Mosquito Repellents That Best Protect Against Zika

Source: Sue Byrne, Consumer Reports, April 16, 2016

Consumer Reports shares its exclusive Ratings of the sprays that can help keep you safe. ….

The Most Effective Insect Repellents
To find the most effective mosquito repellents, we tested products containing a variety of ingredients, including deet, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, chemicals called IR3535 and 2-undecanone, as well as a variety of plant oils, such as cedar, citronella, geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary.
The most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. They kept the mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. (The Sawyer product was our top insect repellent overall. It was the only one that also kept Culex mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile disease, and deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, away for at least 8 hours.)….

Declining Unionization Rates Means Less Say for Workers

Source: Tillie McInnis, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) blog, August 30, 2016

The share of employees with union representation has been steadily declining for the past three decades. Because unions are one of the most important institution within the political sphere for non-elites to advance their interests — higher wages, better work conditions, hours, benefits, etc. — this is unfortunate. Unsurprisingly, the dramatic decline in union representation since the 1980s has been accompanied by widening economic inequality

Performance and Management in the Public Sector: Testing a Model of Relative Risk Aversion

Source: Sean Nicholson-Crotty, Jill Nicholson-Crotty, Sergio Fernandez, Public Administration Review, Early View, August 17, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research has demonstrated that management influences the performance of public organizations, but almost no research has explored how the success or failure of a public organization influences the decisions of those who manage it. Arguing that many decisions by public managers are analogous to risky choice, the authors use a well-validated model of relative risk aversion to understand how such choices are influenced by managers’ perceptions of organizational performance. They theorize that managers will be less likely to encourage innovation or give discretion to employees when they are just reaching their goals relative to other performance conditions. Analyses of responses to the 2011 and 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys provide considerable support for these assertions. The findings have significant implications for our understanding of the relationship between management and performance in public organizations.

Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers: The overlooked reason why wages are stuck and inequality is growing

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Patrick Denice, and Jennifer Laird, August 30, 2016

From the summary:
Pay for private-sector workers has barely budged over the past three and a half decades. In fact, for men in the private sector who lack a college degree and do not belong to a labor union, real wages today are substantially lower than they were in the late 1970s.

In the debates over the causes of wage stagnation, the decline in union power has not received nearly as much attention as globalization, technological change, and the slowdown in Americans’ educational attainment. Unions, especially in industries and regions where they are strong, help boost the wages of all workers by establishing pay and benefit standards that many nonunion firms adopt. But this union boost to nonunion pay has weakened as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen from 1 in 3 in the 1950s to about 1 in 20 today.

While we avoid strict causal claims about wage determination, the analytical approaches summarized in this report enable us to assess the independent effects of union decline on wages and lend confidence to our core contention that private-sector union decline since the late 1970s has contributed to substantial wage losses among workers who do not belong to a union. This is especially true for men. And most hurt by the decades-long decline in the nation’s labor movement are those nonunion men who did not complete college, or go beyond high school—groups with the largest erosion of union membership over the last few decades.

