Weekend reading: Why stable schedules matter edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Long before the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, policymakers were discussing schedule quality and stability for service-sector workers. In fact, nine cities and states have passed fair workweek laws to improve schedule predictability in the service sector, inspired by a large body of work showing positive outcomes for both individual workers, company bottom-lines, and the broader economy. A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, dives into this topic, looking at the effects of a stable scheduling law passed in Seattle in 2017. Alix Gould-Werth, Raksha Kopparam, and I detail the research findings and contextualize them in the existing literature on schedule quality. The new study, we write, finds that the Seattle Secure Scheduling Ordinance reduced the prevalence among service-sector workers of schedule instability or unpredictability—defined as having less than 2 weeks’ notice of an upcoming work schedule, not being compensated for last-minute schedule changes, and working on-call or clopening shifts. It also finds notable improvements in worker well-being outside of work, including material hardship, stress levels, and sleep quality. The study is a fascinating addition to the existing research and suggests that policymakers should heed the evidence on the myriad benefits of ensuring workers have access to predictable, stable, and good-quality schedules.

This week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released August 2021 data on hiring, firing, and other labor market flows from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, better known as JOLTS. This report doesn’t get as much attention as the monthly Employment Situation Report, but it contains useful information about the state of the U.S. labor market. Kathryn Zickuhr and Carmen Sanchez Cumming put together five graphics highlighting key findings in the data, including that the quits rate rose to almost 3 percent as nearly 4.3 million workers left their jobs. This signals higher worker confidence about the state of the U.S. labor market.

Every month, Equitable Growth staff highlights the work of scholars on the forefront of social science research in a series called “Expert Focus.”This month, Aixa Alemán-Díaz, Christian Edlagan, and Maria Monroe feature the work of Latino leaders in economics and the social sciences. They touch upon the need for more, and more accurate, data about the Hispanic and Latino populations in the United States, as well as research at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and gender. They also discuss the important mentorship and training programs—such as the American Economic Association and the American Society for Hispanic Economists—that are working to attract and retain individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to the field of economics.

ICYMI: Equitable Growth has officially ratified a collective bargaining agreement with the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, IFPTE Local 70. It was ratified on August 14 and includes improvements in pay equity, paid time off, and retirement contributions, among other things.

Brad DeLong highlights some must-read content from Equitable Growth and around the web in his latest Worthy Reads column.

Links from around the web

Last Friday’s jobs report numbers were much lower than expected—194,000 jobs were added, when many analysts predicted more like 500,000 would be—but The New York TimesNeil Irwin explains why it may not be as bad as it looks. He dives into the data, writing that the numbers still show a steady expansion that is “more rapid than other recent recoveries” and that things are being held back by supply chain blockages and the delta variant of the coronavirus. This, combined with revisions for July and August numbers, suggest that the economy is entering fall in a stronger place than it seemed. Irwin analyzes various aspects of the employment report to detail why we shouldn’t get overly concerned about the lackluster numbers—yet.

A new poll reveals that almost 20 percent of U.S. households—and almost a third of those making less than $50,000 per year—lost their entire savings during the coronavirus pandemic. Bloomberg’s Simone Silvan shares the survey results, which also show that Black and Latino households were harder hit than other racial groups. Many of the respondents to the poll reported dipping into or using up their savings to cover child care expenses and health care costs. Silvan spoke with activists, who urged Congress to take quick and generous action to ensure this trend doesn’t continue and that U.S. families do not fall into poverty amid the ongoing pandemic and economic recovery.

As policymakers debate President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, and whether and how to include child care in the package, The 19th’s Chabeli Carrazana examines what child care looks like when it actually works for families. Carrazana looks into the nonprofit Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has been incredibly successful, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, in continuing to provide day care to a growing number of children. The centers have also expanded to provide 24-hour care to help low-income parents with nontraditional schedules and have a sliding-scale cost system in which parents pay varying care fees depending on their incomes. Carrazana suggests that Chambliss could be a model for how to implement local child care programs across the United States, with its unique system of contracting out the financial and business side of each center and subsidizing costs, so caregivers are free to focus entirely on providing the best care for children. But, she cautions, without additional aid from Congress, even these highly successful child care centers face years of financial hardship and staffing challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Friday figure

Proportion of service-sector workers at large employers indicating well-being before and after passage of SSO, 2017-2019

Figure is from “New study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows schedule stability supports U.S. workers and the broader economy,” by Alix Gould-Werth, Emilie Openchowski, and Raksha Kopparam.

Weekend reading: Another disappointing Jobs Day edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on employment and the U.S. labor force in September today, revealing only 194,000 jobs were added to the struggling job market recovery. Carmen Sanchez Cumming and Kathryn Zickuhr detail the implications of the still uneven employment recovery for women of color, focusing in particular on U.S. care workers. This sector provides health, education, and social services to workers, families, and communities—services that took it on the chin anew with the surge the delta variant of the coronavirus. Then there are the longstanding challenges for workers in the care sector of the U.S. economy, including low pay and lack of paid leave, that pre-date the pandemic. The co-authors explain that because women in general and women of color in particular are overrepresented in care occupations, care work is undervalued and thus is both a driver and a reflection of racial and gender economic inequality and now a drag on a broadly shared economic recovery.

Ahead of this week’s EconCon 2021 session on redefining economic measurement, Austin Clemens put together a list of resources for those interested in advancing new methods of tracking how the economy is working for all Americans. The list covers Equitable Growth’s work on GDP 2.0—our project on the value of disaggregating Gross Domestic Product data by income—as well as why policymakers should work to disaggregate data along race and ethnicity lines to better understand the role and impact of systemic racism in the United States.

