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10 U.S. Counties with the Highest Mortgage Interest Deduction Claim Rate

December 11, 2014 Comments off

10 U.S. Counties with the Highest Mortgage Interest Deduction Claim Rate
Source: Brookings Institution

The mortgage interest deduction (MID) is one of the nation’s largest federal tax expenditures, allowing taxpayers whose total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction to deduct interest on their primary residence or secondary home up to certain limits. Using zip-code level data on taxes and demographics, Benjamin Harris—a fellow in Economic Studies—and Research Assistant Lucie Parker examine characteristics of the MID in a new Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center paper. Their findings include:

• Twenty percent of zip codes claim roughly half of the aggregate MIDs
• Zip codes with high claiming rates tend to have disproportionately white, middle-aged, and married taxpayer
• Counties west of the Mississippi River and on the East Coast disproportionately benefit from the MID

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Moving Teacher Preparation into the Future

December 9, 2014 Comments off

Moving Teacher Preparation into the Future
Source: Brookings Institution

New teachers are essential to K-12 education. They allow the system to grow as the number of students grows, and they replace teachers retiring or taking other jobs. In light of the size of the K-12 sector, it’s not surprising that preparing new teachers is big business. Currently more than 2,000 teacher preparation programs graduate more than 200,000 students a year, which generates billions of dollars in tuition and fees for higher education institutions.

Preparing new teachers also is a business that is rarely informed by research and evidence. In 2010, the National Research Council released its congressionally mandated review of research on teacher preparation. It reported that “there is little firm empirical evidence to support conclusions about the effectiveness of specific approaches to teacher preparation,” and, further on, “the evidence base supports conclusions about the characteristics it is valuable for teachers to have, but not conclusions about how teacher preparation programs can most effectively develop those characteristics.” That there is no evidence base about how best to prepare people to teach is concerning.
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Do Gasoline Prices Affect Residential Property Values?

December 8, 2014 Comments off

Do Gasoline Prices Affect Residential Property Values?
Source: Brookings Institution

This paper estimates the effect of gasoline prices on home values and explores the degree to which the relationship varies across a city. Using data from 930,702 home sales in Clark County, Nevada, from 1976 through 2010, we find that gasoline prices have significantly different effects on the sales price of homes in different neighborhoods. A ten percent increase in gasoline prices is associated with changes in location-specific average home values that span a range of over $13,000. This suggests that energy policies may affect household housing wealth via gasoline prices, a heretofore unrecognized distributional outcome.

Earned Income Tax Credit Claiming Across Zip Codes

December 5, 2014 Comments off

EITC Claiming Across Zip Codes
Source: Brookings Institution

This brief provides a fresh look at the role of the EITC by utilizing zip-code level data on taxes and demographics. In the following sections, we focus on the relationship between EITC claiming rates (i.e., the percent of tax returns receiving the EITC) and poverty rates, the demographic characteristics of zip codes with high EITC claiming rates, and the variation in EITC claiming rates and average EITC amount cross counties.

Profiling the Islamic State

December 5, 2014 Comments off

Profiling the Islamic State
Source: Brookings Institution

Intense turmoil in Syria and Iraq has created socio-political vacuums in which jihadi groups have been able to thrive. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had proven to be the strongest and most dynamic of these groups, seizing large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. Shortly after routing Iraqi forces and conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS boldly announced the establishment of a caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State (IS). How did IS become such a powerful force? What are its goals and characteristics? What are the best options for containing and defeating the group?

In a new Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, Charles Lister traces IS’s roots from Jordan to Afghanistan, and finally to Iraq and Syria. He describes its evolution from a small terrorist group into a bureaucratic organization that currently controls thousands of square miles and is attempting to govern millions of people. Lister assesses the group’s capabilities, explains its various tactics, and identifies its likely trajectory.

According to Lister, the key to undermining IS’s long-term sustainability is to address the socio-political failures of Syria and Iraq. Accordingly, he warns that effectively countering IS will be a long process that must be led by local actors. Specifically, Lister argues that local actors, regional states, and the international community should work to counter IS’s financial strength, neutralize its military mobility, target its leadership, and restrict its use of social media for recruitment and information operations.

Immigrants Continue to Disperse, with Fastest Growth in the Suburbs

December 4, 2014 Comments off

Immigrants Continue to Disperse, with Fastest Growth in the Suburbs
Source: Brookings Institution

As the White House weighs its options over whether and how to implement policy changes related to immigration, more and more places around the country are encountering a growing foreign-born population.

The number of immigrants living in the United States increased by 523,000 between 2012 and 2013, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This represents an up-tick from the last two annual changes in which 422,000 and 447,000 immigrants were added to the population each year. There are now 41.3 million foreign-born residents in the United States and their share of the total U.S. population inched up from 13.0 percent to 13.1 percent. These small changes at the national level mask bigger changes in metro areas across the country.

Immigrants continue to be attracted to the nation’s largest metropolitan areas but are dispersing to more and smaller places across the country.
In 2000, the 10 metro areas with the largest number of immigrants (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Riverside, and Boston) accounted for 56 percent of all the foreign born living in the U.S. By 2013, that share had dropped to just over half (51 percent). This is a continuation of a longer trend: 61 percent of immigrants lived in the top 10 metro areas in 1990. By comparison, 26 percent of the total U.S. population lived in the 10 metro areas with the largest immigrant populations in 2013.

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective

December 4, 2014 Comments off

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective
Source: Brookings Institution

The Cuban economy has been mired in stagnation for more than two decades, with declining living standards, an outdated productive apparatus and a balance of payments under severe strain. Frustrated by the lack of promising opportunities, many of the best educated youth are exiting the island. In response to these accumulated challenges, the Cuban government has initiated a process of gradual but increasingly comprehensive economic reforms that eventually may resemble a form of mixed market socialism open to the international economy.

The six papers authored by Cuban and international economists in Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective explore the roots of the economic crisis from Soviet-era central planning decades earlier, assess reforms undertaken by President Raúl Castro, analyze the challenges to change and recommend steps Cuba and the international community can take to overcome the crisis. Given that its often isolated reforms have so far created further distortions and failed to produce expected outcomes, the Cuban government should recognize the interrelated nature of economic variables as part of these key policy proposals and should present a clear strategic development model. More transparent goals and consistent implementation would improve the coherency of policymaking and help mitigate public anxieties about the future.

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