Key findings from our report include the following:
• For nonunion private-sector men, weekly wages would be an estimated 5 percent ($52) higher in 2013 if private-sector union density (the share of workers in similar industries and regions who are union members) remained at its 1979 level. For a year-round worker, this translates to an annual wage loss of $2,704. For the 40.2 million nonunion private-sector men the loss is equivalent to $2.1 billion fewer dollars in weekly paychecks, which represents an annual wage loss of $109 billion.
• For nonunion private-sector men without a bachelor’s degree or more education (non–college graduates), weekly wages would be an estimated 8 percent ($58) higher in 2013 if union density remained at its 1979 levels. For a year-round worker, this translates to an annual wage loss of $3,016. As a benchmark, consider that the wage loss from increased trade with low-wage nations (Bivens 2013) among non–college graduates is estimated to be 5 percent.
• For nonunion private-sector men with a high school diploma or less education, weekly wages would be an estimated 9 percent ($61) higher if union density remained at its 1979 levels. For a year-round worker, this translates to an annual wage loss of about $3,172.
• The effects of union decline on the wages of nonunion women are not as substantial because women were not as unionized as men were in 1979. Weekly wages would be approximately 2 to 3 percent higher if union density remained at its 1979 levels for all nonunion women; nonunion, non–college graduate women, and nonunion women with a high school diploma or less education. However the cumulate effects are still sizable. For 32.9 million full-time nonunion women working in the private sector, weekly pay would be a total of $461 million more (and roughly $24.0 billion more per year) in 2013 if unions had remained as strong as they were in 1979.
• The degree of nonunion wage decline reflects how much unionization has declined since 1979 among private-sector men (by two-thirds, from 34 to 10 percent), among women (by more than one-half, from 16 to 6 percent), and especially among non–college degree men (by more than two-thirds, from 38 to 11 percent). As unions have receded from the private sector, their effects on the wages of nonmembers (per percent of unionization) have declined. In recent years, these effects have fallen to between one-half and two-thirds of their late-1970s levels.
• Union decline has exacerbated wage inequality in the United States by dampening the pay of nonunion workers as well as by eroding the share of workers directly benefiting from unionization. Earlier research (Western and Rosenfeld 2011) shows that union erosion can explain about one-third of the growth of wage inequality among men and about one-fifth of the growth of wage inequality among women from 1972 to 2007. At least for middle-wage men, the impact of the erosion of unions on the wages of both union and nonunion workers is likely the largest single factor underlying wage stagnation and wage inequality.

Nonunion workers benefit from a strong union presence in their labor market in many ways. Strong unions set pay and benefits standards that nonunion employers follow. Those employers may raise pay for some workers to forestall an organizing drive, which leads to an upward adjustment in wages of workers above them, to maintain relative pay differentials (similar to the effects of minimum-wage increases).

Even absent organizing activities in their spheres, nonunion employers may also follow the standards that unions help establish through politicking for labor-friendly policies, instituting informal and formal rules governing labor conditions, and generally serving as a cultural force arguing for a “fairer share” for working men and women. (For example, highly unionized states helped lift minimum wages above the levels of states where labor was comparatively weak.) Higher pay in organized establishments increases competition for labor so that nonunion firms lift wages to prevent their employees from leaving for higher, union wages. And in setting wages, new market entrants often look to what industry leaders are doing; when organized labor was strong, many of these leaders were unionized.

Rebuilding our system of collective bargaining is an important tool available for fueling wage growth for both low- and middle-wage workers and ending the era of persistent wage stagnation.
Related:
Press release

Preliminary Data on Insurer Exits and Entrants in 2017 Affordable Care Act Marketplaces

Source: Cynthia Cox, Ashley Semanskee, Kaiser Family Foundation, August 28, 2016

The following charts provide a preliminary picture of the potential effect insurer exits and entrants may have on competition and consumer choice in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. This analysis was done at the request of the Wall Street Journal. Our earlier analysis found that UnitedHealth’s absence from these markets would leave many parts of the country with fewer marketplace insurers, and that the number of counties with a single insurer would likely increase substantially if there were no new entrants. Similarly, our July analysis of insurer participation in 17 states with detailed, publicly available premium and participation data found that on average there would be fewer insurers participating in 2017 in these states than there had been in 2016 or 2015.

Since the time of our earlier analyses, more details have emerged on the degree to which some insurance companies, most recently Aetna and Oscar, are planning to scale back or withdrawing their participation on the marketplaces. Meanwhile other insurers, including Cigna, have noted their intent to enter into new markets or expand their offerings in their 2017 rate filings to state regulators.