Check out Brad DeLong’s latest Worthy Reads column for his takes on must-read content from Equitable Growth and around the web.

Links from around the web

As eviction moratoriums lapse in states across the United States, millions of families face losing their homes. This crisis is worse for Black families, writes USA Today’s Jessica Guynn in a feature appearing on yahoo!finance, thanks in part to historical systemic racism that has prevented many of these families from becoming homeowners and building wealth. As rents rise and available housing options become scarce, fears of eviction are rising, with Black households more likely to be behind on rent payments and facing higher unemployment rates, and thus more likely to be displaced. Guynn details the implications for exacerbating existing inequality and racial disparities in the United States as well as the difficulties many families have had in accessing federal rental assistance programs during the pandemic.

The U.S. employment situation and economic recovery is also disproportionately more difficult for Black workers, with rates of joblessness still much higher for Black workers than their peers. This is not a new phenomenon and hardly surprising to many economists, reports NBC News’ Bracey Harris, but it has gotten worse amid the pandemic. The persistence of these disparities has led to questions about whether racial bias and discrimination as well as occupational segregation are playing a role. Many Black workers are in occupations and industries in which working from home is not an option and in which minimum wages and unpredictability are common. Harris tells the story of two Black women in Mississippi who lost their jobs during the pandemic and how they have experienced the labor market recovery.

Friday figure

Percent change in employment by selected education and health services industries, February 2020-September 2021

Figure is from “Problems in the U.S. care sectors risk holding back the economic recovery amid another month of disappointing job gains,” by Carmen Sanchez Cumming and Kathryn Zickuhr.

Weekend reading: Evidence for a stronger economic future edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Earlier this week, Equitable Growth hosted its biennial policy conference, virtually gathering policymakers, academics, and advocacy partners for sessions discussing pressing economic challenges. The event, “Equitable Growth 2021: Evidence for a Stronger Economic Future,” included opening remarks from Equitable Growth’s new President and CEO Michelle Holder, in which she outlined her research background and how it fits with the organization’s mission. She also detailed Equitable Growth’s long history of facilitating evidence-backed policymaking by connecting academia and the policymaking community, before explaining why the current moment in Washington offers opportunities to make real structural change in the U.S. economy and society. Participants and attendees of the conference also heard from:

  • U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who discussed the importance of an equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who spoke to Equitable Growth’s Director of Labor Market Policy and interim chief economics Kate Bahn about building a just and competitive economy for all.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James, who detailed the importance of curbing Big Tech’s market power.
  • Michigan State University economist and Equitable Growth Steering Committee member Lisa Cook, who chatted with Equitable Growth’s Holder about the role of academic research in evidence-based policymaking.
  • University of California, San Diego assistant finance professor Carlos Fernando Avenancio-León, whose conversation with Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams touched on topics that he recently discussed with Equitable Growth’s Director of Government and External Relations David Mitchell in our In Conversation series. Adams and Avenancio-León dove into Avenancio-León’s research on how the Voting Rights Act of 1965 impacted the economic well-being of Black Americans and the link between political polarization and rising economic inequality, the structural racism embedded in local property taxation systems and property appraisals, and policy solutions to address these issues.

A new Equitable Growth issue brief presents a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed nationwide public preschool program included in the American Families Plan. Robert Lynch calculates the 10-year costs and benefits of such a program, and then extends the analysis to a 35-year period to fully grasp the long-term implications. He finds that a high-quality, publicly funded preschool education program will generate growing annual benefits that surpass the annual costs of the program within 8 years. These benefits, he writes, come in the form of government budget benefits, increased wages and earnings of workers (and thus higher tax revenues), and improved outcomes for children and their parents in terms of better health, lower crime rates, and fewer instances of child abuse and neglect. This investment will not only have long-term benefits but also an immediate stimulus effect on the U.S. economy, with estimated growth in Gross Domestic Product of $28.6 billion and more than 210,000 new jobs in just the first 2 years. Though this program would have significant upfront costs, Lynch explains, the benefits more than make up for the costs.

Equitable Growth is excited to welcome two new Dissertation Scholars for the 2021–22 academic year. Lauren Russell of Harvard University and Sheridan Fuller of Northwestern University. Russell and Fuller receive a stipend and professional support from Equitable Growth and our network throughout the year as they work on their research and learn about the policymaking process. Find out more about their current areas of study and goals for the year by reading our blog post announcing their participation.

Links from around the web

Employment in the child care industry is still down even as demand for child care rises. The Washington Post’s Heather Long explains that child care workers are leaving their jobs for better-paying, safer positions in different industries. This leaves many child care centers without sufficient staff numbers, meaning many children and families are being turned away from the only care options nearby. Long cautions that this trend is a “red flag” for the economy, as working parents, mostly women, are unable to return to work until the child care crisis is resolved. Long reports that more than one-third of child care providers are considering leaving their jobs or closing their businesses in the next year, with potentially disastrous consequences for the broader economy. This is part of the reason why President Joe Biden has asked Congress to increase public investments in the care economy.

