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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Opioids and Overdoses

Drug overdoses killed more than 72,300 Americans last year, a record and a rise of around 10 percent, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control.
It’s not clear whether the opioid epidemic has reached its peak. The death toll, which has doubled over the last decade, is more than the highest yearly death totals from H.I.V., car crashes or gun deaths.
A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and those drugs are becoming more deadly. Experts who are closely monitoring the epidemic say the second factor most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.
The picture is not equally bleak everywhere. In parts of New England, where a more dangerous drug supply arrived early, the number of overdoses has begun to fall. That was the case in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island; each state has had major public health campaigns and has increased addiction treatment. Preliminary 2018 numbers from Massachusetts suggest that the death rate there may be continuing to fall.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Homeownership Has Not Recovered from the Great Recession

Derick Moore at the US Census:
Homeownership rates for all age groups were lower in 2017 than in 2006, the year before the Great Recession (2007-2009).
The homeownership rate among the largest group of homeowners — those age 65 and over — has returned to within about 2 percentage points of 2006 levels. However, householders under age 35 and 35-44 years old had 2017 rates about 7 and 10 percentage points lower than in 2006.
The figure below shows that despite the economic rebound since the Great Recession, annual homeownership rates in all age groups were lower in 2017 than in 2006.

While the overall homeownership rate fluctuates over time due to recessions, interest rates, home prices, student loan debts and other factors, the impact varies by age group. Those under age 35 are much less likely to own a home than those age 65 and older.
“Most Americans think that the ideal age people should marry is 25, but only about a quarter of adults have actually done so by that age,” said Census Bureau demographer Jonathan Vespa, author of “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016”, issued in 2017. “Because marriage is closely tied with establishing their own household, young adults may be delaying homeownership to later ages as well.”
The Census Bureau also releases national homeownership rates for the Unites States on a quarterly basis. Since the first quarter 1995, the overall U.S. quarterly homeownership rate (see figure below) rose from 64.2 percent to 69.2 percent in the second and fourth quarters 2004, fell to 62.9 percent by the second quarter 2016, and came back to 64.2 percent in the fourth quarter 2017. For all the numbers, see Historical Table 19.

According to the Census Bureau’s latest homeownership release, the second quarter 2018 homeownership rate was highest for those householders age 65 years and over (78.0 percent) and lowest for the age group under 35 years old (36.5 percent).
In addition to viewing homeownerships rates by age, the Census Bureau has stats by race and ethnicity, by family income, family status and by the United States and regions.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Denaturalization, 2018

Brittny Mejia at LAT:
A United States Citizenship and Immigration Services team in Los Angeles has been reviewing more than 2,500 naturalization files for possible denaturalization, focusing on identity fraud and willful misrepresentation. More than 100 cases have been referred to the Department of Justice for possible action.

“We’re receiving cases where [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] believes there is fraud, where our systems have identified that individuals used more than one identity, sometimes more than two or three identities,” said Dan Renaud, the associate director for field operations at the citizenship agency. “Those are the cases we’re pursuing.”
From 2009 to 2016, an average of 16 civil denaturalization cases were filed each year, Department of Justice data show. Last year, more than 25 cases were filed. Through mid-July of this year, the Justice Department has filed 20 more.

Separately, ICE has a pending budget request for $207.6 million to hire 300 agents to help root out citizenship fraud, as well as to “complement work site enforcement, visa overstay investigations, forensic document examination, outreach programs and other activities,” according to the agency.

The stage for increasing cases of denaturalization was set during the waning days of the Obama administration.

In September 2016, a report released by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security showed that 315,000 old fingerprint records for immigrants who either had criminal convictions or deportation orders against them had not been uploaded into a database used to check identities.

It turned out that because of incomplete fingerprint records, citizenship had been granted to at least 858 people who had been ordered deported or removed under another identity. USCIS began looking into cases.

John Sandweg, who headed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Obama, said that when it came to denaturalization, officers considered it on a case-by-case basis, “looking at the seriousness of the offense and then deciding if it made sense to dedicate the resources.”

