Early Evidence on the Impact of COVID-19 and the Recession on Older Workers

Source: Truc Thi Mai Bui, Patrick Button, Elyce G. Picciotti, NBER Working Paper No. 27448, June 2020

From the abstract:

We summarize some of the early effects and discuss possible future effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession on the employment outcomes of older workers in the United States. We start by discussing what we know about how older workers faired in prior recessions in the United States and how COVID-19 and this recession may differ. We then estimate some early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession on employment and unemployment rates by age group and sex using Current Population Survey data. We calculate employment and unemployment rates multiple ways to account for the complicated employment situation and possible errors in survey enumeration. We find that while previous recessions, in some ways, did not affect employment outcomes for older workers as much, this recession disproportionately affected older workers of ages 65 and older. For example, we find that unemployment rates in April 2020 increased to 15.43% for those ages 65 and older, compared to 12.99% for those ages 25-44. We also find that COVID-19 and the recession disproportionately affected women, where women have reached higher unemployment rates than men, which was consistent for all age groups and unemployment rate measures we used.

What Does and Does Not Correlate with COVID-19 Death Rates

Source: Christopher R. Knittel, Bora Ozaltun, NBER Working Paper No. 27391, June 2020

From the abstract:
We correlate county-level COVID-19 death rates with key variables using both linear regression and negative binomial mixed models, although we focus on linear regression models. We include four sets of variables: socio-economic variables, county-level health variables, modes of commuting, and climate and pollution patterns. Our analysis studies daily death rates from April 4, 2020 to May 27, 2020. We estimate correlation patterns both across states, as well as within states. For both models, we find higher shares of African American residents in the county are correlated with higher death rates. However, when we restrict ourselves to correlation patterns within a given state, the statistical significance of the correlation of death rates with the share of African Americans, while remaining positive, wanes. We find similar results for the share of elderly in the county. We find that higher amounts of commuting via public transportation, relative to telecommuting, is correlated with higher death rates. The correlation between driving into work, relative to telecommuting, and death rates is also positive across both models, but statistically significant only when we look across states and counties. We also find that a higher share of people not working, and thus not commuting either because they are elderly, children or unemployed, is correlated with higher death rates. Counties with higher home values, higher summer temperatures, and lower winter temperatures have higher death rates. Contrary to past work, we do not find a correlation between pollution and death rates. Also importantly, we do not find that death rates are correlated with obesity rates, ICU beds per capita, or poverty rates. Finally, our model that looks within states yields estimates of how a given state’s death rate compares to other states after controlling for the variables included in our model; this may be interpreted as a measure of how states are doing relative to others. We find that death rates in the Northeast are substantially higher compared to other states, even when we control for the four sets of variables above. Death rates are also statistically significantly higher in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, Indiana, and Colorado. California’s death rate is the lowest across all states.

Racial Disparity in COVID-19 Deaths: Seeking Economic Roots with Census data

Source: John McLaren, NBER Working Paper No. 27407, June 2020

From the abstract:
This note seeks the socioeconomic roots of racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality, using county-level mortality, economic, and demographic data from 3,140 counties. For all minorities, the minority’s population share is strongly correlated with total COVID-19 deaths. For Hispanic/Latino and Asian minorities those correlations are fragile, and largely disappear when we control for education, occupation, and commuting patterns. For African Americans and First Nations populations, the correlations are very robust. Surprisingly, for these two groups the racial disparity does not seem to be due to differences in income, poverty rates, education, occupational mix, or even access to healthcare insurance. A significant portion of the disparity can, however, be sourced to the use of public transit.

Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic for State Government Tax Revenues

Source: Jeffrey Clemens, Stan Veuger, NBER Working Paper No. 27426, June 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We assess the Covid-19 pandemic’s implications for state government sales and income tax revenues. We estimate that the economic declines implied by recent forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office will lead to a shortfall of roughly $106 billion in states’ sales and income tax revenues for the 2021 fiscal year. This is equivalent to 0.5 percent of GDP and 11.5 percent of our pre-Covid sales and income tax projection. Additional tax shortfalls from the second quarter of 2020 may amount to roughly $42 billion. We discuss how these revenue declines fit into several pieces of the broader economic context. These include other revenues (e.g., university tuition and fees) that are also at risk, as well as assets (e.g., pension plan holdings) that are at risk. Further dimensions of context include support enacted through several pieces of federal legislation, as well as spending needs necessitated by the public health crisis itself.

COVID-19 and Remote Work: An Early Look at US Data

Source: Erik Brynjolfsson, John J. Horton, Adam Ozimek, Daniel Rock, Garima Sharma, Hong-Yi TuYe, NBER Working Paper No. 27344, June 2020

From the abstract:
We report the results of a nationally-representative sample of the US population during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey ran in two waves from April 1-5, 2020 and May 2-8, 2020. Of those employed pre-COVID-19, we find that about half are now working from home, including 35.2% who report they were commuting and recently switched to working from home. In addition, 10.1% report being laid-off or furloughed since the start of COVID-19. There is a strong negative relationship between the fraction in a state still commuting to work and the fraction working from home. We find that the share of people switching to remote work can be predicted by the incidence of COVID-19 and that younger people were more likely to switch to remote work. Furthermore, states with a higher share of employment in information work including management, professional and related occupations were more likely to shift toward working from home and had fewer people laid off or furloughed. We find no substantial change in results between the two waves, suggesting that most changes to remote work manifested by early April.

