Highway Bridge Program: Clearer Goals and Performance Measures Needed for a More Focused and Sustainable Program

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-1043, September 10, 2008

The August 1, 2007, collapse of a Minnesota bridge raised nationwide questions about bridge safety and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) ability to prioritize resources for bridges. The Highway Bridge Program (HBP), the primary source of federal funding for bridges, provided over $4 billion to states in fiscal year 2007. This requested study examines (1) how the HBP addresses bridge conditions, (2) how states use HBP funds and select bridge projects for funding, (3) what data indicate about bridge conditions and the HBP’s impact, and (4) the extent to which the HBP aligns with principles GAO developed, based on prior work and federal laws and regulations, for re-examining surface transportation programs. GAO reviewed program documents; analyzed bridge data; and met with transportation officials in states that have high levels of HBP funding and large bridge inventories, including California, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Women’s Earnings: Federal Agencies Should Better Monitor Their Performance in Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Laws

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-799, August 11, 2008

In 2003, GAO found that women, on average, earned 80 percent of what men earned in 2000 and workplace discrimination may be one contributing factor. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (Labor) enforce several laws intended to prevent gender pay discrimination. GAO examined (1) how EEOC enforces laws addressing gender pay disparities among private sector employers and provides outreach and what is known about its performance, and (2) how Labor enforces laws addressing gender pay disparities among federal contractors and provides outreach and what is known about its performance. GAO analyzed relevant laws, regulations, monitoring reports, and agency enforcement data and conducted interviews at the agencies’ central offices and two field offices experienced in gender pay cases.

Good Health Starts Early: Two Studies Show Links Between Child Poverty and Poor Adult Health

Source: Kate Bell Center for American Progress, September 8, 2008

Improving children’s health is key to better overall health outcomes, and should be a cornerstone of any comprehensive health care reform. Two new reports from the World Health Organization and the Campaign to End Child Poverty explore the extent to which health outcomes are determined by social conditions, including poverty, and they show that poverty in childhood has a clear effect on adult health.

Income Inequality in Massachusetts, 1980 – 2006

Source: Rebecca Loveland, Raija Vaisanen, Roy Williams, and Robert Nakosteen, MassBenchmarks, Vol. 10 no. 2, August 2008

This article examines changing income distribution in the state and its regions, showing a long-term pattern of increasing income inequality in the Commonwealth. The article documents a widening gap between the haves and have-nots within every region of the state and, strikingly, between the Greater Boston and Northeast regions and the rest of the Commonwealth.

Got work?

Source: Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, September 17, 2008

Since December 2006, the number of job seekers per job opening available has skyrocketed more than 60%. The number of job seekers per job opening is now firmly in recessionary territory–at a higher level than during any month of the official 2001 recession–and it shows no signs of leveling off. This week’s Economic Snapshot and a companion Issue Brief look at current job openings trends, an important counterpart to the more commonly cited measures of unemployment.

Reversal of Fortune

Source: Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper #220, September 18, 2008

While bad economic news continues to pile up for America’s working people, the economic trends are even more disheartening for African American families. Gains made during the strong labor market of the latter 1990s business cycle have eroded, even as the economy grew significantly. On all major indicators–income, wages, employment, and poverty–African Americans lost ground between 2000 and 2007. Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, examines the trends and their impact in a new report: Reversal of Fortune: Economic Gains of 1990s Overturned for African Americans from 2000-07.

Preserving Safe, High Quality Public Housing Should Be A Priority Of Federal Housing Policy

Source: Barbara Sard and Will Fischer, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 18, 2008

From the summary:
This report, based on significant new research, examines the state of public housing in the United States today and discusses federal policy changes that have greatly improved public housing over the past decade, as well as the deteriorating funding situation that is undermining this progress. It then outlines several policy recommendations that could further strengthen public housing and preserve most developments for the future.

Financing the Productive Economy: The Heartland Development Bank

Source: Joel Kotkin, Delore Zimmerman, New America Foundation September 18, 2008

From the summary:
Throughout American history, infrastructure investment has played a critical role in economic development. As the nation moved west, the building of canals and turnpikes, followed by construction of railroads, expanded the field of economic opportunity. Later, investment in electricity and telephone networks facilitated the development of vast expanses of the American landscape that had previously been left behind. More recently, the national interstate highway system and now the continuing build-out of broadband telecommunications networks have enabled the de-clustering of many business endeavors that were once confined to large central cities.

Voting In 2008: Ten Swing States

Source: Tova Wang, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, Melissa Reiss and Kristen Oshyn, Common Cause and The Century Foundation, September 2008

In 2006, Common Cause, in conjunction with The Century Foundation and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, released a report, “Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?,” in which we looked at the findings of a post-election symposium on the serious flaws revealed during the 2004 general election and ascertained the extent to which states had successfully addressed these problems in the run-up to the 2006 elections. With the 2008 election only a few months away, this follow-up report, “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” assesses how much progress has been made in the past two years in improving the voting process, and identifies what still needs to be done.