Crime Rate at Historic Lows while Prison Population at All-Time High

The federal prison population in the U.S. is at an all-time high. Meanwhile, the crime rate in the U.S. is at a historic low. Continue reading–>

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Recent Declines in Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States

Recent Declines in Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States

Via National Center for Health Statistics

Key Findings

Data from the National Vital Statistics System and the National Survey of Family Growth

  1. Nonmarital births and birth rates have declined 7% and 14%, respectively, since peaking in the late 2000s.
  2. Births to unmarried women totaled 1,605,643 in 2013. About 4 in 10 U.S. births were to unmarried women in each year from 2007 through 2013.
  3. Nonmarital birth rates fell in all age groups under 35 since 2007; rates increased for women aged 35 and over.
  4. Birth rates were down more for unmarried black and Hispanic women than for unmarried non-Hispanic white women.
  5. Nonmarital births are increasingly likely to occur within cohabiting unions—rising from 41% of recent births in 2002 to 58% in 2006–2010.
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Study: For-Profit Colleges are a Bad Investment

Lisa Wade at Sociological Images reports on a study concluding for-profit colleges are a bad investment.

Darolia and his colleagues then tested whether employers displayed a preference for applicants who went to for-profit colleges versus applicants with no college at all.  They didn’t. Employers treated people with high school diplomas and coursework at for-profit colleges equivalently.

Being economists, they staidly conclude that enrolling in a for-profit college is a bad investment.

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Redistribution of Wealth is Occurring. It’s Upward!

After reading the Mother Jones article on income inequality Wayne Besen asks an inconvenient question:

“The most interesting fact in the Mother Jones article is that income inequality is actually worse now that than it was during ancient Rome, which is known for its decadence. In ancient Rome the top 1-percent controlled 16-percent of total income. In America today, 1-percent of the population controls 22-percent of total income. There was only one time in our nation’s history when income inequality was this high: 1929, right before The Great Depression.

The Republicans are clearly wrong. The wealth never trickled down as they had insincerely promised. Like salmon in a stream the corporate money is swimming in the wrong direction – toward the ultra-wealthy and away from workers.

Conservatives like to decry the redistribution of wealth. They call it Marxist. But right now we are seeing a record redistribution of wealth. Except this time it is being redistributed from the middle class to the wealthiest one-percent. Given their definition, doesn’t that make them Marxist – or we can maybe we can call it Upwardly Marxist?”

In light of this harsh reality, do we really need to continue huge Republican tax cuts for billionaires?”

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U.S. Unprepared to Meet the Housing Needs of its Aging Population

U.S. Unprepared to Meet the Housing Needs of its Aging Population
Via Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth, but the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this aging group, concludes a new report released today by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP Foundation. According to Housing America’s Older Adults—Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population, the number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000 (see interactive map). But housing that is affordable, physically accessible, well-located, and coordinated with supports and services is in too short supply.

Housing is critical to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. High housing costs currently force a third of adults 50 and over—including 37 percent of those 80 and over—to pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, forcing them to cut back on food, health care, and, for those 50-64, retirement savings (see infographic). Much of the nation’s housing inventory also lacks basic accessibility features (such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles), preventing older persons with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes. Additionally, with a majority of older adults aging in car-dependent suburban and rural locations, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure is generally ill-suited to those who aren’t able to drive, which can isolate them from friends and family. Finally, disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization

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States with Some Form of Stand-Your-Ground Law have also Seen Increasing Homicide Rates

States with stand-your-ground laws have seen an increase in homicides, reports task force
Via American Bar Association

“Stand your ground” laws hinder law enforcement, are applied inconsistently and disproportionately affect minorities.

Those were the main findings from the ABA National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws. In a preliminary report (PDF) that was officially unveiled during a Friday session at the ABA Annual Meeting, the task force found that states which have some form of stand-your-ground law have also seen increasing homicide rates. [Emphasis mine]

The task force, which was co-chaired by Leigh-Ann Buchanan of Berger Singerman and Jack Middleton of McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton, conducted its investigation throughout most of 2013. It also found that stand-your-ground laws carry an implicit bias against racial minorities. In terms of the laws’ effects, the task force found that there was widespread confusion amongst law enforcement personnel as to what actions were justified and what were not.