There’s something wrong with the hiring system in the U.S. labor market, write Recode’s Rani Molla and Emily Stewart. Headlines tout job openings across industries with employers desperate to fill them, and yet unemployed workers are not getting hired. In fact, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveal 8.4 million unemployed workers and 10.9 million job openings. There are many potential explanations for this mismatch, the authors write. Many workers are only finding jobs that pay too little or offer unpredictable schedules, or just simply aren’t a match for their background. Others are still worried about the thread of COVID-19 or have other health and well-being concerns. Yet another factor is that the set of desirable skills employers are looking for is rapidly changing as technology and software reshapes industries and positions within them. But, Molla and Stewart explain, hiring software and algorithms are also playing a role: They weed out candidates based on arbitrary factors or keywords and ignore candidates’ potential to be a good fit such that “the endless quest to make hiring efficient has rendered in inefficient.”

Antitrust laws are primarily used to combat monopoly power in the United States, but perhaps it’s time to start using them to address monopsony power as well. In a New York Times guest essay, Eric Posner makes the case for raising wages for workers by using antitrust laws to boost wages and lower inequality. Posner details how monopsony relates to monopoly, especially with regard to the impacts on consumers and workers, before diving into research on monopsonistic labor markets and how to use antitrust law against these employers. He explains the connection between labor market concentration and anticompetitive behavior among firms, as well as the results for employment rates and earnings. And he credits academic research with the increase in antitrust violation cases brought against employers in the past year, with hopefully more to come as the Biden administration seeks to use antitrust to help workers.

Friday video

The video is from “Equitable Growth president and CEO addresses conference attendees in first public appearance,” by Michelle Holder.

Weekend reading: Bolstering U.S. social infrastructure and the care economy through public investments edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Despite the essential role that child care plays in the lives of U.S. workers and their families, the current child care market in the United States is not meeting families’ needs. This not only impacts families themselves, but also the overall economy, as high-quality care has far-ranging impacts on economic activity and growth. Sam Abbott explains why public investments are needed in early care and education to support immediate and long-term economic growth, as well as bolster human capital development in the next generation of workers. He then details how public investments in particular can offset deficiencies in the private child care market and support child care workers, who play a vital role in the U.S. economy. These investments, he concludes, are some of the best bets policymakers can make, with research showing that every dollar in spending on early care and education generates more than $8 in economic activity. Accompanying Abbott’s report is a factsheet laying out what the economic research has found about the impacts of child care and early childhood education on the U.S. economy.

Policymakers should also seize the opportunity in the current 2022 budget reconciliation negotiations to invest in U.S. social infrastructure, Abbott and Alix Gould-Werth write. Much like investments in early care and education, they explain, increasing spending on other social infrastructure and income support programs would give a much-needed boost to the overall economy in addition to supporting those workers and families most in need. The co-authors detail recent economic findings about the role of care infrastructure, paid family and medical leave, early care and education, and income supports in ensuring strong, stable and broadly shared economic growth. As the United States emerges from the greatest health, economic, and caregiving crises in decades, they conclude, Congress should boost public investments in these critical programs to correct years of neglect and underinvestment.

Though some policymakers are fearful of making these investments due to overblown fears of increasing the national debt, University of California, Berkeley’s Barry Eichengreen urges them to ignore the deficit fearmongering on Capitol Hill. Detailing arguments from his new co-authored book, In Defense of Public Debt, he shows how governments throughout the years have issued public debt to address emergencies and pressing social needs, and makes the case that our current conditions demand similar action. Not only is our current physical infrastructure crumbling due to decades of underinvestment and the heightened threat of climate change, but social infrastructure programs are also far behind where they should be. Eichengreen effectively rebuffs the critiques of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and encourages policymakers to pass it while they have the chance.

Equitable Growth is hosting its biennial policy conference on Monday and Tuesday. The virtual event, “Equitable Growth 2021: Evidence for a Stronger Economic Future,” will gather policymakers, academics, activists, and thought leaders to discuss pressing economic issues and policy solutions. (Click here to register.) The first day of sessions will feature a keynote address from U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and a conversation between Equitable Growth President and CEO Michelle Holder and Michigan State University’s Lisa Cook. Maryam Janani-Flores, Kate Bahn, and Carmen Sanchez Cumming detail the sessions on day 2, and highlight speakers who will participate in panel sessions on topics such as envisioning a new economic future, rebalancing Big Tech’s grip on the economy, boosting aggregate demand and managing debt burdens, and social infrastructure as an engine for economy growth. The September edition of Expert Focus—Equitable Growth’s monthly series highlighting scholars at the forefront of economic and social science research—also showcases featured speakers from this year’s policy conference.

New research examines the value of racial and gender diversity at the Federal Reserve. As the Federal Open Market Committee meets next week, the 12-member body should consider the findings of a working paper published this week by Francesco D’Acunto at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, Andreas Fuster at the Swiss Finance Institute, and Michael Weber at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The co-authors study the influence that the race and gender of FOMC members has on public perception and trust of their opinions on inflation and Unemployment Insurance. They find that Black men and women, as well as White women, are more likely to align their economic expectations with those of FOMC members from diverse backgrounds, while White men and Hispanic respondents trusted FOMC members regardless of race or gender. The research highlights the importance and salience of diversity and representation at the highest levels of policymaking and decision-making—as well as the current and historical lack of non-White male economists at the Fed and within the field more broadly.

Links from around the web

A new U.S. Treasury Department report says that the nation’s child care system is failing families, reports CNBC’s Ylan Mui, finding that market failures keep high-quality and affordable care out of reach for many families. Similar to the Equitable Growth report released this week, the Treasury report details the challenges many families face in finding affordable, accessible, and quality care options for their children and examines the often poor working conditions that many child care workers experience, from low pay to high stress. The Treasury report also recommends policymakers pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Mui runs through the details of the Treasury report, interviewing several policymakers and previewing the next steps in Congress.

