Category Archives: Economy

Labor, Poverty, and Power

Source: Cambridge Now Blog, September 3, 2020

Countries around the world are struggling with the economic repercussions of the pandemic, and the United States in particular has recorded levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. While the CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March, provided $600/week in supplemental income to some workers, this benefit lapsed at the end of July and no replacement program has been enacted, leaving millions in a state of housing and food insecurity. At the same time, states have made cuts or are considering steep cuts to Medicaid and other social safety programs precisely as need surges, with millions of Americans losing health insurance along with their jobs. A disproportionate number of those who are at risk are Black Americans and people of color who worked—or still work, in some cases, but at minimum wage—in industries without organized labor, which has also been in decline over the past several decades in the United States. Indeed, the precarious position of low-wage workers and the unemployed stands in contrast to legislation designed to protect businesses and employers—for example, a $25 billion bailout to the airline industry, or the GOP Liability Shield Bill, which would give employers sweeping immunity against Covid-19 related lawsuits brought by employees.

We spoke to several Cambridge University Press authors and editors about the legal, political, and historical factors that explain these converging crises and make low-income and unemployed Americans especially vulnerable. We also asked about connections between calls to end anti-Black racism and to reinvigorate organized labor, and, more generally, how anti-labor and anti-poor measures have exacerbated the systemic effects of racism.

What Is the Remedy for State and Local Fiscal Squeeze During the COVID-19 Recession? More Debt, and That Is Okay

Source: James W. Douglas, Ringa Raudla, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
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From the abstract:
The COVID-19 crisis is placing a tremendous fiscal squeeze on state and local governments in the United States. We argue that the federal government should increase its deficit to fill in the fiscal gap. In the absence of sufficient federal assistance, we recommend that states suspend their balanced budget rules and norms and run deficits in their operating budgets to maintain services and meet additional obligations due to the pandemic. A comparison with Eurozone countries shows that states have more than enough debt capacity to run short-term deficits to respond to the crisis.

COVID-19 and the Higher Education Quandary

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Regional Financial Review, August 2020
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COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across nearly every part of the U.S. and global economy. While higher education has typically been insulated from the business cycle—and sometimes has even been the beneficiary of economic downturns—the current pandemic-induced recession has hit the sector head on.

The Next Recovery: Regional Leaders and Laggards

Source: Adam Kamins, Regional Financial Review, August 2020
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With the national COVID-19 recession having officially ended, the varying nature of the recovery across regions has become an increasingly important consideration. Some key short- and long-term considerations are examined in order to determine which places are best positioned in the years ahead.

Early Evidence on the Impact of COVID-19 and the Recession on Older Workers

Source: Truc Thi Mai Bui, Patrick Button, Elyce G. Picciotti, NBER Working Paper No. 27448, June 2020

From the abstract:

We summarize some of the early effects and discuss possible future effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession on the employment outcomes of older workers in the United States. We start by discussing what we know about how older workers faired in prior recessions in the United States and how COVID-19 and this recession may differ. We then estimate some early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession on employment and unemployment rates by age group and sex using Current Population Survey data. We calculate employment and unemployment rates multiple ways to account for the complicated employment situation and possible errors in survey enumeration. We find that while previous recessions, in some ways, did not affect employment outcomes for older workers as much, this recession disproportionately affected older workers of ages 65 and older. For example, we find that unemployment rates in April 2020 increased to 15.43% for those ages 65 and older, compared to 12.99% for those ages 25-44. We also find that COVID-19 and the recession disproportionately affected women, where women have reached higher unemployment rates than men, which was consistent for all age groups and unemployment rate measures we used.

Revenue securing certain US state and local debt will weaken as coronavirus slows economy and travel

Source: Moody’s, March 30, 2020
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Tax revenue used to repay state and local special tax debt — debt secured by specific tax revenue streams such as hotel or car rental taxes — will rapidly decline amid the coronavirus-related economic downturn. A state or local government with a dedicated reserve fund or the ability and willingness to cover a gap in pledged revenue bolsters the credit quality of certain special tax debt.

Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit of Public Pension Dollars in Small Towns and Rural America

Source: Dan Doonan, Maryna Kollar, Nathan Chobo, Tyler Bond, National Institute on Retirement Security, March 2020

From the summary:
As many small towns and rural communities across America face shrinking populations and slowing economic growth, a new report finds that one positive economic contributor to these areas is the flow of benefit dollars from public pension plans. In 2018, public pension benefit dollars represented between one and three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on average among the 1,401 counties in 19 states studied.

These findings are detailed in a new study, Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit of Public Pension Dollars in Small Towns and Rural America.

This new report finds that public pension benefit dollars also account for significant amounts of total personal income in counties across the nineteen states studied. For all 1,401 counties in this study, pension benefit dollars represent an average of 1.37 percent of total personal income, while some counties experience more than six percent of total personal income derived from pension dollars.

