Global earnings inequality: Evidence from a new database

Source: Olle Hammar, Daniel Waldenström, VoxEU, July 3, 2017

Recent studies have analysed trends in global income inequality, but for most people in the world, labour earnings represent the vast majority of their income. This column uses a new global database on occupational earnings since 1970 to examine trends in earnings inequality between countries’ high- and low- earners, between countries, and between occupational groups. Global earnings inequality has fallen over the past half-century, and so has inequality within occupations, with main equalisation in the late 1990s and 2000s.

2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2017

From the summary:
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book urges policymakers not to back away from targeted investments that help U.S. children become healthier, more likely to complete high school and better positioned to contribute to the nation’s economy as adults. The Data Book also shows the child poverty rate in 2015 continued to drop, landing at 21%. In addition, children experienced gains in reading proficiency and a significant increase in the number of kids with health insurance. However, the data indicate that unacceptable levels of children living in poverty and in high-poverty neighborhoods persist.

In this year’s report, New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016. Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states.

Beyond Urban Versus Rural: Understanding American Political Geography in 2016

Source: Dante J. Scala, Kenneth M. Johnson, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy, National Issue Brief #124, Summer 2017

From the summary:
In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, commentators focused on the political polarization separating residents of urban and rural America. Certainly rural–urban differences are only one of several factors that contributed to the surprising 2016 outcome, but rural voters are rightly acknowledged as one key factor in Donald Trump’s electoral success. Yet, defining 2016 as the tale of two Americas—one urban, one rural—hinders a nuanced understanding of the country’s political geography. Many political commentators mistakenly caricature rural America as a single entity, but our research summarized here shows that complex variations in voting patterns persist among both urban and rural places. Rural America is a remarkably diverse collection of places including more than 70 percent of the land area of the United States and 46 million people. Both demographic and voting trends in this vast area are far from monolithic. Here we examine voting patterns over the last five presidential elections, treating rural–urban differences as a continuum, not a dichotomy.

Key Findings:
Although rural voters and urban voters are often portrayed as polar opposites, their differences are best understood as a continuum, not a dichotomy.

From the largest urban cores to the most remote rural counties, we find significant variations in voting behavior that persist over the last five presidential elections.

Hillary Clinton nearly matched Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in most urban areas.

Clinton’s defeat was due, in part, to her failure to match the performance of recent Democratic Presidential nominees in less populated areas.

The Trump team’s poor arguments for slashing SNAP

Source: Patricia Smith, The Conversation, June 25, 2017

The Trump administration aims to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by US$193 billion over the next decade. The proposal would also overhaul how the nation’s main nutrition assistance program operates, potentially encouraging additional cuts by the states.

Curbing SNAP’s reach is only one way that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and other officials are trying to trim the safety net to save taxpayer dollars – while simultaneously boosting military spending.

As an economist who studies nutrition policy, I don’t understand what good the administration thinks it can do by overhauling and paring back an effective and efficient program. By many measures, SNAP successfully satisfies an essential human need and fulfills its mandate to promote the general welfare….

White House Women Face Bigger Gender Pay Gap Than National Average

Source: Sofia Lotto Persio, Newsweek, July 3, 2017

Women working in U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House earn less than men on average, according to new data. 

The White House released salary information of its 377 staffers on June 30 in line with a Congressional rule dating back to 1995. The data revealed that the White House has a wider gender pay gap than the national average. The average gender pay gap in the U.S. in 2016 was 18.1 percent, meaning that for every dollar earned by a man, a woman earned 81.9 cents, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

But the gender pay gap in the White House stands at 20 percent, CNN reported, with women earning 80 cents to every dollar earned by a man. The difference in pay does not neccessarily mean that women’s salaries are lower for doing the same job, but that there are less women in high-paid roles.

Anti-Democratic Attacks on Unions Hurt Working Americans

Source: David Madland, Alex Rowell, and Gordon Lafer, Center for American Progress, June 22, 2017

From the summary:
It is highly likely that unions will soon be under attack at the federal level. The exact nature of the attack is still in question, but based on recent state actions—including the passage of new right-to-work laws and attacks on public sector workers’ bargaining rights—and bills that have been introduced in both this and recent sessions of Congress, it is clear the attacks will come.

This issue brief delves into these recent threats to unions, specifically exploring a category of attacks on worker power that would make it harder for workers to organize by undermining the union formation process. Previous and forthcoming reports from CAP Action highlight other likely attacks on unions, such as so-called right-to-work and paycheck protection legislation…..

Unions, Workers, and Wages at the Peak of the American Labor Movement

Source: Brantly Callaway, William J. Collins, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23516, June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We study a novel dataset compiled from archival records, which includes information on men’s wages, union status, educational attainment, work history, and other background variables for several cities circa 1950. Such data are extremely rare for the early post-war period when U.S. unions were at their peak. After describing patterns of selection into unions, we measure the union wage premium using unconditional quantile methods. The wage premium was larger at the bottom of the income distribution than at the middle or higher, larger for African Americans than for whites, and larger for those with low levels of education. Counterfactuals are consistent with the view that unions substantially narrowed urban wage inequality at mid-century.

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Brief Background and Recent Developments for Congress

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44721, June 12, 2017

Puerto Rico lies approximately 1,000 miles southeast of Miami and 1,500 miles from Washington, DC. Despite being far outside the continental United States, the island has played a significant role in American politics and policy since the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898.

Puerto Rico’s political status—referring to the relationship between the federal government and a territorial one—is an undercurrent in virtually every policy matter on the island. In a June 11, 2017, plebiscite (popular vote), 97.2% of voters chose statehood when presented with three options on the ballot. Turnout for the plebiscite was 23.0% of eligible voters. Some parties and other groups opposing the plebiscite had urged their bases to boycott the vote. (These data are based on 99.5% of precincts reporting results.) After initially including only statehood and free association/independence options, an amended territorial law ultimately permitted three options on the plebiscite ballot: statehood, free association/independence, or current territorial status. ….

…. Congress has not enacted any recent legislation devoted specifically to status. Two bills have been introduced during the 115th Congress. H.R. 260 proposes to admit Puerto Rico as a state if residents choose statehood in a plebiscite. H.R. 900 proposes a popular vote between independence and free association (which entails an ongoing relationship between independent countries). In the 114th Congress, H.R. 727, which did not advance beyond introduction, would have authorized a plebiscite on statehood. ….

…. This report provides policy and historical background about Puerto Rico’s political status—referring to the relationship between the federal government and a territorial one. Congress has not altered the island’s status since 1952, when it approved a territorial constitution. Status is the lifeblood of Puerto Rican politics, spanning policy and partisan lines in ways that are unfamiliar on the mainland. ….

States With the Best and Worst Economies

Source: Samuel Stebbins, Thomas C. Frohlich, Evan Comen and Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall St., June 27, 2017

Is your state a drag on the American economy or a boon? The 50 states — as diverse as they are — each contribute something to the U.S. economy. Because of their diversity, state economies rarely trend in unison. GDP growth is often the default measure for economic strength, but it often fails to tell the whole story. Unemployment, poverty, job growth, and education among other factors can also play a part in defining the strength of an economy.

Economic vitality is as much about growth as it is about the state’s ability to support its population — with jobs, education, economic opportunities and more. In turn, employed, better-paid, and better-educated residents of a state further contribute to economic growth.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed economic growth, poverty, unemployment, job growth, and college attainment rates nationwide to compare and rank each state’s economy. As a result, the best ranked states tend to have fast-growing economies, low poverty and unemployment, high job growth, and a relatively well-educated workforce, while the opposite is generally the case among states with the worst ranked economies. ….