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Single black female BA seeks educated husband: Race, assortative mating and inequality

April 17, 2015 Comments off

Single black female BA seeks educated husband: Race, assortative mating and inequality
Source: Brookings Institution

There is a growing trend in the United States towards assortative mating — a clunky phrase that refers to people’s tendency to choose spouses with similar educational attainment. Rising numbers of college-educated women play a key role in this change. It is much easier for college graduates to find and marry each other when there are more equal numbers of each gender within an educational bracket.

Race is a factor in patterns of assortative mating. Black women face more difficult “marriage markets” than white women, given current rates of intermarriage according to work from University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen. Black women have the lowest rates of “marrying out” across race lines, in part because of racist attitudes to inter-marriage. Just 49 percent of college-educated black women marry a well-educated man (i.e., with at least some post-secondary education), compared to 84 percent of college-educated white women, according to an analysis of PSID data by Yale sociologist Vida Maralani.

Higher education and workforce policy: Creating more skilled workers (and jobs for them to fill)

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Higher education and workforce policy: Creating more skilled workers (and jobs for them to fill)
Source: Brookings Institution

Employment of Americans in middle-wage jobs has been declining, due to trends both in employer demand and worker skill attainment. Workforce development in the US now mostly occurs in community and forprofit colleges, as well as the lower-tier of 4-year colleges. Enrollment rates are high, even among the disadvantaged, but completion rates are very low and earnings are uneven for graduates. Community colleges lack not only resources but also incentives to respond to the job market (while the for-profit colleges need stronger regulation). Sectoral training and career pathway models show promise but need scaling and maintenance of quality, and employers also need greater incentives to participate and create more good jobs. Three sets of policies should help address these problems:

  1. Providing more resources to community (and lower-tier 4-year) colleges but also creating incentives and accountability by basing state subsidies on student completion rates and earnings of graduates;
  2. Expanding high-quality career and technical education plus work-based learning models like apprenticeship; and
  3. Assisting and incentivizing employers to create more good jobs. Other supportive policies—including higher minimum wages, paid parental leave, and labor law reform—would help as well. Together these proposals should create more good jobs and more good workers to fill them.

Ulysses goes to Washington: Political myopia and policy commitment devices

April 8, 2015 Comments off

Ulysses goes to Washington: Political myopia and policy commitment devices
Source: Brookings Institution

Political myopia—often in the form of the lightening quick pace of today’s electoral politics—can threaten the effectiveness of public policy, writes Richard Reeves, as such immediacy can replace long-term time horizons necessary to institute real governmental change.

Reeves asserts that one solution to political myopia lies in “the policy commitment device,” a relationship dynamic that commits policymakers to a longer-term perspective. Reeves utilizes the mythology of Ulysses, who ordered his sailors to tie him to the mast, so that he could hear the song of Sirens without steering his ship to the rocks. For a more modern-day understanding, look to how elected politicians have opted to hand the conduct of monetary policy to an independent central bank. And central banks are just one example of these policy commitment devices, intended to insulate certain areas of policy from immediate political pressure.

Reeves argues that a policy commitment device is a deeply political exercise, as politicians must willingly concede some power in the service of a long-term goal, without undermining the basic elements of representative democracy. There is also a danger of over-commitment: of binding policy too tightly to a particular goal or approach, at the cost of lost flexibility and accountability. But there is certainly scope for assessing the value of some of these new policy commitment devices. Finally, five candidates for such policy commitment devices to avoid political myopia are suggested and discussed in the paper:

  1. A national infrastructure bank
  2. an office of opportunity
  3. a federal minimum wage board
  4. a federal nuclear waste corporation;
  5. and a carbon tax.

The Future of Work in the Age of the Machine

April 7, 2015 Comments off

The Future of Work in the Age of the Machine
Source: Brookings Institution

Recent developments in technology, including the proliferation of smart machines, networked communication, and digitization, have the potential to transform the economy in groundbreaking ways. But whether this rapid technological change will lead to increased economic prosperity that is broadly shared is far from clear.

The productivity of the U.S. economy has grown substantially since the 1970s, but the median American male worker’s wage rose by just 3 percent from 1979 to 2014 (DeNavas-Walt and Proctor 2014). This so called wage stagnation is not unique to the United States: over the past several decades, wages for middle-income jobs have increased at an anemic pace in developed countries around the globe. Meanwhile, the wages of the highest-skilled and highest-paid individuals have continued to increase steadily. There are growing gaps in wages and employment opportunities between these individuals and those at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution, and there is no reason to think that these labor market trends will be reversed any time soon.

Economists attribute tepid wage growth at the middle and bottom of the distribution to various secular trends, including enhanced globalization of the economy and the shrinking role of labor unions. But one factor in particular—technological change—might be playing an especially important role in driving the divergent labor market experiences of those with different types of skills.

The H-1B visa race continues: Which regions received the most?

April 6, 2015 Comments off

The H-1B visa race continues: Which regions received the most?
Source: Brookings Institution

Major league baseball’s opening day is still a few days away, but this week marks another opening day for America’s businesses: H-1B visa cap season.

Every April 1st, employers submit applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for temporary employment visas for foreigners in specialty occupations.

And every year businesses report frustration with both the limited number of visas and the first-come first served system for allocation. At the crux of the complaints: If the number of applications submitted during the first week of April exceeds the 85,000 cap, visas are awarded via lottery.

Over the past three years, the cap has been reached more quickly and all indications point to high demand again this year.

To help inform the H-1B debate, we analyzed new data (received through a Freedom of Information Act request) showing which metropolitan areas received the most H-1B visa approvals in 2013.

Some cities are still more unequal than others—an update

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Some cities are still more unequal than others—an update
Source: Brookings Institution

More than five years after the end of the Great Recession, and three years since the Occupy movement took on Wall Street, high and growing levels of income inequality continue to animate debates on politics and public policy. Inequality provided the economic backdrop for President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the recent report of a transatlantic Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, and one of the most talked-about books of 2014, French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Although each of those examples focuses on the actions that national governments should take to address inequality, continued gridlock in Washington has inspired growing interest and activity at the sub-national level around ameliorating inequality and promoting social mobility. In 2014 alone, 14 states and the District of Columbia enacted increases in their minimum wages. Many cities adopted or considered similar measures, most notably Seattle, which is raising its minimum wage to $15/hour by 2017. Some observers argue that cities themselves are better positioned to enhance social mobility for low-income residents than the federal government.

This report updates a 2014 analysis that looked at levels of income inequality in the 50 largest U.S. cities, and examines in particular trends between 2012 and 2013, the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Like the earlier analysis, it focuses on incomes among households near the top of the distribution—those earning more than 95 percent of all other households—and households closer to the bottom of the distribution—those earning more than only 20 percent of all other households. It then measures the gap between the two, or the “95/20 ratio.” All dollar amounts are adjusted for inflation to 2013 levels.

African Leadership Transitions Tracker

March 30, 2015 Comments off

African Leadership Transitions Tracker
Source: Brookings Institution

The African Leadership Transitions Tracker (ALTT) is an interactive feature that factually recounts and visually presents changes at the head of state level in every African country from independence or end of the colonial period to the present. The interactive application aims to start a broader conversation about leadership transitions and what they mean for the region and beyond.

The ALTT does not intend to validate the nature of transitions. However, it looks at the process of competition and the contestability of transitions over time in order to highlight key trends.

For example a multiparty election is defined in the tracker as one in which “two or more political parties have affiliated candidates competing in an election.” Only military coups that lead to a change in leadership are presented.

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