The report’s key findings are as follows:

  • Public pension benefit dollars represent between one and three percent of GDP on average in the 1,401 counties studied.
  • Rural counties and counties with state capitals have the highest percentages of populations receiving public pension benefits.
  • Small town counties experience a greater relative impact both in terms of GDP and total personal income from public pension benefit dollars than rural or metropolitan counties.
  • Rural counties experience more of an impact in terms of personal income than metropolitan counties, whereas metropolitan counties experience more of an impact in terms of GDP than rural counties.
  • Counties with state capitals are outliers from other metropolitan counties, likely because there is a greater density of public employees in these counties, most of whom remain in these counties in retirement.
  • On average, rural counties have lost population while small town counties and metropolitan counties have gained population in the period between 2000 and 2018, but the connection between population change and the relative impact of public pension benefit dollars is weak.

Incentivizing the Missing Middle: The Role of Economic Development Policy

Source: Carlianne Patrick, Heather M. Stephens, Economic Development Quarterly, OnlineFirst, Published February 28, 2020
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From the abstract:
The shrinking middle class and increasing income polarization in the United States are issues of concern to policy makers and others. Economic development incentives are a key policy tool used at the state and local levels to promote local economic growth, and, presumably, provide employment opportunities. However, these incentives may have unintended consequences that may be contributing to the decline of the middle class. The authors combine detailed industry-level detail on incentives with proprietary county-level industry employment data and two methods for defining middle-class industries. Using an instrumental variable approach, the authors estimate how differential economic development policies affect middle-class jobs. The authors find evidence that incentivizing creative-class and high-wage industries may be contributing to the hollowing out of the middle class. Without hurting employment in other industries, targeting working-class and middle-wage industries alleviates this trend, while reducing incentives on creative-class and high-wage industries could help increase working and middle-class employment.

Macroeconomic Feedback Effects of Medicaid Expansion: Evidence from Michigan

Source: Helen Levy, John Z. Ayanian, Thomas C. Buchmueller, Donald R. Grimes, Gabriel Ehrlich, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol. 45 no. 1, February 2020
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From the abstract:

Context: Medicaid expansion has costs and benefits for states. The net impact on a state’s budget is a central concern for policy makers debating implementing this provision of the Affordable Care Act. How large is the state-level fiscal impact of expanding Medicaid, and how should it be estimated?

Methods: We use Michigan as a case study for evaluating the state-level fiscal impact of Medicaid expansion, with particular attention to the importance of macroeconomic feedback effects relative to the more straightforward fiscal effects typically estimated by state budget agencies. We combine projections from the state of Michigan’s House Fiscal Agency with estimates from a proprietary macroeconomic model to project the state fiscal impact of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion through 2021.

Findings: We find that Medicaid expansion in Michigan yields clear fiscal benefits for the state, in the form of savings on other non-Medicaid health programs and increases in revenue from provider taxes and broad-based sales and income taxes through at least 2021. These benefits exceed the state’s costs in every year.

Conclusions: While these results are specific to Michigan’s budget and economy, our methods could in principle be applied in any state where policy makers seek rigorous evidence on the fiscal impact of Medicaid expansion.

Tax incentives for business leave states worse off

Source: Matt Shipman, Futurity, February 27, 2020

The vast majority of tax incentives aimed at attracting and retaining businesses ultimately leave states worse off than if they had done nothing, researchers report.


For the study, researchers examined data from 32 states from 1990-2015. The researchers evaluated all of the state and local tax incentives available in the 32 states, as well as an array of economic, political, governmental, and demographic data.


A computational model assessed the extent to which the effects of attracting or retaining businesses in a state offset the state’s related tax incentives.


“We found that, in almost all instances, these corporate tax incentives cost states millions of dollars—if not more—and the returns were minimal,” says corresponding author Bruce McDonald, an associate professor of public administration at North Carolina State University.


“In fact, the combination of costly tax incentives and limited returns ultimately left states in worse financial condition than they were to begin with.”


The two exceptions to the finding were job creation tax credits and job training grants.

Related:
You Don’t Always Get What You Want: The Effect of Financial Incentives on State Fiscal Health
Source: Bruce D. McDonald III, J. W. Decker, Brad A. M. Johnson, Public Administration Review, Early View, First published: February 27, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Governments frequently use financial incentives to encourage the creation, expansion, or relocation of businesses within their borders. Research on financial incentives gives little clarity as to what impact these incentives may have on governments. While incentives may draw in more economic growth, they also pull resources from government coffers, and they may commit governments to future funding for public services that benefit the incentivized businesses. The authors use a panel of 32 states and data from 1990 to 2015 to understand how incentives affect states’ fiscal health. They find that after controlling for the governmental, political, economic, and demographic characteristics of states, incentives draw resources away from states. Ultimately, the results show that financial incentives negatively affect the overall fiscal health of states.