Employee Benefits in the United States – March 2015

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Press release, USDL-15-1432, July 24, 2015

Retirement benefits were available to 66 percent of private industry workers in the United States in March 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employer-provided retirement benefits were available to 31 percent of private industry workers in the lowest wage category (the 10th percentile). By contrast 88 percent of workers in the highest wage category (the 90th percentile) had access to retirement benefits. In state and local government, 61 percent of workers in the lowest wage category had access to retirement benefits, compared with 98 percent of workers in the highest wage category. The share of premiums workers were required to pay for their medical coverage varied by bargaining status. Private industry nonunion workers were responsible for 23 percent of the total single coverage medical premium, whereas the share of premiums for union workers was 13 percent. The share of premiums for family coverage was 35 percent for nonunion workers and 16 percent for union workers….

Additional findings include:
* Full-time workers in state and local government had high rates of access to major benefits: 99 percent had access to retirement and medical care benefits, and 98 percent to paid sick leave. For part-time workers, 39 percent had access to retirement benefits, 24 percent to medical care benefits, and 42 percent to paid sick leave.
* Paid holidays were provided to 90 percent of full-time and 37 percent of part-time workers in private industry. In state and local government, 74 percent of full-time workers and 30 percent of part-time workers had access.
* Access to benefits differed among some occupational groups. For private industry, 87 percent of workers in management, professional, and related occupations had access to medical care, compared with 41 percent in service occupations. In state and local government, the corresponding figures were 89 percent and 82 percent, respectively.
* For civilian workers, access rates to medical care ranged from 53 percent for the smallest establishments (those with fewer than 50 workers) to 90 percent for the largest establishments (those employing 500 workers or more). Access to retirement benefits ranged by establishment size from 46 percent to 91 percent.
* Access to medical care benefits for private industry workers was 86 percent in goods- producing industries, compared with 66 percent for workers in service-providing industries. The employee share of family medical premiums was 27 percent for workers in goods-producing industries and 33 percent for workers in service-providing industries.

Social Security’s Financial Outlook: The 2015 Update in Perspective

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, IB#15-12, July 2015

The brief’s key findings are:
• The 2015 Trustees Report shows little change from last year:
– Social Security’s 75-year deficit declined modestly from 2.88 percent to 2.68 percent of payroll.
– The deficit as a percent of GDP remains at about 1 percent.
– Trust fund exhaustion moved back slightly from 2033 to 2034, after which payroll taxes still cover about three quarters of promised benefits.
• The shortfall is manageable, but action should be taken soon to restore confidence in the program and give people time to adjust to needed changes.
• In addition, the disability insurance program needs immediate attention, as its trust fund is expected to be exhausted next year.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 50: Past, Present, and Future

Source: Boston Law Review, Volume 95, Number 3, May 2015

More detailed information about this symposium, including video recordings of the panels and keynote addresses is available here.

From an abstract:
This Symposium, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 50: Past, Present, and Future,” published in the Boston University Law Review (volume 95, pp. 683-1232), observes the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Growing out of a live conference held at Boston University School of Law in November 2014, the Symposium includes twenty-two articles by prominent scholars from law, economic history, political science, and sociology. Topics addressed include: (1) historical perspectives on the 1964 Act and other civil rights laws; (2) classifications and categories in the 1964 Act and in subsequent civil rights laws; (3) reshaping public and private space in public accommodations, neighborhoods, and housing; (4) reshaping public and private space in education, the workplace, and the military; (5) proving discrimination; and (6) the limits and future of antidiscrimination law. The Symposium concludes with remarks on the role of transformational leadership in the civil rights movement by a colleague at Boston University’s School of Theology, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The articles are also available for download at the website of the Boston University Law Review.

Articles include:
Editors’ Foreword

The Long Civil Rights Act and Criminal Justice
Margaret Burnham

Intersectionality and Title VII: A Brief (Pre-)History
Serena Mayeri

Private Rights and Private Actions: The Legacy of Civil Rights in the Enforcement of Title VII
George Rutherglen

The Regional Economic Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Gavin Wright

Reading Amendments and Expansions of Title VII Narrowly
Henry L. Chambers, Jr.

