reform
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
Sales taxes are an important revenue source, comprising close to half of all state revenues in 2013. But sales taxes are also inherently regressive because the lower a family’s income, the more of its income the family must spend on things subject to the tax. Lawmakers in many states have enacted “sales tax holidays” (at least 16 states will hold them in 2014), providing a temporary break on paying the tax on purchases of clothing, computers and other items. While these holidays may seem to lessen the regressive impacts of the sales tax, in fact their benefits are minimal. This policy brief examines the many problems associated with using sales tax holidays as a tax reduction device and concludes that they have more political than policy benefits.
National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration (PDF)
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor
This paper examines a famous puzzle in social science. Why do some nations report such high happiness? Denmark, for instance, regularly tops the league table of rich nations’ wellbeing; Great Britain and the US enter further down; France and Italy do relatively poorly. Yet the explanation for this ranking – one that holds even after adjustment for GDP and socioeconomic and cultural variables – remains unknown. We explore a new avenue. Using data on 131 countries, we document a range of evidence consistent with the hypothesis that certain nations may have a genetic advantage in well-being.
PwC and IRRC Institute Release New Cybersecurity Report; Offers Investors Strategies to Evaluate Risk Amid Opaque Corporate Disclosures
A new report from PwC US and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) indicates that while companies must disclose significant cyber risks, those disclosures rarely provide differentiated or actionable information. The report examines key cybersecurity threats to corporations and provides information to investors struggling to evaluate investment risk, business mitigation strategies and the quality of corporate board oversight.
The report suggests that investors focus on corporate preparedness for cyber attacks, engage with highly-likely targets to better understand corporate preparedness, and demand better and more actionable disclosures (though not at a level that would provide a cyber-attacker a roadmap to make those attacks).
The study suggests investors ask the following key questions:
- Does the company have a Security & Privacy executive who reports to a senior level position within the company?
- Does the company have a documented cybersecurity strategy that is regularly reviewed and updated?
- Does the company perform periodic risk assessments and technical audits of its security posture?
- Can senior business executives explain the challenges of cybersecurity and how their company is responding?
- What is the organization doing to address security at its business partners?
- Has the company addressed its sector-based vulnerability to cyber attack?
- Does the organization have a response plan for a cyber incident?
The study also outlines common motivations for cyber-attacks, by industry sector, based on PwC experience…