Inside a Long, Messy Year of Reopening Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, New Republic, March 8, 2021

Teachers unions were accused of being obstinate and compromising education. The real story is a lot more complex.

Last month in Chicago, after months of heated negotiations, the teachers union and Chicago Public Schools emerged with one of the most detailed school reopening agreements in the nation. Brad Marianno, an education policy professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been studying these agreements since last spring, called it the most comprehensive he’s seen, citing its inclusion of things like testing protocols, measures that might lead to reclosing schools, and vaccination commitments. Among other things, the union succeeded in negotiating accommodations for hundreds more members at higher risk of Covid-19 complications, or who serve as the primary caregiver for someone at higher risk, than the district had originally agreed to accommodate.

Stacy Davis Gates, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said one of the most important components of the agreement was the so-called “school safety committees” a demand the union put forward in December to hold leadership accountable to the health and safety promises it’s made. The school-based committees include up to four CTU members, the principal, the building engineer, and a “reasonable” number of other employees like janitors, lunchroom staff, and security guards. On a regular basis, they will flag to the principal any issues that arise and can hold the school liable if they go ignored. ….

I Am a Man: A Conversation With William Lucy

Source: Steve Flamisch, Rutgers Today News, February 26, 2021

Francis Ryan, a labor historian in the School of Management and Labor Relations, interviews the union leader who coined the iconic phrase, “I Am a Man,” during the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike.

When two sanitation workers were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck in Memphis, Tennessee, in February 1968, the city’s fed-up public works employees went on strike to demand safer working conditions and higher wages.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) dispatched a young, up-and-coming union official named William Lucy to help the 1,300 striking workers—all Black men—in their struggle.

“Here you had men who had worked the better part of their adult life for the city—some were working 15 to 20 years,” Lucy recalled. “Their wage levels were $1.25, $1.35 an hour. They were confronted with equipment that came from the Stone Age.”….

Does Private Equity Investment in Healthcare Benefit Patients? Evidence from Nursing Homes

Source: Atul Gupta, Sabrina T. Howell, Constantine Yannelis & Abhinav Gupta, NBER Working Paper 28474, February 2021
(subscription required)

The past two decades have seen a rapid increase in Private Equity (PE) investment in healthcare, a sector in which intensive government subsidy and market frictions could lead high-powered for-profit incentives to be misaligned with the social goal of affordable, quality care. This paper studies the effects of PE ownership on patient welfare at nursing homes. With administrative patient-level data, we use a within-facility differences-in-differences design to address non-random targeting of facilities. We use an instrumental variables strategy to control for the selection of patients into nursing homes. Our estimates show that PE ownership increases the short-term mortality of Medicare patients by 10%, implying 20,150 lives lost due to PE ownership over our twelve-year sample period. This is accompanied by declines in other measures of patient well-being, such as lower mobility, while taxpayer spending per patient episode increases by 11%. We observe operational changes that help to explain these effects, including declines in nursing staff and compliance with standards. Finally, we document a systematic shift in operating costs post-acquisition toward non-patient care items such as monitoring fees, interest, and lease payments.

Are Minimum Wage Effects Greater in Low‐Wage Areas?

Source: Anna Godoey, Michael Reich, Industrial Relations, Early View, First published: January 22, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Empirical work on the minimum wage typically estimates effects averaged across high‐ and low‐wage areas. Low‐wage labor markets could potentially be less able to absorb minimum wage increases, in turn leading to more negative employment effects. In this article, we examine minimum wage effects in low‐wage counties, where relative minimum wage ratios reach as high as 0.82, well beyond the state‐based ratios in extant studies. Using data from the American Community Survey, the Quarterly Workforce Indicators, and the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, we implement event study and difference‐in‐differences methods, estimating average causal effects for all events in our sample and separately for areas with lower and higher impacts. We find positive wage effects, especially in high‐impact counties, but do not detect adverse effects on employment, weekly hours, or annual weeks worked. We do not find negative employment effects among women, Blacks, and/or Hispanics. In high‐impact counties, we find substantial declines in household and child poverty. These results inform policy debates about providing exemptions to a $15 federal minimum wage in low‐wage areas.

US State Policies, Politics, and Life Expectancy

Source: Jennifer Karas Montez, Jason Beckfield, Julene Kemp Cooney, Jacob M. Grumbach, Mark D. Hayward, Huseyin Zeyd Koytak, Steven H. Woolf, Anna Zajacova, Milbank Quarterly, Vol 98, September 2020

Policy points:

  • Changes in US state policies since the 1970s, particularly after 2010, have played an important role in the stagnation and recent decline in US life expectancy.
  • Some US state policies appear to be key levers for improving life expectancy, such as policies on tobacco, labor, immigration, civil rights, and the environment.
  • US life expectancy is estimated to be 2.8 years longer among women and 2.1 years longer among men if all US states enjoyed the health advantages of states with more liberal policies, which would put US life expectancy on par with other high-income countries.

Related:

Are Conservative Policies Shortening American Lives?
Source: Lola Butcher, Undark, February 1, 2021

Americans have shorter lives than international peers. Some researchers now say conservative policies may be to blame.

