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Using Your House for Income in Retirement

July 17, 2015 Comments off

Using Your House for Income in Retirement
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Using Your House reviews the two most common ways to use your house to boost your income in retirement – downsizing and a reverse mortgage – with clear examples, a discussion of the pros and cons of each approach, and links to tools on the web where you can get estimates of what downsizing or a reverse mortgage can do for you.

Sources of Increasing Differential Mortality Among the Aged by Socioeconomic Status

July 16, 2015 Comments off

Sources of Increasing Differential Mortality Among the Aged by Socioeconomic Status
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

This paper uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to explore the extent and causes of widening differences in life expectancy by socioeconomic status (SES) for older persons. We construct alternative measures of SES using educational attainment and average (career) earnings in the prime working ages of 41-50. We also use information on causes of death, health status and various behavioral indicators (smoking, drinking, and obesity) that are believed to be predictors of premature death in an effort to explain the causes of the growing disparities in life expectancy between people of high and low SES.

The paper finds that:

  • There is strong statistical evidence in the HRS of a growing inequality of mortality risk by SES among more recent birth cohorts compared with cohorts born before 1930.
  • Both educational attainment and career earnings as constructed from Social Security records are equally useful indicators of SES, although the distinction in mortality risk by education is greatest for those with and without a college degree.
  • There has been a significant decline in the risk of dying from cancer or heart conditions for older Americans in the top half of the income distribution, but we find no such reduction of mortality risk in the bottom half of the distribution.
  • The inclusion of the behavioral variables and health status result in substantial improvement in the predictions of mortality, but they do not identify the sources of the increase in differential mortality.

Still a Better Bang for the Buck: Update on the Economic Efficiencies of Pensions

July 16, 2015 Comments off

Still a Better Bang for the Buck: Update on the Economic Efficiencies of Pensions
Source: National Institute on Retirement Security

New research finds that pension plans are a far more cost-efficient means of providing retirement income as compared to individual defined contribution accounts.

The study calculates that the economic efficiencies embedded in defined benefit (DB) pensions enable these retirement plans to deliver the same retirement income at a 48% lower cost than 401(k)-type defined contribution (DC) accounts.

One Nation, Under Sedation: Medicare Paid for Nearly 40 Million Tranquilizer Prescriptions in 2013

July 15, 2015 Comments off

One Nation, Under Sedation: Medicare Paid for Nearly 40 Million Tranquilizer Prescriptions in 2013
Source: Pro Publica

In 2012, Medicare’s massive prescription drug program didn’t spend a penny on popular tranquilizers such as Valium, Xanax and Ativan.

The following year, it doled out more than $377 million for the drugs.

While it might appear that an epidemic of anxiety swept the nation’s Medicare enrollees, the spike actually reflects a failed policy initiative by Congress.

More than a decade ago, when lawmakers created Medicare’s drug program, called Part D, they decided not to pay for anti-anxiety medications. Some of these drugs, known as benzodiazepines, had been linked to abuse and an increased risk of falls and fractures among the elderly, who make up most of the Medicare population.

But doctors didn’t stop prescribing the drugs to Medicare enrollees. Patients just found other ways to pay for them. When Congress later reversed the payment policy under pressure from patient groups and medical societies, it swiftly became clear that a huge swath of Medicare’s patients were already using the drugs despite the lack of coverage.

In 2013, the year Medicare started covering benzodiazepines, it paid for nearly 40 million prescriptions, a ProPublica analysis of recently released federal data shows. Generic versions of the drugs — alprazolam (which goes by the trade name of Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan) and clonazepam (Klonopin) — were among the top 32 most-prescribed medications in Medicare Part D that year.

Auto Franchise Laws Restrict Consumer Choice and Increase Prices

July 14, 2015 Comments off

Auto Franchise Laws Restrict Consumer Choice and Increase Prices
Source: Mercatus Center

Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas recently received the 2014 Luddite Award from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation for preventing automaker Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers. These states’ efforts to ban direct sales are reminiscent of the Luddites, nineteenth-century English workers employed in the textile industry who both rejected technological development and actively worked to prevent its use through its destruction. State legislatures, rather than destroying physical plant and equipment like the Luddites, actively impede alternative distribution models, reducing consumer choice.

Auto franchise laws often include three major restrictions: mandatory dealership licensing requirements, onerous terms for terminating dealerships, and the creation of exclusive territories for incumbent dealers. Each rule carries a potential cost for consumers.

The coverage of these laws has expanded significantly during the past 30 years.

“They’re blowing up my phone”: Group Messaging Practices Among Adolescents

July 13, 2015 Comments off

“They’re blowing up my phone”: Group Messaging Practices Among Adolescents
Source: Microsoft Research

While group messaging has become popular, particularly among adolescents, it has not yet been explored in the HCI literature. We interviewed 48 adolescents, aged 15-24, who use group messaging regularly. We present a framework for understanding the types of groups they communicate with according to three dimensions: focus, membership, and duration. We also present findings about factors influencing their choice of group messaging tools and the problems they have managing multiple group threads using multiple tools. We explore the problem of notification overload and users’ strategies for managing frequent notifications. We describe one approach of “social alerting, ” when group members notify one another directly, rather than rely on app notifications. We relate our findings to prior work and offer design suggestions to address the challenges our participants faced in managing frequent group notifications.

An Old Boys’ Club No More: Pluralism in Participation and Performance at the Olympic Games

July 10, 2015 Comments off

An Old Boys’ Club No More: Pluralism in Participation and Performance at the Olympic Games (PDF)
Source: Peterson institute for International Economics

This paper examines the growing diversity of participation and achievement in the Olympics. A wide set of socioeconomic variables is correlated with medaling, particularly with respect to the Summer Games and women’s events. Host advantage is particularly acute in judged contests such as gymnastics. However, there is evidence that the influence of correlates such as country size, per capita income, and membership in the communist bloc is declining over time as competition becomes increasingly diverse. These effects are less evident in the Winter Games, events that require significant capital investments, and judged contests.

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