Despite these new details, much is still unknown and the majority of states’ 2017 filings are either redacted or unavailable publicly. Because only premium changes, and not new entrant premiums, are posted on Healthcare.gov’s rate review site, it is also likely that more is known at this time of market exits than is known of entrants. Complete information on insurer participation and premiums across all states does not typically become public until shortly before the beginning of the open enrollment season. It is therefore likely that the complete picture of how entrants and exits are shaping these markets in 2017 will not come into focus for two more months.

Experts, Amateurs, and Bureaucratic Influence in the American States

Source: Graeme T. Boushey and Robert J. McGrath, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Advance Access, First published online: August 27, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Over the past century, the size and reach of American state governments has increased dramatically, altering the balance of power across state capitols. Although state legislatures were historically privileged as “firsts among equals,” modern administrative reforms have transformed state governments from legislative-centric to executive-dominated systems. In many states, part-time citizen legislatures now operate alongside fully professionalized executives. We introduce a new measure capturing the relative professionalism of state legislative and executive branches, allowing us to explore the policy consequences of the rising imbalance of power across states governments. Drawing upon a large panel data set of proposed and adopted state regulations from 1990 through 2010, we demonstrate that the eroding policy expertise of state legislators has resulted in increased bureaucratic participation in the policy process, as amateur politicians rely more heavily on professionalized executive agencies to define problems and develop solutions. Our findings highlight intuitive, yet understudied, consequences of common institutional reforms and speak to recent and recurring debates about the separation of powers and public policymaking.

Underpaid and Unequal: Racial Wage Disparities in the Early Childhood Workforce

Source: Rebecca Ullrich, Katie Hamm, Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Center for American Progress, August 2016

From the summary:
More than 3 million children younger than age 6 regularly attend center-based care and education. Formal care arrangements—such as child care centers and preschools—are an increasingly prominent part of children’s lives: 65 percent of young children have all available parents in the workforce. Policymakers, recognizing the importance of these early care and education environments—not just as a work support for parents but also as a means to promote children’s learning and development—are looking for strategies to boost program quality.

Experts know that effective teachers are central to quality early care and education. It is no surprise, then, that many quality improvement efforts have focused on increasing education requirements for teachers and bolstering access to professional development and training. Children’s learning and development is supported by thoughtful instruction and warm, engaging interactions. It takes a skilled and effective workforce to provide the level of instruction necessary to promote positive outcomes—including social skills and early literacy and numeracy skills—but the United States continues to pay most early childhood educators embarrassingly low wages. Preschool teachers and child care workers rank in the bottom 20th percentile for mean annual salaries. Moreover, many teachers lack access to important benefits such as health insurance and paid leave.

New analyses presented in this report suggest that poor compensation and benefits are felt most acutely by African American women in the early childhood workforce. On average, African American female teachers working full time make 84 cents for every $1 earned by their white counterparts. White teachers working full-time make an average of $13.86 per hour: This 16 percent wage gap means an African American teacher would make $366 less per month and $4,395 less per year, on average. When differences in educational backgrounds, years of experience, and employment characteristics are taken into account, the wage gap between African American and white female, full-time teachers is reduced to roughly 93 cents on the dollar. However, this is still a meaningful difference in a workforce that makes less than $30,000 per year, on average…..

Black Workers, Unions, and Inequality

Source: Cherrie Bucknor, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), August 2016

From the summary:
This study uses the most recent Census Bureau data available to examine the trends in unionization for Black workers, focusing on unionization rates as well as the demographic composition of the Black union workforce. This paper also presents data on the impact of unionization on the wages and benefits of Black workers and how these benefits work to reduce racial wage inequality.

Unionization rates have been in decline across the board for decades. Despite this fact, Black workers are still more likely than workers of any other race or ethnicity to be unionized. In 2015, 14.2 percent of Black workers and 12.3 percent of the entire workforce were represented by unions, down from 31.7 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively, in 1983. This large decline in unionization has occurred alongside, and contributed to, an increase in overall wage inequality, as well as the widening Black-white wage gap.

