Mass-Incarceration and the Clinton Golden Years

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would play a major role in helping to revitalize the economy in a Hillary Clinton administration.

Bill’s economic performance during his tenure as President is held to almost mythical levels in certain circles and much of his current popularity stems from how people remember the economy under his watch. However, as Hillary wraps up the Democratic nomination, it’s important to call into question just how great the late 1990s were — especially for African-Americans.   (more…)

What’s Been Swept Away: Katrina at 10

Ben Casselman over at 538 has a great piece on the state of New Orleans’ black middle class. Unlike the City’s growing White and Hispanic populations, African-Americans have not returned to New Orleans in similar proportions:

More than 175,000 black residents left New Orleans in the year after the storm; more than 75,000 never came back. Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population has nearly returned to its pre-storm total, and the Hispanic population, though still small compared with other Southern cities, has grown by more than 30 percent. Together, the trends have pushed the African-American share of the population down to 59 percent in 2013, from 66 percent in 2005.


Tom Slee: Sharing and Caring

I posted a few days ago on the potential pitfalls and distortions of the sharing economy — singling out a recent Harvard study detailing renter discrimination on rental lodging website Airbnb. Professor and writer Tom Slee has a wonderful piece in Jacobin that expands on the fears I touched on earlier, specifically that the sharing economy has major holes in regulations that open the door for abuses with few avenues for recourse. Again on Airbnb:

Many of Airbnb’s “hosts” are violating New York’s short-term rental laws or their own tenancy or co-op agreements, or both. In early skirmishes, individual hosts were taken to court, but after talks broke down, the Attorney General demanded a list of all 15,000 Airbnb hosts in the city. The company accused the Attorney General of a “fishing expedition.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association (“representing the leading internet companies”) have stepped in on the side of Airbnb, pledging to “fight this tooth and nail.” Sharing economy group Peers has collected over 200,000 signatures on a petition to “save sharing in New York,” and Airbnb has released studies and produced videos to fight the suits…

…[T]he dispute has drawn in not only the hotel industry but also, in a rare alliance, landlord and tenant groups. The Attorney General claims that illegal hotels are abusing Airbnb’s site, and Krueger complains that Airbnb is “actively recruiting tenants to list their apartments on their websites even though they are well aware they are putting residents at risk of eviction” by breaking laws and tenancy agreements. Some “online businesses have become highly profitable by ignoring state and local laws and ignoring the damage their business model has done to communities.”

I’m all in favor of innovation and utilizing the free flow of information to come to creative economic solutions. But we also have to realize that these things aren’t perfect, people do get left behind and it’s critical that we make sure the correct protections are in place to minimize the damage.

Either way, Slee’s article is a really fascinating read. Check it out.

Beyond STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Producing more STEM workers is a huge priority in this country. As anyone will tell you, at our current pace of production we’re not going to have enough scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians to do all the STEM stuff we need them to do in the coming years… like build time machines, and good robots to fight all the evil robots.

I know creating more STEM workers is important. More and more our economy is driven by technological innovation. Some of the most successful and recession proof regions of the country are based around science and technology hubs. The more individuals we can get into these jobs, the better for our economy.

I’m entirely in favor of encouraging kids to explore STEM careers, especially kids who historically have been told that math and science isn’t for them.  However, when I look at the current conversation around getting students to explore STEM fields, often times I see it being framed as zero-sum game. Steer kids away from the liberal arts, away from the humanities, away from the soft sciences and bring them into the world of STEM.

That’s not the direction we should take at all.

The truth is, STEM occupations may be a large part of the current and future economy. But STEM alone doesn’t make a better society.

I wonder what would happen if we encouraged our children to explore gender studies as avidly as we did biology. Could we drastically reduce the number of rapes? Reduce bullying based on sexual orientation? What if more people took classes (more than one or two) in race relations? How much more tolerant would our society be? Or what if students took a years’ worth of courses in public policy? What would our national discourse around healthcare, the economy, or foreign policy look like then?

Creating a system in which we empower students and future workers to nurture both their STEM capabilities and larger societal interests would go a long way towards creating a more informed, tolerable, and equitable society. Let’s do that.

America’s Three Economies…

I’m reading a pretty interesting book titled ‘The Geography of Jobs’ by Economist Enrico Moretti.  The book details the divergence of American cities, pointing to the vast disparities generated by education, city-level job sector allocations and the migration of skilled labor to innovation hubs.  The interview below does a great job of summarizing Moretti’s findings.