Changes in family structure may explain anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of the increased inequality in recent decades. Readers may wonder why there is such a broad range of estimates. It depends on the time period examined, the income rungs examined, and assumptions about how much the absent parent might have brought into the household.
Mr. Western’s estimate that the rise in single parenthood explains 21 percent of the growth in inequality comes from a 2008 article in the American Sociological Review (with Christine Percheski and Deirdre Bloom). He examined the change from 1975 to 2005.
Gary Burtless looked at different years (1979 to 1996) for the European Economic Review but came up with the same figure: 21 percent. He also found that the increased tendency of educated people to marry each other accounted for another 13 percent of inequality’s growth.
The other estimate cited in the article comes from Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute. His unpublished analysis examines families with children at the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile. In 1975, the higher group had 2.16 times the income of the lower group. By 2008, it had risen to 3.09. Mr. Lerman estimated that 40 percent of that rise was the result of increasing single parenthood.
More can be found here. Economist Russ Roberts dives deeper into the data here.
University Of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan tries to answer the puzzle:
Some people have expressed dismay at the unprecedented amounts spent on 2012 political campaigns. But heightened political spending and other forms of political participation are an expected consequence of our more active government.
As explained by a pioneer in political economy research, Gordon Tullock, the real surprise about spending on campaigns and lobbying is how little it is compared with the amount of resources controlled by governments.
The federal government spends about $4 trillion every year, and state and local governments another $2 trillion, not to mention the resources these governments control through regulatory activities.
At the same time, estimates of aggregate campaign and lobbying spending are well below than 1 percent of total government spending. For example, analysis of filings under the Lobbying Disclosure Act finds that $3.5 billion was spent on lobbying in the year 2010.
Although economists have trouble explaining why observed lobbying spending is so little in total, economic analysis has been successful at explaining why there is more lobbying in California than, say, Vermont and why lobbying expenditure often peaks at the height of legislative activity. More is at stake.
For better or for worse, an active government begets lobbying activity.
Full post can be found here.
David Henderson gives an overview of a comprehensive study on Wal-Mart:
Using a difference-in-differences specification, our estimates suggest that a new Walmart store actually increases housing prices by between 2 and 3 percent for houses located within 0.5 miles of the store and by 1 to 2 percent for houses located between 0.5 and 1 mile.
Then there is this:
Phone surveys suggest that 84% of households in the U.S. shop at Walmart in a given year with 42% of households reporting to be regular Walmart shoppers (Pew Research Center, 2005). These surveys also show that lower-income households are more likely to shop at Walmart than upper-income households. In fact, Basker, (2005b), Hausman and Leibtag (2007), and Basker and Noel (2009) have shown that Walmart “Supercenters” that sell groceries offer many identical food items as other grocers at an average price that is substantially lower than their competitors. Hausman and Leibtag (2007) also find that these lower prices translate into a significant increase in consumer surplus.
More can be found here.
” Walmart often faces strong local opposition when trying to build a new store. Opponents often claim that Walmart lowers nearby housing prices. In this study we use over one million housing transactions located near 159 Walmarts that opened between 2000 and 2006 to test if the opening of a Walmart does indeed lower housing prices. Using a difference-in-differences specification, our estimates suggest that a new Walmart store actually increases housing prices by between 2 and 3 percent for houses located within 0.5 miles of the store and by 1 to 2 percent for houses located between 0.5 and 1 mile.” — Economists Devin G. Pope and Jaren C. Pope
The New York Times writes:
Venezuela is one of the world’s top oil producers at a time of soaring energy prices, yet shortages of staples like milk, meat and toilet paper are a chronic part of life here, often turning grocery shopping into a hit or miss proposition.
Some residents arrange their calendars around the once-a-week deliveries made to government-subsidized stores like this one, lining up before dawn to buy a single frozen chicken before the stock runs out. Or a couple of bags of flour. Or a bottle of cooking oil.
The shortages affect both the poor and the well-off, in surprising ways. A supermarket in the upscale La Castellana neighborhood recently had plenty of chicken and cheese — even quail eggs — but not a single roll of toilet paper. Only a few bags of coffee remained on a bottom shelf.