“It was looked at more in that context — let’s look for serious felons who may have duped the system because we didn’t digitize fingerprints yet. Not so much … let’s just find people where there’s eligibilities to denaturalize because we want to try to reduce the ranks of naturalized U.S. citizens.”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Computer and Internet Use

Many posts have discussed the explosive growth of computer technology use, and its impact on mass media.

Among all households in 2016, the Census Bureau reports, 89 percent had a computer, which includes smartphones, and 81 percent had a broadband Internet subscription

Saturday, August 11, 2018

No Real Growth in Wages

Heather Long at WP:
Rising prices have erased U.S. workers’ meager wage gains, the latest sign strong economic growth has not translated into greater prosperity for the middle and working classes.
Cost of living was up 2.9 percent from July 2017 to July 2018, the Labor Department reported Friday, an inflation rate that outstripped a 2.7 percent increase in wages over the same period. The average U.S. “real wage,” a federal measure of pay that takes inflation into account, fell to $10.76 an hour last month, 2 cents down from where it was a year ago.
The stagnation in pay defies U.S. growth, which has increased in the past year and topped 4 percent in the second quarter of 2018 — the highest rate since mid-2014..
Drew DeSilver at Pew:
Wage stagnation has been a subject of much economic analysis and commentary, though perhaps predictably there’s little agreement about what’s causing it (or, indeed, whether the BLS data adequately capture what’s going on). One theory is that rising benefit costs – particularly employer-provided health insurance – may be constraining employers’ ability or willingness to raise cash wages. According to BLS-generated compensation cost indices, total benefit costs for all civilian workers have risen an inflation-adjusted 22.5% since 2001 (when the data series began), versus 5.3% for wage and salary costs.
Other factors that have been suggested include the continuing decline of labor unions; lagging educational attainmentrelative to other countries; noncompete clauses and other restrictions on job-switching; a large pool of potential workers who are outside the formally defined labor force, neither employed nor seeking work; and broad employment declines in manufacturing and production sectors and a consequent shift toward job growth in low-wage industries.
Sluggish and uneven wage growth has been cited as a key factor behind widening income inequality in the United States. A recent Pew Research Center report, based on an analysis of household income data from the Census Bureau, found that in 2016 Americans in the top tenth of the income distribution earned 8.7 times as much as Americans in the bottom tenth ($109,578 versus $12,523). In 1970, when the analysis period began, the top tenth earned 6.9 times as much as the bottom tenth ($63,512 versus $9,212).
 Americans' paychecks are bigger than 40 years ago, but their purchasing power has hardly budged

Friday, August 10, 2018


Caroline O'Donovan at Buzzfeed:
Unlike the neighborhood bakery that wants customers to add their names and addresses to a petition for expanded outdoor seating, tech companies typically already know who and where their users are. It means startups can mobilize — or brobilize — thousands of people via a simple email or push notification to blast targeted messages to their elected officials, often with just a few clicks. It’s like astroturfing for the always-on, location-aware era.
Bird — which has also tried to brobilize customers in Milwaukee, Culver City, and Boston— did not invent this method of getting startup customers to help fight regulation. Uber texted its customers in Texas when the city of Austin was trying to force drivers to undergo more stringent background checks. Airbnb has done it in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, where hosts participating in a political campaign called Airbnb Citizen have lobbied legislators by phone, in the street, and in public hearings. Just this week, delivery company DoorDash set up a website where its delivery workers can ask California lawmakers to override a court decision that would make it harder to continue classifying those workers as independent contractors.
These click-to-lobby efforts have been ramping up for a few years now as elected officials get more serious about regulating tech (or more cognizant of the political value of appearing to do so) and startups increasingly ask their user bases to defend them in response.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Income Inequality: US and Western Europe

The World Inequality Report 2018 shows that income distribution in the United States has become much more unequal, especially in comparison to Western Europe.