What A Recession Means For Black America

Source: Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute, EPI Issue Brief #241, January 18, 2008

Recessions hurt. And they hurt the poor and socially marginalized populations the most. As we face the prospect of the second recession of the decade and consider the merits of various stimulus packages, it is useful to examine what a recession would mean for black America.

The late 1990s produced a full employment economy and significant absolute and relative economic gains for blacks. This Issue Brief contrasts the benefits of a national full-employment economy with the harm caused by the 2001 recession and the weak job growth that followed.

The Effect of Minimum Wages on Wages and Employment: County-Level Estimates for the United States

Source: John T. Addison, McKinley L. Blackburn, Chad D. Cotti, Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA DP No. 3300, January 2008

We use county-level data on employment and earnings in the restaurant-and-bar sector to evaluate the impact of minimum wage changes on low-wage labor markets. Our empirical approach is similar to the literature that has used state-level panel data to estimate minimum-wage impacts, with the difference that we focus on a particular sector rather than demographic group. Our estimated models are consistent with a simple competitive model of the restaurant-and-bar labor market in which supply-and-demand factors affect both the equilibrium outcome and the probability that a minimum wage will be binding in any given time period. Our evidence does not suggest that minimum wages reduce employment in the overall restaurant-and-bar sector, after controls for trends in sector employment at the county level are incorporated in the model. Employment in this sector appears to exhibit a downward long-term trend in states that have increased their minimum wages relative to states that have not, thereby predisposing fixed-effects estimates towards finding negative employment effects.

Catalog of Administrative Data Sources for Neighborhood Indicators

Source: Claudia J. Coulton, Urban Institute, January 30, 2008

The data used to craft neighborhood indicators often come from the records of administrative agencies. These are particularly useful for community indicators because they are timelier or can be applied to smaller areas than government surveys. This monograph describes 42 of these data sources. It begins with a brief section on recent developments in neighborhood indicators work, followed by a discussion of some of the challenges of using administrative records data for these purposes. The main body of the monograph is a catalog that describes the sources and gives examples of the types of indicators that can be constructed from each.

Understanding States’ Fiscal Health During and After the 2001 Recession

Source: Elaine Maag, David Merriman, Urban Institute, January 30, 2008

Every state except Vermont operates under some sort of balanced budget requirement. That means that to serve the increased need of distressed populations during recessions, states must either increase revenue or reallocate resources dedicated to other programs. Similarly, when revenue declines, states must raise taxes or reallocate resources. This report examines the extent to which rainy day and general fund savings were a significant factor in helping states cope with fiscal stress during and after the 2001 recession, a possible explanation for the lower than expected legislated tax increases and social welfare cuts.

Decent Work with a Living Wage

Source: Michael J. Zimmer, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1072083, 2008
(scroll down for download options)

The effects of globalization on employment justify augmenting the fundamental principles articulated in the ILO’s 1998 Declaration by including a global goal of decent work with a living wage. Adding the principle of decent work with a living wage can help keep labor law relevant because it can be the organizing principle for an array of unions and other groups interested in worker welfare to push for its implementation as a matter of international, regional and national law. The goal of decent work with a living wage can be a rallying cry to help overcome the prevailing neoliberal assumption that the present set of very limited regulations of the market is a natural law. Regaining the intellectual high ground for claims of worker rights to decent work with a living wage can be the product for, but also the cause of, organized action by those who share values in fair treatment at a global level. Unions, but also other NGOs, need to see that it is in their long term interest as well as the long term interest of the workers it claims to represent to reach across borders to work together to achieve this goal. Conflicting strategic interests and different legal and organizational cultures make this a daunting goal, but one worth pursuing.

The Need For An Economic Stimulus Package

Source: Eileen Appelbaum, Dean Baker And John Schmitt, Center for Economic and Policy Research/Center for Women and Work, January 2008

From press release:
An aggressive stimulus package is needed immediately to address the current weakness of the US economy, according to the latest report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

The Need For An Economic Stimulus Package, by economists Eileen Appelbaum, Dean Baker and John Schmitt, stresses the necessity for an immediate stimulus package equal to 1% of GDP to counteract the negative effects of the collapse of the housing bubble.

Several economic indicators point to a softening of the US economy. From the recent 0.3 percentage point rise in unemployment (a jump rarely seen outside of a recession), to a decline in consumption, the US economy is clearly in a down turn, if not entering a recession, spurred by the collapse of the housing market and the loss of trillions of dollars of wealth.

National Survey on Public’s Health Care Reform Views: Americans Favor Keeping Employer Role in Paying for Health Insurance; Believe Covering All Should Be Shared Responsibility of Employers, Individuals, and Government

Source: Commonwealth Fund, January 15, 2008

Eighty-one percent of Americans believe that in order to help reach the goal of health insurance for all, employers should either provide health insurance to their workers or contribute to the cost of their coverage, according to survey data released today by The Commonwealth Fund. Nearly nine of 10 (88%) Democrats, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans, and nearly four of five (79%) Independents would support such an employer “play or pay” requirement.

In addition, the survey, conducted between June and October of 2007, found that a wide majority of Democratic (67%), Republican (66%), and Independent (70%) voters believe that health insurance costs should be shared by individuals, employers and the government. Further, a majority of the public was strongly or somewhat in favor of requiring individuals to have health insurance coverage–with government help for those who cannot afford it. Sixty-eight percent of Americans favor such a proposal, with 80 percent of Democrats in support, and more than half of Republicans (52%) and two-thirds of Independents (68%) in favor, according to a report on the survey findings, The Public’s Views on Health Care Reform in the 2008 Presidential Election.
+ Issue Brief
+ Chartpack

Related Articles:
Envisioning the Future: The 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Health Care Reform Proposals
Sara R. Collins and Jennifer L. Kriss, Commonwealth Fund, January 2008

The Erosion of Middle-Class Economic Security after 2001

Source: Christian Weller, Challenge, Vol. 51 no. 1, January-February, 2008
(subscription required)

This economist presents a variety of ways of measuring how security has been reduced in the 2000s. How well can middle-class Americans withstand financial emergencies–a bout of unemployment, for example, or a medical emergency? He finds that the gains in security of the late 1990s were eroded entirely in the 2000s.

The Importance of Accounting for Job Quality: Charting U.S. Economic Performance with Alternative Labor Market Indicators

Source: David Howell and Mamadou Diallo, Challenge, Vol. 51 no. 1, January-February, 2008
(subscription required)

These authors argue that traditional measures of employment and unemployment are not adequate. In the traditional data, a low-paying job counts as much as a high-paying one. The authors create new indicators to determine how well Americans are doing. They show that a strikingly low percentage of American workers have what the authors define as adequate jobs, although the rate has improved since 1979. Serious job-quality deterioration has occurred, however, for those, especially men, who have at least a high school diploma but no more than two years of college.

The Decline of Good Jobs: How Have Jobs with Adequate Pay and Benefits Done?

Source: John Schmitt, Challenge, Vol. 51 no. 1, January-February, 2008
(subscription required)

This economist defines good jobs as those that pay a reasonable minimum and also include health care and pension benefits. The share of such jobs in the economy has declined since 1979. For men, the decline is especially sharp. Given that the workforce is better educated and more experienced, a decline is all the more an indication that the labor market is failing the American worker.