Stress Testing States 2019

Source: Sarah Crane, Regional Financial Review, October 2019
(subscription required)

The business cycle is at a critical juncture. Recession risks in the U.S. are as high as they have been since the record-long economic expansion began more than a decade ago. Recessions and their place in the business cycle are an accepted fact of life in any organization, especially government. Therefore, preparing for recessions is an equally inescapable concept, with potentially devastating consequences for those who treat it as an afterthought. To help state governments better prepare for the next recession, Moody’s Analytics has taken to performing annual stress tests on their budgets. This paper will serve as an update to our 2018 state stress-testing exercise. We estimate the amount of fiscal stress likely to be applied to state budgets under different recession scenarios and compare that stress to the amount of money that states have set aside in reserve.

Copy, Paste, Legislate (beta)

Source: Center for Public Integrity, 2019

Do you know if a bill introduced in your statehouse — it might govern who can fix your shattered iPhone screen or whether you can still sue a pedophile priest years later — was actually written by your elected lawmakers? Use this new tool to find out.

Spoiler alert: The answer may well be no.

Thousands of pieces of “model legislation” are drafted each year by business organizations and special interest groups and distributed to state lawmakers for introduction. These copycat bills influence policymaking across the nation, state by state, often with little scrutiny. This news application was developed by the Center for Public Integrity, part of a year-long collaboration with USA TODAY and the Arizona Republic to bring the practice into the light.

Related:
Puppies, phones and porn: How ‘model legislation’ affects consumers’ lives
Source: Kristian Hernández, Pratheek Rebala, Center for Public Integrity, November 20, 2019

…..Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity, USA TODAY and the Arizona Republic analyzed model statehouse bills to take the first nationwide accounting of how prolific copycat legislation has become.

Today, the news organizations publicly released a new model legislation tracker that goes deeper, identifying copycat legislation by comparing statehouse bills to each other — and making that information accessible to the public.

The tool developed by Public Integrity reveals model bills — some previously unidentified — that impact nearly every aspect of American life, from who can grow hemp or breed puppies, to what can be called “milk” or “meat” for purchase at your local grocery stores.

Using the new model legislation tracker, Public Integrity retrieved nearly 1.2 million bills across all 50 states and compared their text to identify when two bills in different states have common language…..

There’s a pay penalty for certain speech patterns

Source: Futurity, November 12, 2019

The new paper by Jeffrey Grogger, a professor in urban policy at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, shows that workers with racially and regionally distinctive speech patterns earn lower wages compared to those who speak in the mainstream.

For Southern whites, speech-related wage differences are largely due to location, with Southern-sounding workers who live in rural areas earning less than those in urban areas.

For the black community, what Grogger calls “a sorting model” explains the wage difference, which can be significant. The term refers to African Americans who speak with what are perceived as mainstream accents sorting into jobs that involve intensive interactions with customers and coworkers—and earning a sizable wage premium in positions including lawyer, psychologist, dietitian, and social worker…..

Related:
Speech and Wages
Source: Jeffrey Grogger, Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 54 no. 4, Fall 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although language has been widely studied, relatively little is known about how a worker’s speech, in his/her native tongue, is related to wages, or what explains the observed relationship. To address these questions, I analyzed audio data from respondents to the NLSY97. Wages are strongly associated with speech patterns among both African Americans and Southern whites. For Southern whites, this is largely explained by residential location. For blacks, it is explained by sorting: workers with mainstream speech sort toward occupations that involve intensive interpersonal interactions and earn a sizeable wage premium there.

You’re more likely to believe polls when your candidate leads

Source: Jared Wadley, Futurity, November 7, 2019

People disproportionately find polls more credible when their preferred candidate is leading, according to a new study.

The study also implies that there are potential benefits of emphasizing polls’ methodological quality to mitigate people’s biases.

“On a number of fronts, it is clear that people believe what they want to believe,” says Josh Pasek, an associate professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan. “It’s depressing, but not really surprising, that they are willing to cherry pick which polls to trust in ways that support the narrative they want to hear.”

Pasek says the results pose a challenge for democratic legitimacy in a polarized society….