Unions can play a major role in wealth building and bridging the wealth divide between families of color and their White counterparts, write Aurelia Glass and David Madland in an op-ed published in The Hill. They detail the findings of a recent analysis they and a co-author, Christian Weller, performed on Federal Reserve data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. While unions alone are not a silver bullet, they allow families to make significant gains in growing wealth and establishing more financial security. Their study finds that “the median union family has over double the wealth of the median nonunion family” and that “the wealth gap between white families and Black and Hispanic families was significantly smaller for union households compared to nonunion households.” This, they explain, has significant implications for President Biden’s plan to rebuild the middle class, which is currently shrinking and out of reach for many U.S. households.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the trajectories of millions of college students in the United States. Men make up the majority of drop-outs, according to some estimates—but, Kevin Carey writes in The New York Times’ The Upshot, women are still playing catch up in the U.S. economy. The college gender imbalance is not a new phenomenon, as women have outnumbered men on campuses for decades. Carey details the data on gender disparities in college and beyond, noting that despite higher female enrollment at universities, the gender pay gap is still pervasive across the U.S. labor force.

Inflation is on everyone’s mind. NPR’s Scott Horsley reports that high meat prices are contributing to inflation and that concentration in agriculture and meatpacking could be to blame. Horsley details the Biden administration’s efforts to target what they call “Big Meat,” in their campaign against anticompetitive behavior and market dominance. The administration’s goal, he writes, is to restore competition in the U.S. meatpacking and processing industry—in which more than 80 percent of beef is slaughtered and processed by just four companies—which would work in consumers’ favor by lowering prices.

Friday figure

The number of children in the United States eligible for federal and state child care subsidies and the number of children whose parents access those subsidies, 2017

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “The child care economy,” by Sam Abbott.

Weekend reading: Announcing Equitable Growth’s 2021 research grants edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Earlier this week, Equitable Growth announced a record $1,392,795 in research grants for scholars examining the various channels through which inequality impacts economic growth and stability. The 62 researchers, including faculty members, postdoctoral students, and Ph.D. candidates at U.S. colleges and universities, make up the largest-ever cohort of Equitable Growth annual academic and doctoral grantees. Equitable Growth grants fall into four overarching categories, and this year’s awards emphasize our commitment to funding cutting-edge research that addresses pressing policy concerns, including studying the roots and effects of systemic racism, mitigating the impact of climate change, and making child care more accessible in the United States. The findings from these projects will likely inform the policy debate in the months and years to come. Learn more about all the research we funded through the 2021 grant cycle.

This Labor Day, Equitable Growth’s Kate Bahn and Carmen Sanchez Cumming look at the impact of unions on interracial solidarity. Unions promote labor standards enforcement, increase wages for all workers (unionized or not), and reduce inequality. And a new paper finds that union also temper racial resentment and boost support for public policies that benefit Black workers, families, and communities more broadly. Bahn and Sanchez Cumming detail the research paper’s findings that White union member attitudes become more favorable toward policies such as affirmative action or programs designed to improve social and economic circumstances of Black communities, compared to White nonunion members. They also explain how unions influence political views and attitudes toward race, and the complicated history of unions and racism.

There are many inequities in access to adequate transportation in the United States, constraining the economy, harming the well-being of individuals, and perpetuating racial disparities. In order to properly measure and track the prevalence of transportation insecurity—a term coined by Alix Gould-Werth, Alexandra Murphy, and Jamie Griffin of the University of Michigan to describe the condition of being unable to regularly move from place to place in a safe or timely manner—the co-authors developed a Transportation Security Index. This index also can help measure the racial inequities in transportation insecurity, allowing policymakers and government agencies to target and deliver services more efficiently to ameliorate these inequities. In a column, Gould-Werth and Murphy explain how the index is calculated and why it is more accurate than most current tools used to measure transportation equity.

Congress is currently debating how to proceed with President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, two infrastructure packages designed to bolster U.S. physical and social infrastructure. David Mitchell dives into comparisons between President Biden’s plans and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda from the 1930s. Mitchell details the shortcomings of the New Deal—namely its carve-outs that denied benefits for domestic service workers, who were mostly women and people of color—and reviews how President Biden is attempting to right these wrongs, as well as center climate change mitigation, in his 2021 agenda.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on employment and the U.S. labor force in August today, revealing a telling slowdown in the job market recovery as COVID-19 infections rise. Carmen Sanchez Cumming, Kate Bahn, and Kathryn Zickuhr detail the implications, particularly for public school teachers. While public education employment has been strong in recent months, many school districts face a teacher shortage as educators are struggling against coronavirus outbreaks, shifting public health guidelines, and contentious debates over mask mandates for school children. These newer challenges, the co-authors explain, have arisen in addition to longstanding issues in the sector such as low pay, lack of administrative support, and high stress at work—all of which have widespread consequences and costs, which are higher for women and people of color.

Links from around the web

Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire at the beginning of next week. But, writes NPR’s Scott Horsley, this doesn’t mean the millions of U.S. workers who have accessed this vital income support will immediately return to work. The data from states that ended the extended Unemployment Insurance program early show that cutting off these benefits did not lead to a surge in employment. And with the delta variant of the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the recovery, allowing this program to expire will likely increase poverty rates and reduce spending across the economy. Horsley interviews two workers who will experience cuts about how they expect the change in policy to affect their well-being.

