State(s) of Head Start

Source: W. Steven Barnett, Allison H. Friedman-Krauss, The National Institute for Early Education Research, 2016

From the overview:
State(s) of Head Start is the first report to describe and analyze in detail Head Start enrollment, funding, quality, and duration, state-by-state. The report focuses on the 2014-2015 program year but also provides longitudinal data beginning with the 2006-2007 program year. Despite the fact that Head Start is a federally funded, national program, the report reveals that access to Head Start programs, funding per child, teacher education, quality of teaching, and duration of services all vary widely by state.

This report’s findings underscore the need for greater coordination between Head Start and state and local government agencies to build high-quality early learning programs with widespread reach and adequate funding. The authors call for an independent bipartisan national commission to study the issues raised in this report and develop an action plan to ensure every eligible child in every state has an equal opportunity to benefit from Head Start…..
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A New Safety Net for an Era of Unstable Earnings

Source: Andrew Stettner, Michael Cassidy and George Wentworth, The Century Foundation in collaboration with the National Employment Law Project, December 2016

From the press release:
Many part-time or “gig economy” workers are struggling to get by on unstable earnings and wages that vary significantly from week to week or month to month. New data on earnings instability and income volatility in the years during and after the Great Recession reveal that the problem is much worse than commonly understood, according to a new report published today by The Century Foundation in collaboration with the National Employment Law Project. ….

…. The report, A New Safety Net for an Era of Unstable Earnings, takes a deep-dive look at earnings in the years during and after the Great Recession, with an original analysis of census data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The analysis focuses on month-to-month earnings of primary earners (breadwinners) in a representative sample of U.S. households. It finds:

• Primary earners in three out of five families experienced a month-to-month earnings drop of at least 50 percent at some point between 2008 and 2013.
• A typical worker’s earnings were extremely variable during this period. The average month-to-month variation for an individual earner was $2,300 to $2,600.

The analysis goes further with a first-ever use of the Gini coefficient (typically used to measure inequality between families) to instead measure the extent to which an individual’s own earnings are unequal from month to month. It finds:

• Earnings volatility is strongly related to household hardship. Workers with the most volatile earnings are 31 percent more likely to experience poverty than those with stable earnings, and holding other factors constant, are 14 percent more likely to need some form of means-tested public assistance.
• Those broadly working in the nonstandard workforce or “gig economy” have earnings that are nearly two times more unequal than standard workers. ….
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Why the British love the National Health Service

Source: Andrew Street, The Conversation, December 14, 2016

The Second World War left the United Kingdom in ruins and in debt, yet just three years later in 1948 every household received a leaflet telling them that they were entitled to free health care. This marked the birth of the National Health Service, funded from general taxation and available to all according to their clinical needs, regardless of income.

By and large, the same arrangements remain today. Satisfaction with the NHS has increased over the past few years, with 60 percent of those surveyed in 2015 saying they were quite or very satisfied with the NHS.

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s recent survey, 63 percent of those from the U.K. said the NHS worked well.

In contrast, only 25 percent of those from the U.S. said the same about their health system. ….

International comparisons show that the NHS outperforms other countries, including the U.S., in terms of quality of care, efficiency, access and equity….

….The U.K. currently spends 9.9 percent of GDP on health care, with 80 percent of this spending on the NHS, the remainder being private health expenditure.

This places it 12th among the 35 countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But the U.S. takes the top spot, total health spending amounting to 16.4 percent of GDP.

The higher level of spending in the U.S., though, doesn’t translate automatically into higher levels of health. Life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than the U.K., and people in the U.S. have higher rates of chronic disease than those of the same age in the U.K…..

There’s an Antidote to America’s Long Economic Malaise: College Towns

Source: Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2016

Many places that bounced back from losing jobs to China are home to a major university. ….

….Each state has at least one land-grant institution, initially funded by a grant of federal land or a payout in a program started during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Land-grant universities were required to focus on agriculture and engineering—which turned into a broad applied research mission—and to promote their work statewide. Such institutions became a kind of natural experiment.

The result was that many land-grant counties became economic stars over time, even though those counties differed little from others nearby.

Between the late 1860s and 1940, manufacturing productivity in counties with land-grant universities rose 57% more than in similar counties without them, calculates Shimeng Liu, an economist at Jinan University in China who studied land-grant colleges when he was a researcher in the U.S.

Since 2000, the median unemployment rate in counties with flagship land-grant universities was 1.2 percentage points lower on average than in other counties, according to an analysis by the Journal…..

