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September 11, 2015

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Posted: 11 Sep 2015 12:33 AM PDT
This is the conclusion to "The intellectual history of the minimum wage and overtime," by Oya Aktas:
...The intellectual history of maximum hours and minimum wages is a story of debates over which groups should be protected from exploitation and what form this protection should take. Concerns over women's health, ambivalence toward African American rights, and advocating for unorganized workers dominated the debate at different points. As social views changed, so did economic policies. Today, women account for two-thirds of minimum wage earners and people of color account for two-fifths. Studying the history of the minimum wage should compel policymakers to question how social priorities influence different groups, who is considered worthy of protection, and to what extent their welfare is considered. By implementing effective maximum hour and minimum wage regulations, policymakers can protect vulnerable workers' standard of living to encourage productivity, push companies to increase their efficiency, and consequently cultivate long-term equitable growth.
Posted: 11 Sep 2015 12:24 AM PDT
John Haltiwanger, Henry Hyatt, and Erika McEntarfer:
...young firms usually start small, and some of those small, young firms turn out to be highly productive and grow rapidly and poach workers away from other firms. It turns out that small, mature firms (those aged ten years or more) lose workers, on net, through poaching while young firms gain workers, on net, from poaching. Additionally, there is an important segment of large firms that offer low wages (e.g. in the retail trade sector). Those large, low-wage firms tend to hire non-employed workers, and this hiring shuts down during recessions. Moreover, workers at large, low-wage firms are often poached away by other firms. Understanding the factors that drive a wedge in the relationship between firm size, firm productivity and firm wages should be an active area for future research. Our findings suggest researchers should be cautious about using firm size as a proxy for productivity and wages in studying the dynamics of the economy.
More here.
Posted: 11 Sep 2015 12:15 AM PDT
More on the Fed. How much faith should we have in the Fed's forecasts of inflation? This is from Cecchetti & Schoenholtz:
The FOMC is coming: Having dropped to 5.1%, the unemployment rate has reached the longer-run employment goal of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (FOMC). So, starting to raise interest rates would seem to be in the cards. And, many observers expect policymakers to act soon, possibly very soon.
The key sticking point, and it is a big one, is that inflation – as measured by the personal consumption expenditure price index (PCE) favored by the FOMC – has been consistently below their stated 2% medium-term objective since early 2012.
Tightening monetary policy for the first time since 2006 requires confidence that inflation will in fact head back up... And, as it turns out, precise forecasts of inflation are hard to come by. ...
First, what's been happening to inflation? ... It has been over three years since inflation hit 2%, while the core measures recently have remained stubbornly around 1½%. And this has occurred amid remarkably low inflation across most of the world and deflation risks in several advanced economies. ...
The question facing the FOMC is how secure are they that inflation will rise back to 2% in the fairly near future? ...
Skipping the details:
Our bottom line is that the models we have simply aren't very good at forecasting inflation – at least not to the precision we would need to distinguish a change of trend inflation of one-half of one percentage point over the next two years. And, what was challenging a decade ago has gotten more difficult since then. (For a very careful and technical analysis, see here.)
But, central bankers need inflation forecasts to do their job. And for want of better models, they will use the ones that they have. They just need to be humble about the models' reliability. ...
FOMC members presumably expect that a continued tightening of labor markets eventually will start to exert inflationary pressure. So far, however, there is little indication of a pickup in the trends of wage or price inflation. Maybe this is a temporary consequence of the fall in energy prices, the appreciation of the dollar, and the slowdown in China. Or, maybe it is something else. We surely don't know, and we assume they don't either. This kind of uncertainty probably ... favors inertia. ...
Posted: 11 Sep 2015 12:06 AM PDT
Posted: 10 Sep 2015 09:34 AM PDT
This is probably not the path to reduced inequality:
Growing economic segregation among school districts and schools: ... Rising income inequality means those at the top have a growing resource advantage. Some high-income families use these resources to pay for housing in particular neighborhoods, resulting in increasing segregation by income between neighborhoods over the past four decades. Residential segregation creates inequalities between neighborhoods, and neighborhood contexts are critical for children's development. Children who grow up in disadvantaged neighborhoods have worse educational and occupational outcomes later in life. ...
In a recent study, Sean F. Reardon, Christopher Jencks, and I documented trends in economic segregation between schools and school districts. ... We found that segregation by family income between school districts within metropolitan areas rose from 1970 to 2010. Looking only at families with children enrolled in public school from 1990 to 2010, segregation by family income between school districts rose by nearly 20 percent. ...
Segregation of upper-middle-class and affluent families from all others increased the most. In 2010, families with incomes in the top 10 percent of the national income distribution lived in the most homogenous districts, with other affluent families like them. In contrast, we found that poor families have become slightly more integrated by income between school districts. However, given that high-income families have distanced themselves from others, poor families are likely integrating with working-poor or lower-middle-class families rather than the affluent.
We then examined segregation between schools within school districts. Available data limit our investigation to measuring segregation between students that qualify for free lunch and those that do not. We found that segregation based on free lunch eligibility between schools within districts was 10 percent higher in 2010 than 1991. Focusing only on the 100 largest districts in the U.S., segregation by free lunch status between schools increased by 30 percent. Therefore, students increasingly attend school with students whose family incomes are similar to their own. ....
Our findings have serious implications for future inequality. ...
Posted: 10 Sep 2015 09:11 AM PDT
Bruce Bartlett:
Jeb's tax plan makes George W. Bush's policies look good: ... There is no doubt that Bush's tax plan would blow a massive hole in the budget deficit. His own economic advisers estimate that it would raise the budget deficit by $3.4 trillion over 10 years. Even if their dubious estimate of higher growth is achieved, massive spending cuts will be needed just to keep the deficit from rising above current projections.
In this respect, Bush's tax plan is much more similar to his brother's than to Reagan's tax reform. According to the Congressional Budget Office, George W. Bush's tax cuts added $3 trillion to the national debt and did nothing to raise growth or forestall the massive recession that began in 2007. That recession was still ongoing when Barack Obama took office, yet Jeb spends much space in his proposal criticizing him for not immediately reversing all the negative budgetary effects of his brother's policies, which added a total of $12 trillion to the national debt, according to CBO.
It appears that Bush has relied upon advice from economists who have been wrong about just about everything to do with taxes for the last 20 or more years. One, Stephen Moore, who founded the Club for Growth and now works for the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation, published a book in 2004, "Bullish on Bush," that made the same extravagant promises for George W. Bush's tax cuts that Jeb Bush now claims for his.
The reality is that the U.S. economy did very, very poorly under George W. Bush – even before the recession began in December 2007. At the very minimum, there is zero evidence that his tax cuts did anything whatsoever to raise growth or lower unemployment. ..
We had a real world test of Jeb Bush's tax plan from 2001 to 2008 – and it failed miserably. The people advising him have an unblemished record of being wrong... The only effect of this discredited ideology has been to make the rich richer while doing nothing for the average American. ...
Jared Bernstein talked yesterday about a few bones the Bush tax plans throws in the direction of the less fortunate (i.e. people not among the wealthy constituents the Bush plan mainly serves). But with such massive cuts in revenues, Bush as president (imaging what is hopefully impossible), and a Republican congress (not impossible), program cuts would almost surely follow leaving the less fortunate, on net, far worse off.

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