The staggeringly high levels of wealth inequality in the United States have disproportionately negative effects on children of color, and in particular on Black and Hispanic children, reports The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington. In fact, he continues, new research shows that Black families with children have access to barely 1 cent for every dollar their White counterparts have. These findings have implications for the recently expanded Child Tax Credit, which would go a long way to lifting many U.S. children out of poverty but which is temporary and will expire at the end of this year. Pilkington then details how racial wealth inequality perpetuates a cycle in which the divides in wealth and income between White households and households of color increasingly grow wider and are passed on to future generations.

U.S. workers are increasingly taking gig economy jobs, with 1 in 3 employees accepting positions that don’t come with employer-provided benefits such as health care or paid time off. Recode’s Rani Molla dives into the implications of this finding, particularly as relates to inequality. Gig work tends to exacerbate unequal outcomes because it shifts the risks from employers to employees and can lead to financial instability for workers, alongside higher levels of stress. Gig economy employees also tend to not have workplace protections such as minimum wages or overtime pay, or access to income support programs or paid parental leave. Even so, Molla writes, growth in gig employment has outpaced growth in wage employment and has risen particularly high since the coronavirus pandemic began, probably because workers compensate for or buffer income shocks as a result of being laid off or working fewer hours. Molla goes into further detail about why workers are turning to gig work now, as well as how these workers can be better protected.

Friday figure

U.S. unemployment rate by race, 2019–2021

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “August Jobs Report: Uncertainty and teacher shortages loom over the new school year” by Kate Bahn, Carmen Sanchez Cumming, and Kathryn Zickuhr.

Weekend reading: Income support programs reduce poverty and boost earnings for U.S. low-wage workers

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Policymakers expanded investments in critical social infrastructure after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring recession, expanding access and funding for programs such as Unemployment Insurance and the Child Tax Credit. These expansions have helped millions of U.S. families and workers but are only temporary, meaning policymakers are now debating whether to make these measures permanent. Michael A. Schultz urges policymakers to do so, detailing his recent working paper on poverty and low-wage workers’ mobility into higher wages. His research finds that 30 percent of low-wage workers who experience poverty in the previous year move to better wages within 2 years, compared to 45 percent of low-wage workers who did not experience poverty. A significant explainer of the difference comes down to household resources—which are bolstered by programs that provide income support, buffering the effects of falling into poverty. Schultz concludes by making several policy recommendations, including permanently expanding these social infrastructure programs, removing complexity and confusion around applying for them, and providing bank accounts to every American to ensure they are able to easily receive benefits.

Research published earlier this year looks into the effect of coronavirus disruptions in family caregiving and highlights the importance of investments in care infrastructure and paid leave. Yulya Truskinovsky details the findings of her co-authored working paper, which studied the mental health effects for family caregivers of added or changed caregiving responsibilities as a result of COVID-19. Truskinovsky and her co-authors show that those who experienced such disruptions were more likely to screen positive for depression, anxiety, and loneliness than either noncaregivers or those caregivers who did not face disruptions. This, she explains, underscores the essential nature of investments in care infrastructure and programs such as paid leave to support both caregivers and workers who take on caregiving responsibilities for loved ones. These programs are all the more vital considering that the U.S. workforce is aging, and as such, family caregivers will play an increasingly central role in the nation’s healthcare system.

Equitable Growth’s 2021 policy conference, “Equitable Growth 2021: Evidence for a Stronger Economic Future,” is coming up in a few weeks. This biennial event highlights our role as a connector of the academic and policymaking communities, bringing together experts and leaders across issue areas and disciplines to discuss policy solutions for the most pressing issues facing the United States. As speakers continue to be announced for this year’s virtual meeting, Christian Edlagan, Maria Monroe, and I look back at the incredible contributions and expertise of participants from our 2019 policy conference, in this month’s installment of Expert Focus. (And click here to register for this year’s event, on September 20 and 21.)

Links from around the web

Unemployment Insurance benefits helped a larger share of U.S. workers during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing recession than during the Great Recession of 2007–2009, reports Yahoo!Money’s Denitsa Tsekova. A study by the Federal Reserve Board finds that 52 percent of UI recipients whose 2020 earnings dropped by 10 percent or more received to buffer their income loss, compared to 19 percent of recipients in 2009. Considering that around the same percentage of workers lost more than 10 percent of their income in 2020 and in the Great Recession—around 33 percent—the financial outcomes for workers during this economic downturn were much better thanks to the coronavirus aid packages that expanded unemployment benefits and provided stimulus payments. Tsekova details the differences in UI benefits between the coronavirus recession and the Great Recession and explains how the pandemic response was more supportive for those workers in need.

The climate crisis is increasingly at risk of becoming an economic crisis, writes The New York TimesNeil Irwin. With rising global temperatures comes added economic and financial problems alongside humanitarian crises. The current Fed Chair Jerome Powell has taken a more moderate approach to dealing with climate change, much to activists’ dismay. But, Irwin explains, perhaps one of the most important things the Fed can do to fight climate change is to maintain a stable, strong economy. Irwin details the research behind public opinion, climate politics, and the economy, explaining that if the U.S. economy is steady then there may be more political appetite and opportunity for bold climate action.

Friday figure

Share of low-wage workers who experienced mobility to higher wages through each year, by years it took them to move to higher wages and household poverty status

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “Income support programs boost earnings for low-wage workers by reducing household poverty in the United States,” by Michael A. Schultz.

