The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2015 Edition

January 30, 2015 Comments off

The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2015 Edition
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

WIC provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and referrals to health care and other social services to low-income, nutritionally at-risk women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age.This report explains how WIC works, examines program trends, describes some of the lesser known effects of WIC, and discusses some of the major economic issues facing the program.

2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report

January 30, 2015 Comments off

2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (PDF)
Source: University of Pennsylvania

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. Over the last 25 years, the TTCSP has developed and led a series of global initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environmental issues, information and society, poverty alleviation, and healthcare and global health. These international collaborative efforts are designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that improve policy making while strengthening democratic institutions and civil societies around the world.

The TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs, and produces the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index that ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories. This is achieved with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world. We have strong relationships with leading think tanks around the world, and our annual Think Tank Index is used by academics, journalists, donors and the public to locate and connect with the leading centers of public policy research around the world. Our goal is to increase the profile and performance of think tanks and raise the public awareness of the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the globe.

Since its inception in 1989, the TTCSP has focused on collecting data and conducting research on think tank trends and the role think tanks play as civil society actors in the policymaking process. In 2007, the TTCSP developed and launched the global index of think tanks, which is designed to identify and recognize centers of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research and in every region of the world. To date TTCSP has provided technical assistance and capacity building programs in 81 countries. We are now working to create regional and global networks of think tanks in an effort to facilitate collaboration and the production of a modest yet achievable set of global public goods. Our goal is to create lasting institutional and state-level partnerships by engaging and mobilizing think tanks that have demonstrated their ability to produce high quality policy research and shape popular and elite opinion and actions for public good.

The Air War versus The Ground Game: An Analysis of Multi-Channel Marketing in US Presidential Elections

January 30, 2015 Comments off

The Air War versus The Ground Game: An Analysis of Multi-Channel Marketing in US Presidential Elections
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Firms increasingly use both mass-media advertising and targeted personal selling to successfully promote products and brands in the marketplace. In this study, we jointly examine the effect of mass-media advertising and personal selling in the context of U.S. presidential elections, where the former is referred to as the “air war” and the latter the “ground game.” Specifically, we look at how different types of advertising―candidates’ own ads vs. outside ads―and personal selling―in the form of utilizing field offices―affect voter preferences. Further, we ask how these various campaign activities affect the outcome of elections through their diverse effects on various types of people. We find that personal selling has a stronger effect among partisan voters, while candidates’ own advertising is better received by non-partisans. We also find that personal selling accounted for the Democratic victories in the 2008 and 2012 elections and that advertising was critical only in a close election, such as the one in 2004. Interestingly, had the Democrats received more outside advertising in 2004, the election would have ended up in a 269-269 tie. Our findings generate insights on how to allocate resources across and within channels.

The Myth of America’s Manufacturing Renaissance: The Real State of U.S. Manufacturing

January 30, 2015 Comments off

The Myth of America’s Manufacturing Renaissance: The Real State of U.S. Manufacturing
Source: Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

To listen to most pundits and commentators, U.S. manufacturing has turned a corner and is roaring back after the precipitous decline during the 2000s. Long gone are the dismal days when manufacturing jobs and output were lost due to foreign competition. Higher foreign labor costs, cheap oil and gas here at home and automation are combining to make America the new global manufacturing hub: at least according the now dominant narrative. Indeed, the term “manufacturing renaissance” is used to describe this new state of affairs.

However, as a new ITIF report shows, the data do not support such a rosy scenario. In fact, at the end of 2013 (the most recent year available) real manufacturing value added (the best measure of the health of U.S. manufacturing) was still 3.2 percent below 2007 levels, despite GDP growth of 5.6 percent. Moreover, there are still two million fewer jobs and 15,000 fewer manufacturing establishments than there were in 2007. Much of the growth since 2010 appears to be caused by a cyclical recovery as demand, particularly for motor vehicles and other durable goods, returns. In fact, 72 percent of jobs gained and 187 percent of the heralded real value added growth in manufacturing between 2010 and 2013 came from transportation sector or primary and fabricated metals.

It is true that some jobs are being brought back to the United States. However, reshoring numbers are modest and the manufacturing sector is also still sending jobs overseas, roughly at the same rate. While this new equilibrium between companies coming and going is certainly an improvement over rapid off-shoring, it is hardly indicative of a renaissance.

Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement (January 28, 2015)

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement
Source: Federal Reserve Board

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a solid pace. Labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate. On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources continues to diminish. Household spending is rising moderately; recent declines in energy prices have boosted household purchasing power. Business fixed investment is advancing, while the recovery in the housing sector remains slow. Inflation has declined further below the Committee’s longer-run objective, largely reflecting declines in energy prices. Market-based measures of inflation compensation have declined substantially in recent months; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, with labor market indicators continuing to move toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee continues to see the risks to the outlook for economic activity and the labor market as nearly balanced. Inflation is anticipated to decline further in the near term, but the Committee expects inflation to rise gradually toward 2 percent over the medium term as the labor market improves further and the transitory effects of lower energy prices and other factors dissipate. The Committee continues to monitor inflation developments closely.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate.

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions
Source: Center for American Progress

One of the most pervasive, durable, and detrimental myths in transportation policy is that highways pay for themselves, while public transportation does not. In reality, both modes require significant public subsidies, as user fees—such as fuel taxes and farebox revenues—cover only a portion of total costs. States and the federal government supplement these user fees with property taxes, bonding, and general revenues. On average, these nonuser fee revenues represent 26 percent of total annual highway expenditures.

Moreover, treating all highways equally obscures the fact that per-mile construction and maintenance costs, driving levels, and motor fuel tax revenues vary substantially depending on the location, size, and population around a particular road. While the overwhelming majority of driving occurs within metropolitan areas, many large urban highways and arterial roads cost substantially more money to maintain than they generate in fuel taxes. This is also true of many rural and exurban arterial roads. This means that states must cross subsidize thousands of miles of roads that generate insufficient gas tax revenues each year.

Research by the Center for American Progress shows that nearly 4 in 10 miles of interstate highway and other principal arterial roadways fail to generate enough in user fees to cover their long-term maintenance costs. For the purposes of this analysis, maintenance costs include one reconstruction and multiple resurfacings over the course of three decades while excluding the costs of land acquisition, engineering, construction, and inflation.

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years, the latest IIHS calculations of driver death rates show. Among 2011 models, a record nine vehicles have driver death rates of zero. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide, and three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.

Improved vehicle designs and safety technology have a lot to do with the continuing decline in fatality risk. In a related study, Institute researchers estimated how much of the decline was due to changes in the vehicle fleet during 1985-2012. They found that vehicle changes — including improved structural designs, the addition of safety features and an evolving mix of vehicle types — were the main source of declining risk from 1993 through 2006. These changes continued to contribute to later declines as well, though other factors such as the weak economy also appear to have played a role.

There were 7,700 fewer driver deaths in 2012 alone than there would have been had vehicles remained the same since 1985.

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