Marital Status Discrimination 2.0
Courtney G. Joslin

Backlash, Courts, and Disability Rights
Michael Waterstone

Can’t We Be Your Neighbor? Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Resistance to Blacks as Neighbors
Jeannine Bell

Model Neighborhoods Through Mayors’ Eyes Fifty Years After the Civil Rights Act
Katherine Levine Einstein & David M. Glick

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and “Legislating Morality”: On Conscience, Prejudice, and Whether “Stateways” can Change “Folkways”
Linda C. McClain

We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here: Public Accommodations and the Mark of Sodom
Joseph William Singer

Bargaining for Civil Rights: Lessons from Mrs. Murphy for Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Rights
Robin Fretwell Wilson

On Not “Having It Both Ways” and Still Losing: Reflections on Fifty Years of Pregnancy Litigation Under Title VII
Deborah L. Brake

Right to Serve or Responsibility to Protect? Civil Rights Framing and the DADT Repeal
Catherine Connell

Moving Forward, Looking Back: A Retrospective on Sexual Harassment Law
Joanna L. Grossman

Reactive to Proactive: Title IX’s Unrealized Capacity to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault
Katharine Silbaugh

On Employment Discrimination and Police Misconduct: Title VII and the Mirage of the “Monell Analogue”
Tristin K. Green

Class-Based Adjudication of Title VII Claims in the Age of the Roberts Court
Michael C. Harper

Addressing Systemic Discrimination: Public Enforcement and the Role of the EEOC
Pauline T. Kim

Special Treatment Everywhere, Special Treatment Nowhere
Noah D. Zatz

The Horizontal Effect of a Right to Non-Discrimination in Employment: Religious Autonomy Under the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of South Africa
Sonu Bedi

Blaming Mothers: A Disability Perspective
Ruth Colker

Now We Must Cross a Sea: Remarks on Transformational Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement
Walter Earl Fluker

Who’s Going to Care? Analysis and Recommendations for Building New York’s Care Coordination and Care Management Workforce

Source: Karla Silverman, Helen Schaub, Dan Lowenstein, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (1199SEIU) and the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC), July 2015

From the press release:
“Who’s Going to Care? Analysis and Recommendations for Building New York’s Care Coordination and Care Management Workforce,” a new report by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (1199SEIU) and the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC), finds significant challenges that threaten to undermine the care coordination and care management workforce as healthcare transformation gets underway. …. Healthcare providers are beginning to adopt team-based approaches to healthcare, where care coordination is provided for all patients and care management is provided for high-need, high-cost patients, primarily in community settings. Care coordination and care management are widely recognized as essential to lowering costs and improving patient outcomes and engagement. But the field is still evolving, and the workforce needed to undertake these challenging jobs lags far behind, according to the study….

…Results from a survey of 49 mostly downstate New York Health Homes (which manage care of Medicaid enrollees with costly and complex chronic conditions) about their care management and care coordination workforce reveal the need for sufficient compensation, training and career ladders to ensure the effectiveness of care coordination.
The study revealed that:
• Recruitment and retention challenges are prevalent, driven by insufficient salary, high caseload and lack of appropriate skills and competencies. ….
• Job titles for those providing care coordination and care management are still evolving. ….
• A diverse and broad set of skills and competencies are needed by the care coordination and care management workforce. ….
• Ongoing training and supervision are needed for staff that provide care coordination and care management….

Discounting Pension Liabilities: Funding Versus Value

Source: Jeffrey R. Brown, George Pennacchi, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21276, June 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We argue that the appropriate discount rate for pension liabilities depends on the objective. In particular, if the objective is to measure pension under- or over- funding, a default-free discount rate should always be used, even if the liabilities are themselves not default-free. If, instead, the objective is to determine the market value of pension benefits, then it is appropriate that discount rates incorporate default risk. We also discuss the choice of a default-free discount rate. Finally, we show how cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that are common in public pensions can be accounted for and valued in this framework.

Partisan Conflict and Private Investment

Source: Marina Azzimonti, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21273, June 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American politics have been characterized by a high degree of partisan conflict in recent years. Combined with a divided government, this has led not only to significant Congressional gridlock, but also to spells of high fiscal policy uncertainty. The unusually slow recovery from the Great Recession during the same period suggests the possibility that the two phenomena may be related. In this paper, I investigate the hypothesis that political discord depresses private investment. To this end, I first present a reduced-form political economy model to illustrate how news about political disagreement affects investment through agents’ expectations. I then construct a novel high-frequency indicator of partisan conflict consistent with the model. The index, computed monthly between 1981 and 2015, uses a semantic search methodology to measure the frequency of newspaper articles reporting lawmakers’ disagreement about policy. Using a 2SLS approach, I estimate that a 10% increase in the partisan conflict index is associated with a 3.4% decline in aggregate private investment in the US.