Symposium on the upcoming argument in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee

Source: SCOTUSblog, February 2021

Articles include:
Supreme Court needs to set clear standards for vote-denial claims
By Ilya Shapiro and Stacy Hanson, SCOTUSblog, February 19, 2021

….After the contentious election we just had, this case presents an opportunity to make future elections cleaner and less litigious, with results that inspire greater public confidence. Those salutary outcomes turn not on whether the court upholds the two specific electoral regulations at issue, in Arizona or elsewhere, but on whether it provides a clear framework by which lower courts are to evaluate VRA Section 2 claims….

Voting discrimination is getting worse, not better
By LaShawn Warren, SCOTUSblog, February 18, 2021

Six weeks after the close of an election cycle marred by Republican efforts to exclude Black and Brown voters, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a significant voting rights case. For generations, the court has recognized that the heart of America’s vibrant democracy is the right to vote free from discrimination. In Brnovich v. DNC, the court must once more affirm that there is no place for racism in our elections by striking down Arizona’s racially discriminatory voting laws.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: Equal opportunity vs. disparate impact
By Christopher Kieser, SCOTUSblog, February 17, 2021

In the aftermath of the chaos that was the 2020 election-related litigation, it is easy to forget that the Supreme Court is now set to decide the most consequential election law dispute in nearly a decade. At issue in Brnovich v. DNC and Arizona Republican Party v. DNC is nothing less than the future of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the nationwide prohibition of any election regulation that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” The court will likely resolve a significant circuit split over whether a disparate racial effect alone renders unlawful an otherwise legitimate state election regulation. In doing so, the court will set the boundaries for future state election laws, and it may even comment on the continuing vitality of disparate-impact liability.

Barriers for Black Professionals

Source: Lisa Rabasca Roepe, SHRM, All Things Work, February 6, 2021

….Corporate America’s current efforts to increase diversity are failing, according to a 2019 study by Coqual (formerly the Center for Talent Innovation) in New York City.

Protests over George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police last year called attention to systemic racism. Some corporate executives have publicly condemned racism and promised to do better.

But for change to happen, they’ll have to look to their own internal processes, experts say. Black individuals make up 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for only 8 percent of employees in professional roles. Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles and less than 1 percent of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.

Black professionals may be represented in corporate offices, but they’re not being welcomed and included, the study found. As a result, companies are at risk of losing them, along with their significant talents and valuable perspective that companies need to help innovate and serve an increasingly diverse customer base….

Reward Preferences of the Youngest Generation: Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Generation Z into Public Sector Organizations

Source: Nana Amma A. Acheampong, Compensation & Benefits Review, Volume 53 Issue 2, April 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Generation Z is the youngest and newest entrants into the workforce. However, confusion about their characteristics, work values, and reward preferences hinders effort to attract, recruit, and retain this generational cohort into public sector organizations. Accordingly, this study investigates effective reward strategies for recruiting and retaining Generation Z into public sector organizations. I used an evidence-based research approach and an aggregative systematic review as the study methodology. The evidence curated from 32 studies reveals how the background and life experiences of Generation Z influence the importance they assign their work values, reward preferences, and how they prioritize rewards in terms of their employment decisions. Additionally, gender also influenced the importance Gen Z assigned to specific rewards. Overall, Gen Z’s strong attractiveness to specific extrinsic and intrinsic rewards makes public sector organizations a likely employer of choice and offers managers a viable strategy for attracting, recruiting, and retaining the youngest generational workforce.

Public Sector Compensation: An Application of Robust and Quantile Regression

Source: Salomon Alcocer Guajardo, Compensation & Benefits Review, Volume 53 Issue 2, April 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study assesses whether the theoretical compensation framework used to explain differences in public sector pay among full-time federal and state employees may also explain differences in pay at a local government level. In doing so, this study uses ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to test the application of the theoretical framework to a specific local government. Robust and quantile regression models are used subsequently to validate the findings obtained by the OLS model. The findings reveal that the covariates used to explain differences in compensation among full-time federal and state employees have similar effects at a local governmental level. While the OLS statistical model explains 26% (R2 = .26) of the variance, the robust regression model explains 39% (R2 = .39) of the variance. The percentage of variation explained by the quantile statistical models ranges from 14% (pseudo-R2 = .14) to 50% (pseudo-R2 = .50).

2021 Credit Outlook For U.S. Public Finance: Back On Track?

Source: Robin L Prunty, S&P Global, January 29, 2021

Key Takeaways:
Active management has supported credit quality. Across sectors, the pandemic and associated economic and fiscal pressures have been actively managed, and that has supported credit quality, but the magnitude and duration of this crisis will contribute to credit pressure for many.

The health and economic recoveries will continue to be uneven. Different state and local protocols to manage the pandemic and the vaccine rollout continue to influence the economy generally and consumer demand–especially for transportation and higher education—in particular.

Federal policy will influence credit trajectory. A new administration will mean a new policy and funding priorities in key areas, which will influence sectors in different ways. In addition to general fiscal and monetary policy, issues such as stimulus funding, health care initiatives, regulatory changes, and prospects for a funded infrastructure initiative are key things we are watching for 2021.