Weekend reading: The unchecked growth of U.S. workplace surveillance edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Workplace surveillance is not new, but the types of monitoring that employers utilize to track workers’ movements, behavior, and productivity has expanded, largely unchecked, due to declining worker power and lack of legal protections or regulations on these behaviors. The coronavirus pandemic also contributes to this growth in invasive and exploitative surveillance practices, as up to 50 percent of workers have shifted to remote work in 2020 and employers have implemented new, cheap, and easy forms of monitoring as a result. Kathryn Zickuhr explains how worker surveillance shifts the balance of power in favor of employers, driving inequality and harming employees via increased discriminatory practices, stress, and de-skilling or misclassification of work. Workplace surveillance also hampers worker organizing, she continues, further weakening worker power. Zickuhr details the various forms of workplace surveillance that are commonplace across the U.S. labor force, examines how COVID-19 exacerbates these issues (and likely will continue to do so even after the pandemic has abated), and concludes with policy recommendations for addressing the future of workplace surveillance.

Last week, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) in the Senate introduced the CBO FAIR Scoring Act. This proposed law would direct the Congressional Budget Office to prepare distribution analyses for all legislation, estimating the impact of laws by race and income groups. Corey Husak details why the CBO Fair Scoring Act would dramatically improve the way policymakers evaluate how their proposals could impact various groups of beneficiaries. Husak then walks through the specific instances in which distribution analysis would be helpful for legislators and explains the academic history of distribution analysis.

In a recent installment of Equitable Growth in Conversation, Director of Markets and Competition Policy Michael Kades speaks with Michelle Meagher, a senior policy fellow at the University College London Centre for Law, Economics and Society and co-founder of the Balanced Economy Project, which is building a global anti-monopoly movement. They discuss what’s missing from antitrust policy, the problem with worshipping competition, the broader impact of failing competition on the environment, and more. Meagher also discusses her most recent book, Competition Is Killing Us, which covers corporate power and accountability and the myths embedded in free market capitalism and shareholder primacy. Her book is also the subject of a recent Equitable Growth post by Raksha Kopparam, who discusses Meagher’s suggested six myths surrounding free markets and competition, and their impact on humanity and the planet.

The American Sociological Association held its annual conference from August 6 to 10, virtually gathering scholars to discuss research and findings around the theme of “Emancipatory Sociology: Rising to the Du Boisian Challenge.” Aixa Alemán-Díaz details Equitable Growth’s expanded participation this year, including a session on grant-writing she organized in collaboration with Academic Programs Director Korin Davis. Alemán-Díaz also highlights some of the ASA sessions that featured our academic network members and grantees.

Links from around the web

In a recent opinion piece for The New York Times, Josh Bivens and Stuart A. Thompson provide 179 reasons that fears and panic about inflation are probably overblown. They use graphics to detail recent price increases in commodities, from gasoline and cars to airfare and hotels. They also look at commodities in which prices are falling or stable, including computer software, medical equipment, and cosmetics. In analyzing these trends, they explain the possible outcomes of the recent uptick in daily costs and compare the current state of the U.S. economy with that of the 1970s, when there were widespread fears of inflation and stagflation. They conclude that, for now, inflation should not be of major concern and recommend the Federal Reserve keep an eye on it but not yet act rashly to counter the trends.

If anyone was looking for proof that poverty is a policy choice, the unprecedented government investment in social infrastructure over the past 18 months is a good indication. Vox’s Dylan Matthews examines the drop in poverty since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He shows how increased spending on programs from Unemployment Insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, along with the eviction moratorium and stimulus checks, all worked to reduce the number of Americans living below the poverty line. Matthews provides an explanation of how we currently measure poverty—a complex and not-uncontroversial topic—and details recent research on the impact of coronavirus relief programs, as well as the counterfactual of what poverty in the United States would be if the aid packages had not been passed. He then explains the implications of these findings—namely, that policymakers have the tools to reduce poverty and usually simply choose not to use them.

Many employers have taken advantage of the circumstances surrounding the pandemic and ensuing recession to adopt new technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence. This trend, paired with rebounding government investment in infrastructure, could pave the way for a big productivity boom in the U.S. economy, writes The Washington Post’s Heather Long. According to data released by the U.S. Labor Department, worker productivity already rose 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021, and while it slowed to 2.3 percent in the second quarter, that’s still double the 1.2 percent average during the decade after the Great Recession of 2007–2009, Long explains. This leads some economists to hope for a coming productivity boom that could rival that of the late 1990s, when worker productivity averaged 3.1 percent thanks to a rise in computing capabilities. While it’s too soon to know for sure, Long concludes, many are optimistic, even for just a small boost in productivity.

Friday figure

Median household wealth by race/ethnicity of respondent, 1989–2019

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “Congress needs distribution analyses to make informed, equitable policy choices, and the CBO FAIR Scoring Act would deliver it” by Corey Husak.

Weekend reading: Income support programs in the United States edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession led to an unprecedented level of government investment in income support programs in the United States, from emergency Unemployment Insurance to an expanded Child Tax Credit, among others. These programs provide necessary support for U.S. households and workers but have long been underfunded, leading many of those who need this aid unable or prevented from accessing it. Liz Hipple (now at the Joint Economic Committee) and Alix Gould-Werth explain the three main barriers to these programs: eligibility rules that are too strict, benefits that are too hard to access even for those eligible, and benefit levels that are too low. These weaknesses, they write, reduce labor force participation, weaken the macroeconomy during recessions, and result in underinvestment in the next generation of workers—not to mention that most American adults will face a personal need for income support at some point in their lives. Comparing overly complex income support programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families with Social Security and Medicare, Hipple and Gould-Werth show that income supports can be easily accessible to broad swathes of the population, and that the programs that are harder to access are intentionally so because of structural racism and discrimination in U.S. institutions and systems.