The Teflon Robe: Thousands of U.S. judges who broke laws or oaths remained on the bench

Source: Michael Berens and John Shiffman, Reuters, June 30, 2020

In the past dozen years, state and local judges have repeatedly escaped public accountability for misdeeds that have victimized thousands. Nine of 10 kept their jobs, a Reuters investigation found – including an Alabama judge who unlawfully jailed hundreds of poor people, many of them Black, over traffic fines….
Hayes is among thousands of state and local judges across America who were allowed to keep positions of extraordinary power and prestige after violating judicial ethics rules or breaking laws they pledged to uphold, a Reuters investigation found.
Judges have made racist statements, lied to state officials and forced defendants to languish in jail without a lawyer – and then returned to the bench, sometimes with little more than a rebuke from the state agencies overseeing their conduct.
Recent media reports have documented failures in judicial oversight in South Carolina, Louisiana and Illinois. Reuters went further.
In the first comprehensive accounting of judicial misconduct nationally, Reuters reviewed 1,509 cases from the last dozen years – 2008 through 2019 – in which judges resigned, retired or were publicly disciplined following accusations of misconduct. In addition, reporters identified another 3,613 cases from 2008 through 2018 in which states disciplined wayward judges but kept hidden from the public key details of their offenses – including the identities of the judges themselves. ….

Center for Progressive Reform Report: Protecting Workers In A Pandemic–What The Federal Government Should Be Doing

Source: Thomas McGarity, Michael C. Duff, Sidney A. Shapiro, Center for Progressive Reform Report, June 17, 2020

The “re-opening” of the American economy while the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating puts workers at heightened risk of contracting the deadly virus. In some blue-collar industries, the risk is particularly acute because of the inherent nature of the work itself and of the workplaces in which it is conducted. And the risk, for a variety of reasons, falls disproportionately on people of color and low-income workers. With governors stay-at-home orders and other pandemic safety restrictions, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars Thomas McGarity, Michael Duff, and Sidney Shapiro examine the federal government’s many missed opportunities to stem the spread of the virus in the nation’s workplaces, and make recommendations for what needs to happen next to protect employees on the job.

New Labor Viscerality? Work Stoppages in the ‘New Work,’ Non-Union Economy

Source: Michael C. Duff, St. Louis University Public Law Review, Forthcoming, Posted: June 29, 2020

The COVID-19 work stoppages involving employees refusing to work because they are fearful of contracting coronavirus provides a dramatic opportunity for newer workplace law observers to grasp a well-established legal rule: both unionized and non-union employees possess rights to engage in work stoppages under the National Labor Relations Act. This article explains that employees engaging in concerted work stoppages, in good faith reaction to health and safety dangers, are prima facie protected from discharge. The article carefully distinguishes between Section 7 and Section 502 work stoppages. Crucially, and contrary to Section 502 work stoppages, the health and safety-related work stoppages of non-union employees, protected by Section 7, are not subject to an “objective reasonableness” test.
Having analyzed the general legal protection of non-union work stoppages, and noting that work stoppages have been on the increase during the last two years, the article considers when legal protection may be withdrawn from such concerted activities because employees repeatedly and unpredictably engage in them—so called “unprotected intermittent strikes.” Discussing a recent NLRB decision, the article argues for an explicit and strengthened presumption of work stoppage protection for employees who are wholly unaffiliated with a union, even when those employees engage in repeated work stoppages in response to discrete workplace disputes or dangers.

Ergonomics Tips for Working at Home

Source: University of Pittsburgh School of Education, June 2020

Millions of Americans are working from home in the ongoing public health effort to halt the spread of coronavirus. But many don’t have the benefit of home offices. They are creating makeshift workspaces from their dining room tables, kitchen counters, living room couches, or folding tables and chairs. While these workstations may meet basic needs, most fail to provide sound ergonomic design, according to April Chambers, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Chambers specializes in occupational ergonomics and bioengineering. She expects a steep rise in the number of people who are experiencing pain or discomfort in their neck, back, or shoulders. Unchecked, the pain can develop into long-term musculoskeletal injuries.

Labor Unions and White Racial Politics

Source: Paul Frymer, Jacob M. Grumbach, American Journal of Political Science, Early View, First published: June 29, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Scholars and political observers point to declining labor unions, on the one hand, and rising white identity politics, on the other, as profound changes in American politics. However, there has been little attention given to the potential feedback between these forces. In this article, we investigate the role of union membership in shaping white racial attitudes. We draw upon research in history and American political development to generate a theory of interracial labor politics, in which union membership reduces racial resentment. Cross‐sectional analyses consistently show that white union members have lower racial resentment and greater support for policies that benefit African Americans. More importantly, our panel analysis suggests that gaining union membership between 2010 and 2016 reduced racial resentment among white workers. The findings highlight the important role of labor unions in mass politics and, more broadly, the importance of organizational membership for political attitudes and behavior.