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Monday, February 18, 2019

Millennials: Income, Education, Inequality

Kristen Bialik and Richard Fry at Pew:
The financial well-being of Millennials is complicated. The individual earnings for young workers have remained mostly flat over the past 50 years. But this belies a notably large gap in earnings between Millennials who have a college education and those who don’t. Similarly, the household income trends for young adults markedly diverge by education. As far as household wealth, Millennials appear to have accumulated slightly less than older generations had at the same age.
Millennials with a bachelor’s degree or more and a full-time job had median annual earnings valued at $56,000 in 2018, roughly equal to those of college-educated Generation X workers in 2001. But for Millennials with some college or less, annual earnings were lower than their counterparts in prior generations. For example, Millennial workers with some college education reported making $36,000, lower than the $38,900 early Baby Boomer workers made at the same age in 1982. The pattern is similar for those young adults who never attended college.
Millennials in 2018 had a median household income of roughly $71,400, similar to that of Gen X young adults ($70,700) in 2001. (This analysis is in 2017 dollars and is adjusted for household size. Additionally, household income includes the earnings of the young adult, as well as the income of anyone else living in the household.)
The growing gap by education is even more apparent when looking at annual household income. For households headed by Millennials ages 25 to 37 in 2018, the median adjusted household income was about $105,300 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly $56,000 greater than that of households headed by high school graduates. The median household income difference by education for prior generations ranged from $41,200 for late Boomers to $19,700 for the Silent Generation when they were young.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Automation, Employment and Middle America

The backstory: The last wave of technological disruption — the IT revolution of the 1980s — created new jobs, but the bulk of the job and wage gains were on the high and low ends of the labor market. Scores of middle-wage, middle-skill jobs in manufacturing, largely in the middle of the country, were automated away or sent abroad.
Now, the new wave of automation and AI is projected to hit high- and low-paying jobs in addition to middle-income jobs, says Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future.
The next crop of vulnerable jobs — which include middle-wage occupations like trucking and administrative office work as well as lower-wage jobs like waiting tables and farming — are scattered all over the country, but the highest concentration is once again in the heartland, per a new report from the Brookings Institution.
By the numbers:
  • A quarter of all jobs across the U.S. have high chance of being wiped out by automation.
  • The five states with the highest share of at-risk jobs are Indiana (29%), Kentucky (29%), South Dakota (28%), Arkansas (28%), and Iowa (28%) — all of which went for President Trump in 2016.
  • Compare that to the bottom five: New York (20%), Maryland (20%), Massachusetts (21%), Connecticut (22%) and New Mexico (22%), all of which went for Hillary Clinton.
But the extent of the hit to middle America is even clearer when zooming in to the county level.
  • For example, in Jerauld County, South Dakota, 53% of jobs are hanging in the balance.
  • 48% of jobs are vulnerable in Scott County, Miss.; 48% in Dakota County, Neb.; and 46% in Colfax County, Neb.
James Bessen and James Kossuth at Harvard Business Review:
New AI and robotics technologies are increasingly automating work tasks. How much of a threat does automation pose to workers? A new study by one of us (James Bessen), along with Maarten Goos, Anna Salomons, and Wiljan van den Berge, provides the first large-scale quantitative evidence of how automation affects individual workers, using government data from 2000-2016 for 36,000 firms in the Netherlands, covering about 5 million workers each year.
We found that automation does indeed affect many workers. Each year, about 9% of the workers in the sample are employed at firms that make major investments in automation. Yet relatively few workers are adversely affected. Only about 2% of tenured workers at automating firms leave the year of the automation event as a result of automation; after five years, 8.5% will have left, cumulatively. (We can’t differentiate between those who choose to leave and those who are let go or fired.)
Nevertheless, those who do leave suffer significant economic costs, largely due to spells of unemployment. This affects both their economic prospects and their overall wellbeing. And though welfare programs like unemployment insurance are often framed as the way to address these costs, our data confirm that they don’t nearly make up for the income that workers lose.
Surprisingly, this burden falls more frequently on highly-educated and highly-paid workers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, they are more likely to leave as a result of automation, although they also seem to find new jobs faster. In other words, highly-paid workers are more commonly affected, but the effects are more severe for less well-paid workers.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

National Emergencies

From the Federation of American Scientists:
There were no less than 30 “national emergencies” in effect as of February 1, according to a tabulation prepared by the Congressional Research Service. An additional 21 national emergencies that are no longer in effect were also identified by CRS.
Under the National Emergencies Act, a declaration of national emergency can be used to activate presidential powers that would otherwise be unavailable....
See Declarations under the National Emergencies Act, Part 1: Declarations Currently in Effect, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 1, 2019; and Declarations under the National Emergencies Act, Part 2: Declarations No Longer in Effect, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 1, 2019.
Together, the two reports replicate (with some variations) a table prepared lately by the Brennan Center for Justice, which has researched national emergency powers.
 Justice Robert Jackson Concurring opinion, Youngstown v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (June 2, 1952)"
When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject. [Footnote 4/4] Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Economic Value of Liberal Arts

Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:
You've read the stories about liberal arts college grads doomed to a life of poverty, paying back their student loans while living in their parents' basement. And if you've been reading Inside Higher Ed, you have read about studies questioning that narrative.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has now released a new analysis by two economists that examines the questions of the economic payoff of a liberal arts college education. The study makes no claims that liberal arts grads outearn those in, say, engineering. But the report says the claims that a liberal arts degree isn't worth its cost or will hurt a graduate's career prospects prove untrue. Specifically, the report says attending a liberal arts college for most students leads to meaningful economic mobility.
"Critics claim that a liberal arts education is worth less than the alternatives, and perhaps not even worth the investment at all. They argue that increasing costs and low future earnings limit the value of a liberal arts education, especially compared to alternative options such as pre-professional programs that appear to be better rewarded in the current labor market," says the report. "Existing evidence does not support these conclusions."
The report's authors -- Catharine B. Hill and Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta -- are both at Ithaka S+R, which conducts extensive research on the economics of higher education. Hill is a former president of Vassar College.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Motion to Recommit

At Politico, Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris report:
House Democrats have repeatedly faced surprise Republican floor attacks since taking control of the chamber, part of a bid by the GOP to target their most vulnerable members and fracture the party. Just six weeks in, the GOP effort has been an astonishing success — dividing Pelosi and her top deputies and pitting members of the freshmen class against each other.
At issue is a wonky procedural tactic that Republicans have weaponized to split Democrats on a range of thorny issues, from sexual abuse to anti-terrorism funding. Roughly two dozen Democrats have so far bucked their party and sided with Republicans on the votes, which offer the House minority one last chance to shape legislation on the floor.
As the GOP continues to peel off rank-and-file Democrats, party leaders have grown alarmed — and are increasingly engaged in finger-pointing about who is to blame for the disunity and what to do about it, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides.
Freshmen Democrats in swing districts say they have no plan to stop voting with the GOP when they feel the need. They’ve even been given the blessing to do so by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), despite resistance from Pelosi.
“Clearly you’re doing this as a ploy and not because you actually give a shit about the issue,” freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) said of House Republicans. “It makes it hard for those of us who do vote against the [GOP proposals], who are in similarly tough districts.”
Republicans have forced more than a dozen of these votes — known as a motion to recommit — on the House floor since January, with increasing numbers of Democrats voting for them each time.
GOP leaders scored their biggest victory yet with the maneuver on Wednesday after a dramatic moment on the floor in which Democrats were forced to add language condemning anti-Semitism to an unrelated bill. Eager to project unity, all Democrats voted for it — the first time since 2010 a motion to recommit was approved by the House.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How Newspapers Starve: the Liquidation Strategy

Jonathan O'Connell and Emma Brown at WP write that Twenty Lake Holdings LLC bought the building housing  the Memphis Commercial Appeal
But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs.
For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

The hedge fund’s newspaper business, Digital First Media, is bidding to buy Gannett, operator of the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers by circulation, including USA Today — as well as its $900 million in remaining property and equipment — for more than $1.3 billion.
The tactics employed by Alden and Digital First Media are well-chronicled: They buy newspapers already in financial distress, including big-city dailies such as the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post, reap the cash flow and lay off editors, reporters and photographers to boost profits.
In a 2018 court case, Alden disclosed it has a series of affiliated real estate companies whose business is focused primarily on efficiently buying, selling, leasing and redeveloping newspapers’ offices and printing plants.
James Angel, associate professor of finance in the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said other investment firms have used a similar strategy to mon­etize industries in decline.
“Alden is doing what I would call a pure liquidation strategy — which is, ‘no new investment and sell off what you can while you can,’ ” he said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Happy Darwin Day

Today is Darwin's 210th birthday. David Masci reports at Pew:
Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (81%) say humans have evolved over time, according to data from a new Pew Research Center study. This includes one-third of all Americans (33%) who say that humans evolved due to processes like natural selection with no involvement by God or a higher power, along with 48% who believe human evolution occurred through processes guided or allowed by God or a higher power. The same survey found that 18% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying humans have always existed in their present form. (See the full report for a deeper look at the ways question wording and format can affect survey results on evolution.)

Around four-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (38%) say humans have always existed in their present form, and about a quarter (27%) of black Protestants share this view, according to the new study. Among white mainline Protestants, just 16% say humans have always existed in their present form. Similar shares of Catholics (13%) and the religiously unaffiliated (11%) say the same. Only among the religiously unaffiliated – those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – do a majority (64%) accept evolution via natural selection with no involvement from God or a higher power. Both Protestants and Catholics are considerably more likely to say evolution was guided or allowed by God than they are to say that humans evolved due to processes such as natural selection, or to say that humans have always existed in their present form.
In Latin America, for example, roughly four-in-ten or more residents of several countries – including Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic – say humans and other living things have always existed in their present form. This is true even though the official teachings of Catholicism, which is the majority religion in the region, do not reject evolution. In Central and Eastern Europe, evolution is broadly accepted, but roughly half or more of adults in two countries – Armenia and Bosnia – reject it. Meanwhile, Muslims in many nations are divided on the topic, although majorities of Muslims in countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia and Iraq reject evolution.