Tuesday, August 3 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which recognizes that Black women in the United States have to work from the start of January 2020 through August 2, 2021 to earn as much as White men earned in 2020 alone. Equitable Growth pulled together a list of recent research on pay disparities that Black women face in the U.S. economy and the implications of this persistent income inequality. The scholars behind the research listed include our incoming President and CEO Michelle Holder, among others. For more about Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and how to address the economic inequalities that it marks, Kate Bahn and Carmen Sanchez Cumming’s piece from 2020 provides some answers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today released new data on the U.S. labor market during the month of July. Bahn and Sanchez Cumming put together five graphics highlighting important trends in the data. They then analyze the data in more detail, particularly the trends in employment in the construction sector.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is now more than halfway through its summer institute, an annual 3-week conference featuring discussions and paper presentations on specific subfields of economics, including measuring poverty, the costs of climate change, and systemic discrimination among large employers. Equitable Growth compiled a list of paper abstracts that caught our attention throughout the third and final week, including research from our grantee network and members of our Steering Committee and Research Advisory Board. For highlights from the first week of the NBER Summer Institute 2021, click here. For coverage of the second week, click here.

Links from around the web

Today’s employment numbers are encouraging, writes Neil Irwin in The New York Times’ The Upshot blog. This job market growth hasn’t been seen in the past three recessions and appears to reflect a rapidly healing economy. Irwin runs through the numbers and explains why, in almost all categories, this month’s report indicates a positive trend. Irwin then details the implications of the gains—namely, that despite the complaints from business owners about labor shortages, Americans are getting back to work.

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that working mothers spent the equivalent of a full-time job on child care in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic—while also working at the same time. In fact, the data show that moms of young children spent an average of 8 hours per day on child care and 6 hours working, writes The 19th’s Chabeli Carrazana, and fathers spent around 5 hours on child care while working 8-hour days. This isn’t altogether surprising, Carrazana continues, considering that women often take on the majority of household responsibilities and that hundreds of thousands of women left the labor force last year to care for their children in the wake of school and day care closures. The lack of options for child care combined with the pandemic’s outsize impact on female-dominated industries such as hospitality and care are what led to the first so-called “shecession” in the United States, Carrazana explains, and even with recent gains in the labor market, there’s still a long road to full recovery for women workers.

Millions of Americans—almost 20 percent of adults, more than 60 percent of whom are women—provide unpaid and informal care to their loved ones with physical or mental health needs in the United States. Many of these family caregivers have been left behind amid the pandemic, without access to much-needed supports. Vox’s Katherine Harmon Courage describes the findings of a recent survey showing widespread and alarming rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. She tells the story of caregivers who have had to manage the challenges of not only caring for their family members but also nursing home outbreaks and other care disruptions—and the toll it has taken on their mental health. Courage provides several options for policymakers to raise awareness about the difficulties family caregivers are facing and provide support for these vital players in the U.S. economy. The United States truly can’t afford to neglect caregivers, she writes, because there is “neither the budget nor the professional labor force to replace them.”

Friday figure

Rate of recipiency of Unemployment Insurance benefits by state, May 2020

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “Weak income support infrastructure harms U.S. workers and their families and constrains economic growth,” by Liz Hipple and Alix Gould-Werth.

Weekend reading: Antitrust enforcement and the FTC’s authority edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

In April, the Supreme Court in AMG Capital Management LLC v. Federal Trade Commission unanimously struck down the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to require companies to give up profits they earn by violating U.S. antitrust laws and to require companies to compensate the victims of those violations. These two remedies—disgorgement and restitution, respectively—are the focus of two new Competitive Edge posts.

  • In one, Michael Kades takes a glass-half-empty view of the Court’s decision, arguing that it deprives the FTC of a critical deterrent of anticompetitive conduct. Kades explains how disgorgement has been used, albeit sparingly, in cases brought against pharmaceutical companies and successfully prevented certain anticompetitive conduct across the industry. It also tends to speed up the litigation process, which saves costs and resources for the Federal Trade Commission. As such, Kades writes, the Supreme Court’s ruling benefits big companies that cause the most harm and will have a troubling impact on antitrust enforcement, unless Congress takes action to reestablish the FTC authority.
  • Conversely, Andrew I. Gavil takes a glass-half-full approach, arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling may end up opening the door to broader applications of the U.S. antitrust laws. Gavil highlights the textualist nature of the Court’s decision and how it could be applied to the antitrust laws, particularly the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. He gives a brief background on the Clayton Act and its relationship to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, before turning to an analysis of the law and its reach through a textualist lens.

Each month, Equitable Growth highlights scholars working to understand how inequality affects economic growth in a series called Expert Focus. This month, Adrian Narayan and David Mitchell look at a group of academic researchers who joined the Biden administration to advance evidence-backed policy ideas to combat inequality and ensure strong, stable growth for all Americans. Narayan and Mitchell emphasize not only that Equitable Growth staff joined various agencies in the executive branch, but also how many academic network members, contributors, and speakers from previous Equitable Growth events decided to being their diverse experience and expertise to the administration.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is now more than halfway through its summer institute, an annual 3-week conference featuring discussions and paper presentations on specific subfields of economics, including wealth taxation and tax evasion, market structure and competition, and labor market inequalities. Equitable Growth compiled a list of paper abstracts that caught our attention throughout the second week, including research from our grantee network and members of our Steering Committee and Research Advisory Board. For highlights from the first week of the NBER Summer Institute 2021, click here. For coverage of the third and final week, be sure to check back on Monday, August 2.