This paper finds that Black union workers of today are very different from Black union workers of the past. In particular, Black union workers today are more likely to be female, older, have more years of formal education, be immigrants, and work in the public sector.

Black union workers also enjoy higher wages, and better access to health insurance and retirement benefits than their non-union peers. These benefits persist even after controlling for systematic differences between the union and non-union workforce. Specifically, Black union workers on average earn 16.4 percent higher wages than non-union Black workers. Black union workers are also 17.4 percentage points more likely than non-union Blacks to have employer-provided health insurance, and 18.3 percentage points more likely to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

These benefits are also large for Black workers in low-wage occupations and those with fewer years of formal education. Black union workers in low-wage occupations have wages that are 18.9 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, are 13.1 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and 15.4 percentage points more likely to have employer-sponsored retirement plans. Furthermore, Black union workers with less than a high school degree have a wage advantage of 19.6 percent over their non-union peers, and are 23.4 percentage points and 25.2 percentage points more likely to have health insurance and a retirement plan, respectively.

Some other highlights include:
– The percent of Black union workers who are immigrants has more than doubled since 1994: from 7.0 percent in 1994, to 15.4 percent in 2015.
– Black immigrants are more likely than native Blacks to be unionized. In 2015, Black immigrant workers had a unionization rate of 16.9 percent compared to 13.8 percent for native Blacks.
– Unionization rates for Black workers have declined across all sectors, but the decline has been especially steep for manufacturing (from 42.3 percent in 1983 to 13.3 percent in 2015).
– Black union workers on average earn $24.24 per hour, compared to $17.78 for non-union Black workers.
– 71.4 percent of Black union workers have employer-provided health insurance, compared to 47.7 percent of non-union Black workers.
– 61.6 percent of Black union members have employer-sponsored retirement plans, compared to 38.2 percent of non-union Black workers.

The 2016 State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages

Source: Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, 2016

From the press release:
Since the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s cities and villages have maintained critical services despite no significant increases in local or state revenue. But challenging times are just around the corner for local road systems, and Wisconsin’s smallest communities are still waiting for the economy to recover fully, according to a new report sponsored by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

The inaugural edition of “The State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages” is a combination of data analysis and local government survey information prepared for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). ….

….The report’s key findings include:
• Wisconsin’s local governments have been great stewards of limited tax dollars. From 2011 to 2014, total revenues to cities and villages grew just 2.1%, which when adjusted for inflation represented a real decline in funding. Additionally, cities and villages absorbed a 12.8% cut in state support. This contrasts with state revenues, which grew by more than 8% during the same period.
• Cities and villages managed by focusing on public safety. Despite flat revenues, police and fire response times were unchanged. There were reductions in snow plowing response time; street maintenance was flat; and other non-life-safety city services were cut. Yet local leaders reported high levels of citizen satisfaction with municipal services.
• Maintenance of local roads remains a long-term challenge. While 68% of city and village streets ranked “good,” “very good,” or “excellent,” this percentage has been declining since 2009 while the percentage of “fair,” and “poor or worse,” has been increasing.
• Delaying street maintenance projects raises costs exponentially. While basic street resurfacing costs $606,000 per mile, the cost quadruples if the work is deferred and streets need to be reconstructed.
• Municipal borrowing is a growing concern. The report found that local debt service payments have skyrocketed. Municipal budgets now allocate $1 of every $5 to paying off loans for work done in the past. Debt service hovered around 15% between 1986 and 2000. Paying off old debts reduces money available to undertake current street projects and other municipal needs….

The Six C’s of an Effective Response to the Zika Virus

Source: Kendra Smal, Center for American Progress, August 26, 2016

….To fully protect young Americans from the effects of Zika, policymakers must expand reproductive rights for young people by addressing the six C’s: comprehensive sex education, confidentiality, contraceptive counseling, choice, community support for young parents, and congressional action….