21 States & Localities Approved Minimum Wage Increases in 2016

Source: National Employment Law Project (NELP), Press Release, December 15, 2016

The Fight for $15 continued to accelerate in 2016 – just four years after it began – winning major minimum wage victories from coast to coast. The movement, led by fast-food and other low-wage workers, grew in scale and influence in 2016, with 21 states, cities and counties raising pay for 11.8 million workers. New campaigns seeking to raise pay for 8 million more workers in at least 13 states and cities are teed up for 2017 and 2018.

When combined with increases approved in recent years, on New Year’s Day 2017, workers in at least 40 states, cities and counties will receive raises – followed later in 2017 by raises for workers in another 19 states and cities. Below are highlights of 2016’s minimum wage wins and new campaigns moving forward in 2017 and 2018:

In 2016, a total of 21 states and localities approved minimum wage increases (see Table 1)…..
On or about New Year’s Day, 40 states and localities will increase their minimum wages (Table 3)…..
21 cities and counties will raise their wage floors on New Year’s Day…..
Later in 2017, 19 additional states and cities will increase their minimum wages (Table 4)….
At least 13 more states, cities and counties are launching or continuing campaigns for minimum wage increases of up to $15 over the next two years (Table 5)…..

Rising Economic Inequality and Campaign Contributions from Very Wealthy Americans

Source: Adam Bonica, Stanford University and Howard Rosenthal, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, November 2016

From the introduction:
…..In our research, we explore the relationship between wealth disparities and campaign contributions, documenting the growing concentration of campaign contributions among a small sliver of very wealthy U.S. donors. Despite an explosion in the number of citizens donating to campaigns in recent decades, we find that in recent decades the total share of campaign contributions has risen sharply from the wealthiest donors, the top 1% of the 1% of the voting age population. Mass participation has failed to counterbalance this trend.

Although recent changes to the legal and regulatory environment have contributed to the trend, they are at best a partial explanation. Contributions were becoming more concentrated long before the 2010 Citizens United and the 2014 McCutcheon cases were decided by the Supreme Court. To fully make sense of the rise of big money, its causes and consequences, we must examine broader economic trends and understand how the political behavior of the super rich has changed over time. Our research examines donation patterns of the super-rich – and explores their broader implications…..

Fiscal Survey of the States, Fall 2016

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2016

From the overview:
With data gathered from all 50 state budget offices, this semi-annual report provides a narrative analysis of the fiscal condition of the states and data summaries of state general fund revenues, expenditures, and balances. The spring edition details governors’ proposed budgets; the fall edition details enacted budgets.

States’ enacted budgets for fiscal 2017 project moderate general fund spending growth for the seventh consecutive year. However, progress since the Great Recession has been uneven, and many states are seeing softening state tax collections. Key findings from the report:
– General fund revenue growth slowed in fiscal 2016, with 25 states ending the year with collections below budget forecast.
– 19 states reported net mid-year budget reductions in fiscal 2016, a historically high number outside of a recessionary period.
– 24 states so far are reporting fiscal 2017 general fund revenues coming in below projections, the highest number of states expecting revenue shortfalls at this time in the fiscal year since 2010.
– States enacted a mix of tax increases and decreases effective in fiscal 2017.
– Most states continue to bolster rainy day funds, despite slower revenue growth and other challenges.
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Overcoming Barriers to Retirement Security for Women: The Role of Social Security

Source: Joan Entmacher, Mikki Waid, and Benjamin W. Veghte, National Academy of Social Insurance, Social Security Brief No. 49, December 2016

From the abstract:
The share of women working today is near an all-time high. While their earnings and projected retirement incomes have grown compared to previous generations of women, a significant gender gap still exists. At the same time, women continue to bear most of the responsibility of caregiving, and many have to juggle the demands of work and taking care of a child or adult loved one. To compound this struggle, more women are handling these duties on their own, as more are either never married or divorced. These challenges put a strain on women’s ability to work and earn a decent living, making it difficult to achieve economic security in old age.

Social Security has proven to be the most effective vehicle for the achievement of retirement security for most women. Enhancing Social Security benefits would be an effective strategy for improving women’s retirement security—especially for women 75 or older, who face a significantly greater risk of poverty than their male counterparts. Expanding benefits would require increasing system revenue beyond what is necessary to close the projected long-term shortfall. Provisions that increase benefits for low earners, caregivers, or older seniors, or modernize benefits for certain marital statuses such as the divorced and survivors, would address the challenges that women particularly face. But they would be available on a gender-neutral basis and would benefit other economically vulnerable groups, including people of color and people with disabilities.