Check out Brad DeLong’s most recent installment of Worthy Reads, where he provides summaries and analysis of must-read content from Equitable Growth and elsewhere.

Links from around the web

New analysis reveals that states that cut expanded federal Unemployment Insurance benefits early are not actually experiencing a hiring boom. States that did not cut UI payments had the same pace of hiring as those that did cut them early, write The Washington Post’s Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam. Interestingly, though, states that did cut benefits are seeing changes in who is getting hired, with fewer teenagers securing employment and higher rates of hiring for those workers ages 25 and older. The analysis focuses on small restaurants and hospitality businesses, which, Long and Van Dam note, will probably face extended hiring challenges. This is largely because of the ongoing health threat posed by the coronavirus, continuing caregiving needs, and the prevalence of workers leaving their pre-pandemic industries in search of new opportunities. These three trends are likely more to blame for the hiring slump in hospitality than extended UI benefits, according to several experts that Long and Van Dam interview.

Coronavirus relief programs will cut the U.S. poverty rate almost in half this year, compared to pre-pandemic levels, with the number of poor Americans set to fall by nearly 20 million. The country has never cut poverty so rapidly before, writes The New York TimesJason DeParle. This is all the more impressive considering the economy has more than 6 million fewer jobs now than it did before the pandemic and ensuing recession. But, DeParle continues, with many programs either already ended or set to expire soon, many of the families who have benefitted may find themselves back in poverty, or near the poverty line. DeParle tells the story of a few such families and their struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Joe Biden’s recent executive order designed to increase competition and reduce market concentration, along with several pieces of bipartisan antitrust legislation in Congress, suggest that U.S. antitrust regulators are focused on addressing the problem of “bigness.” But, Molly Wood asks in The Atlantic, why is Microsoft Corp. often left of the list of Big Tech companies—Amazon.com Inc., Apple inc., Facebook Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit—that typically get the most scrutiny for their anticompetitive behavior? Microsoft, as big as the others, has largely escaped run-ins with the antitrust laws since its high-profile lawsuit in the 1990s. And technically, Wood points out, it’s not illegal under these laws to be big, or even to be a monopoly, unless the company uses its position to drown out competition or charge unfairly high prices. Wood examines the circumstances surrounding the lack of antitrust cases brought against Microsoft. She ultimately makes the case that it should be the test of the Biden administration and antitrust regulators’ will to increase competition, break up tech companies, and scrutinize acquisitions: “If bigness alone is the problem, Microsoft is the truest test of all.”

Friday figure

Price increase on lorazepam after Mylan cornered the market for the active pharmaceutical ingredient

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “Competitive Edge: Congress needs to restore the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to seek monetary remedies when companies break the law,” by Michael Kades.

Weekend reading: The impact of climate change and heat waves on U.S. workers edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

On July 12, the National Bureau of Economic Research kicked off its summer institute, an annual 3-week conference featuring discussions and paper presentations on specific subfields of economics, including inequality and the macroeconomy, intergenerational mobility, automation and the future of work, and occupational segregation. Equitable Growth compiled a list of paper abstracts that caught our attention throughout the first week, including research from our grantee network and members of our Steering Committee and Research Advisory Board. For highlights from week two, be sure to check back on Monday, July 26.

In the latest installment of Worthy Reads, Brad DeLong provides his takes on must-read content from Equitable Growth and elsewhere.

Links from around the web

Last month’s intense record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest led many workers in Oregon to fear for their lives, reports HuffPost’s Dave Jamieson. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration received more than 100 heat-related complaints in the final week of June alone, reporting unsafe conditions in various industries and workplaces. Jamieson explains the challenges that many workers will face as heat waves become more common, particularly in typically cooler climates that are ill-equipped to handle such high temperatures. He then goes into detail about the complaints, which frequently centered on a lack of air conditioning, water, or sufficient breaks for workers.

In a guest essay for The New York Times, Susan Joy Hassol, Kristie Ebi, and Yaryna Serkez detail the impact of extreme heat around the world. They focus on the increase in deaths and other health incidents as a result of heat waves, both in the United States and abroad. They put together a series of maps that show how annual heat-related deaths could increase by almost 100,000 in the United States by the end of the century if no action is taken to reduce emissions and combat human-caused climate change. They then urge policymakers to not only act to reduce emissions but also implement heat action plans, worker protections, and infrastructure updates to bolster the power grid in the face of rising heat-related disruptions.

Millions of U.S. adults who are looking for jobs do not have a bachelor’s degree, while many employers complaining about labor shortages also unnecessarily require a college education for their open positions. This bias is preventing companies from gathering a talented and diverse workforce and is reinforcing economic inequalities, writes Byron Auguste in The Washington Post. While higher-education degrees are certainly necessary in some fields such as medicine, law, and engineering, he continues, they make little sense as a requirement for others, such as sales or marketing, where skills can be learned on the job or through alternative pathways. This college-degree discrimination affects Black, Latino, and rural workers the most, reinforcing racial and socioeconomic disparities and causing serious harm to the U.S. economy and workforce.

Friday figure

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “Americans want green spending in federal coronavirus recession relief packages,” by Parrish Bergquist, Matto Mildenberger, and Leah Stokes.