Student Loans and Homeownership

Source: Alvaro Mezza, Daniel Ringo, Shane Sherlund, Kamila Sommer, Journal of Labor Economics, Ahead of Print, November 13, 2019

From the abstract:
We estimate the effect of student loan debt on subsequent homeownership in a uniquely constructed administrative data set for a nationally representative cohort. We instrument for the amount of individual student debt using changes to the in-state tuition rate at public 4-year colleges in the student’s home state. A $1,000 increase in student loan debt lowers the homeownership rate by about 1.8 percentage points for public 4-year college-goers during their mid-20s, equivalent to an average delay of about 4 months in attaining homeownership. Validity tests suggest the results are not confounded by local economic conditions or changes in educational outcomes.

OSHA Forms Alliance With Waste And Recycling Industry Associations

Source: Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formed a national alliance with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) to protect the safety and health of workers in the solid waste industry. During the two-year agreement, the Alliance will address transportation hazards, including backovers and distracted driving; slips, trips, and falls; musculoskeletal injuries; heat and cold stress; and needle stick and other hazards. Participants plan to develop and share information about preventing and mitigating these hazards through articles, toolkits, fact sheets, exhibits at local and national industry conferences, and discussions at forums and other meetings. Participants will focus their efforts and outreach on small- and medium-sized employers…..

Employers Seek New Strategies For Dealing With Health Care Cost Increases

Source: Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

Curbing the cost of health care and increasing its affordability remain the top priorities for almost all employers over the next three years (93%), according to the Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey by Willis Towers Watson. Yet nearly two in three (63%) employers see health care affordability as the most difficult challenge to tackle over that same period.

Employers expect health care cost increases of 4.9%* in 2020 compared with 4.0% in 2019. Despite this cost increase, 95% of employees are very confident their organization will continue to sponsor health care benefits to active employees in five years. Moreover, employers’ longer-term commitment to sponsoring these benefits 10 years from now hit 74%, the highest level in the past decade. The rising cost of health care puts financial pressure not only on employers, but also their employees. In fact 89% of employers believe rising health care costs are a significant source of financial stress for their employees.

Is Community Service Compensable? DOL Offers An Opinion

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

At Salesforce, the provider of customer relationship management solutions, volunteerism is a deeply ingrained core value. From restoring local habitats to helping children in need, Salesforce employees can participate in numerous activities on- and off-the-clock to address myriad needs in their communities. “From the beginning, giving back was the best decision we ever made—it created a culture that attracts and retains the best and the brightest, and allows our employees to be change makers in their own communities,” the company says.

Still, in keeping with the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, questions sometimes arise about the compensability of employees’ volunteer work. If a non-exempt employee volunteers during non-work hours for a company-sanctioned cause or event, are those hours compensable? Can companies offer bonuses or other inducements to encourage employees to volunteer?

Polarization, Participation, and Premiums: How Political Behavior Helps Explain Where the ACA Works, and Where It Doesn’t

Source: Samuel Trachtman, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Volume 44, Issue 6, December 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Context:
Political partisanship can influence whether individuals enroll in government programs. In particular, Republicans, ceteris paribus, are less likely to enroll in Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual marketplace insurance than Democrats. The logic of adverse selection suggests low uptake among Republicans would generally put upward pressure on marketplace premiums, especially in geographic areas with more Republican partisans.

Methods:
Using data from Healthcare.gov at the rating area level, this article examines the association between Republican vote share and growth in ACA marketplace premiums, being careful to account for potential confounding variables.

Findings:
Insurers have increased marketplace premiums at higher rates in areas with more Republican voters. In the preferred model specification, a 10-percentage-point difference in Republican vote share is associated with a 3.2-percentage-point increase in average premium growth for a standard plan. A variety of robustness and placebo checks suggest the relationship is driven by partisanship.

Conclusions:
Partisan polarization can threaten the successful implementation of policies that rely on high levels of citizen participation.

Work Scheduling for American Mothers, 1990 and 2012

Source: Peter Hepburn, Social Problems, Latest Articles, October 26, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American working conditions have deteriorated over the last 40 years. One commonly-noted change is the rise of nonstandard and unstable work schedules. Such schedules, especially when held by mothers, negatively affect family functioning and the well-being and development of children; they have implications for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. This article describes and compares the working schedules—in terms of type, duration, and variability—of American mothers in 1990 and 2012 in an attempt to assess whether nonstandard and unstable schedules are growing more common. Analyses demonstrate that evening work has increased in prevalence for single mothers but not for their partnered peers. Mothers in both single-mother and two-partner households experienced considerably greater within-week schedule variability and higher likelihood of weekend work in 2012 than they did in 1990. These changes resulted from widespread shifts in the nature of work, especially affecting less educated mothers.