Subject to Change Without Notice: Mock Schedules and Flexible Employment in the United States

Source: Brian W. Halpin, Social Problems, First published online: 9 July 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article draws on a case study of a high-end food-service firm, where most workers are undocumented Mexican immigrants. This firm has institutionalized employment relations characterized by flexibility, precariousness, and contingency. I specify its unique market context, showing how vulnerable and precarious employees are essential to the firm’s ability to control business uncertainties. Pulling from Alvin Gouldner (1954) I develop the concept of the mock calendar as a micro-level strategy of management that obscures the conditions of precarious employment at this firm. The mock calendar communicates time and scheduling. It is “mock” because it is illusory: it changes and shifts according to managers’ daily manipulations. However, given the high-end and uncertain market niche this company operates in, managers are forced to provide workers with symbolic and meager material concessions. I conclude by suggesting that scheduling manipulation is an under-theorized arena of workplace control. Given recent literature that documents the widespread problems of wage theft, overtime violations, and lack of paid breaks for many service workers, understanding the micro processes that maintain and reproduce forms of twenty-first-century precarity is extremely relevant.

The automation myth: Robots aren’t taking your jobs — and that’s the problem

Source: Matthew Yglesias, Vox, July 27, 2015

Over the past five years, American politics has become obsessed with robots.

President Obama has warned that ATMs and airport check-in kiosks are contributing to high unemployment. Sen. Marco Rubio said that the central challenge of our times is “to ensure that the rise of the machines is not the fall of the worker.” A cover story in the Atlantic asked us to ponder the problems of a world without work. And in the New York Times, Barbara Ehrenrich warns that “the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated.”

The good news is that these concerns are wrong. None of the recent problems in the American economy are due to robots — or, to be more specific about it, due to an accelerating pace of automation. Moreover, even if the pace of automation does speed up in the future, there’s no real reason to believe that it will be a problem.

The bad news is that these concerns are wrong. Rather than an accelerating pace of automation, we’ve actually been living through a slowdown in the pace of productivity growth. And that slowdown is a huge problem. Unless it reverses, we’ll be waking up soon to find ourselves in a depressing world of longer working years, unmanageable health-care needs, higher taxes, and a public sector starved of needed infrastructure resources.

In other words, don’t worry that the robots will take your job. Be terrified that they won’t…..

Medical Spending of the U.S. Elderly

Source: Mariacristina De Nardi, Eric French, John Bailey Jones, Jeremy McCauley, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21270, June 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) to document the medical spending of Americans aged 65 and older. We find that medical expenses more than double between ages 70 and 90 and that they are very concentrated: the top 10% of all spenders are responsible for 52% of medical spending in a given year. In addition, those currently experiencing either very low or very high medical expenses are likely to find themselves in the same position in the future. We also find that the poor consume more medical goods and services than the rich and have a much larger share of their expenses covered by the government. Overall, the government pays for 65% of the elderly’s medical expenses. Despite this, the expenses that remain after government transfers are even more concentrated among a small group of people. Thus, government health insurance, while potentially very valuable, is far from complete. Finally, while medical expenses before death can be large, on average they constitute only a small fraction of total spending, both in the aggregate and over the life cycle. Hence, medical expenses before death do not appear to be an important driver of the high and increasing medical spending found in the U.S.

Can a Public Defender Really Handle 700 Cases a Year?

Source: Gabrielle Canon, Mother Jones, July 27, 2015

A new ACLU lawsuit takes on a California county where 60 public defenders work 42,000 cases every year….

ACLU Sues Over Failing Public Defense System in Fresno County, California / Tens of Thousands Go Without Legal Representation that the Constitution Guarantees
Source: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Press Release, July 15, 2015

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and the law firm Paul Hastings LLP filed a lawsuit against Fresno County and the state of California, seeking an overhaul of the county’s deficient public defense system. Because public defenders do not receive the resources necessary to represent their clients, thousands of Fresno County residents are forced to navigate the criminal justice system without the adequate legal representation that is guaranteed by the Constitution.