The task force recommended that states either repeal stand-your-ground laws or refuse to enact them. Additionally, it encouraged the ABA to adopt an educational initiative to provide accurate information about these laws, as well as to correct the misconception that these laws provide carte blanche for people to use deadly force in public areas.

“We’ve heard nothing good about stand-your-ground laws,” said Middleton. “In fact, the more you look at them, the more problems you find. It’s our hope that the ABA as a whole will take a position against these laws.”

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One of the Hidden Culprits Behind Rising Tuition and Student Debt: Profit

A new study finds “profit” is a key factor in understanding rising tuition and student debt. The authors of the study found that spending on actual education has stagnated, while financial speculators have been taking an increasing amount of money off of the top.

The Pacific Standard reports, “Higher education fills the pockets of investors in three ways:

  • Interest on student loans, paid by students and parents.
  • Interest paid by colleges who take out loans to fund projects—everything from new academic buildings to luxury dorms and stadiums—ultimately repaid with tuition hikes and higher taxes.
  • And profit from for-profit colleges (with “dismal graduation rates, by the way).

Overall, Eaton and his colleagues found that Americans are spending $440 billion dollars a year on higher education and that 10 percent of that goes into the pockets of investors who are skimming profit off of all forms of higher education.”

The following figure depicts the cumulative percent change in higher education costs per student since 2002.
Cumulative Percent Change in Higher Ed Costs Per Student Since 2002

It’s clear for-profit colleges with capital from equity markets have taken the lion’s share of cumulative percent change in higher education costs per student since 2002. Student loan interest is also substantial, followed by interest for college institutional debts. Notice the flat instructional costs!

Here’s a YouTube summary of the study. The complete study can be found here.

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Common Core Support Slips, but Majority of Americans Still Favor It

A new report from Education Next examines the support for “common core.”

Key Findings

• Support for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) dropped from 65% in 2013 to 53% in 2014, with support among Republicans falling from 57% to 43%.

• The public’s support for common standards is stronger when the words “Common Core” are not mentioned, with 68% in support.

• The public, on average, gives 50% of teachers an A or a B, but it gives a D or an F to 22% of them.

• One-quarter of those living with school-age children have educated at least one of their children in a setting other than a traditional public school.

• Support for increasing local school spending has not returned to its pre-recession level among those told current spending levels. As compared to 50% in 2008, only 43% favor spending increases in 2014.

• The same is true for teacher salaries. Among those told current salaries in their state, only 38% favor salary increases in 2014, compared to 54% in 2008.

• Only 35% of the public favors class-size reduction when told its cost relative to raising teacher salaries or purchasing more books and technologies, compared to 46% not informed of relative costs.

Reference

Henderson, Michael B., et al. (2014). Support for Common Core Slips, But Majority of Public Still In Favor. Education Next.

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Economists Agree: The Stimulus Worked

The University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets, hardly a bastion of liberalism, routinely surveys the nation’s leading economists on issues of the day. They asked 37 elite economists if the US unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 as a result of the stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2010). The 37 responses are summarized in the bar graph below.

Economists believe stimulus worked

What about the question, did the benefits of the stimulus exceed the costs?

Stimulus - benefits exceed the costs

Here again, the great majority agree the benefits of the stimulus exceeded the costs, albeit 10 economists voted “uncertain.”

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The Student Loan Effective Delinquency Rate is Much Higher than the Official Rate

By excluding certain categories of borrowers the official delinquency rate understates the “effective delinquency rate.” Over 30 percent of borrowers who should be repaying their loans are delinquent, as compared to the 17 percent delinquency rate shown in official data.

Abstract

Studies continue to indicate that higher education is frequently a worthwhile investment for individuals and that it raises the productivity of the workforce as a whole. While the rising cost of post-secondary education has not eliminated this “college premium,” it has raised new questions about how growing numbers of students can make these investments. One solution to this problem is student loans, which have come to play an increasingly important role in financing higher education. Yet, despite its importance, educational debt is not well understood. Among the reasons is that there exist few central repositories of information on the characteristics and performance of all student loans, which currently include loans made by both government and private lenders. In this paper, we bring a new data set to bear on this important issue and present a brief analysis of the historical and current levels of student debt and how those loans are performing. We also briefly discuss the implications of student loans for borrowers and the economy.

Reference

Brown, Meta, et al. (2014). Measuring Student Debt and Its Performance. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Staff Reports.

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