Asked where a shopper could get milk on a day when that, too, was out of stock, a manager said with sarcasm, “At Chávez’s house.”
At the heart of the debate is President Hugo Chávez’s socialist-inspired government, which imposes strict price controls that are intended to make a range of foods and other goods more affordable for the poor. They are often the very products that are the hardest to find.
Maybe this is why you don’t see lefties singing the Hugo Chavez praise anymore? Is it time yet for a little “I Told You So”?
His blog can be found here.
“Suppose you start a new charity to provide free haircuts for hippies. You only manage to raise the money to pay for three haircuts a year. The Prisoners’ Dilemma might explain why people aren’t more generous with their money in general. But the Prisoners’ Dilemma doesn’t explain why the other charities raise so much more money than yours. If you ask “Why don’t people give more money to my charity?,” the best answer is that people hold your charity in low esteem. Similarly, if total donations to the U.S. government add up to a few million dollars a year, the best explanation is that people see lots of better ways to spend not just their dollars, but their charitable dollars.” – Bryan Caplan, on what people giving so little of their charity money to government says about their views on government efficiency
” This sort of giveaway may be good politics, but it’s terrible policy. Extending the programme just one year would cost $6 billion. The measure is promoted as a way of making college more affordable, but it will mainly benefit those well out of school, many of whom are relatively well-to-do, mid-career professionals, such as your indebted correspondent. There is a movement afoot to get the government to forgive student-loan debt entirely, and when compared to this, the cost of the scheme to keep student-loan interest rates low looks quite small. Stilll, it’s bad policy for many of the same reasons it would be bad policy to forgive student loans. If we’re going to hand out this $6 billion next year, it would be better all ’round to hand it to the people who need it most. If we think it more important to spend this dough on education, then we should hand out the $6 billion in the form of scholarships to deserving prospective collegians of modest means, to help them earn their degrees without having to take out any loans at all.” – Will Wilkinson
“Second, the argument that elites are generally opposed to government involvement in the economy reveals the very US-centric focus of Krugman and Wells. Even a perfunctory look at recent or distant history (or at our book!) should have been enough to convince one that in most societies, even in the supposedly laissez-faire 19th century Britain, elites work very hard to make the government intervene in the economy — of course, in a very specific way, to support them. It should thus be no surprise that extractive institutions are rarely built on the foundations of laissez-faire economics — think of slavery, labor draft systems such as the mita, government monopolies, institutions such as the “colour bar” in South Africa designed to keep blacks disadvantaged and forced to supply cheap labor, and government corruption.” — Economists DARON ACEMOGLU AND JAMES ROBINSON, blogging at Why Nations Fail
Non-economists often debate the merits of free trade and/or NAFTA. But if you ask economists, they are nearly unanimously in agreement in favor of both:
None of the economists surveyed disagreed that the gains to freer trade are much larger than any costs. And only two economists even said that the answer is uncertain. In a space for additional comments, MIT’s Richard Schmalensee declared “If that’s not right, almost all of economics is wrong”.
Economists have emphasized the benefits of free trade for a long time, reflecting the field’s belief in the importance of specialization, comparative advantage, and gains from trade. Indeed, these results are similar to other surveys that show economists strongly supporting free trade.
So why do pundits and voters lag economists in supporting free trade? In his excellent book The Myth of the Rational Voter, Bryan Caplan provides evidence that people suffer from a handful of systematic biases that influence their beliefs, and three of these can help explain why voters are skeptical of trade: anti-market bias, anti-foreign bias, and pessimism bias.
Full post here. Survey here.
A study posted on Tim Taylors blog finds:
“To paint an accurate picture of how health care cost growth is affecting the finances of a typical American family, RAND Health researchers combined data from multiple sources to depict the effects of rising health care costs on a median income married couple with two children covered by employer-sponsored insurance. The analysis compared the family’s health care cost burden in 1999 with that incurred in 2009. The take-away message: Although family income grew throughout the decade, the financial benefits that the family might have realized were largely consumed by health care cost growth, leaving them with only $95 more per month than in 1999. Had health care costs tracked the rise in the Consumer Price Index, rather than outpacing it, an average American family would have had an additional $450 per month—more than $5,000 per year—to spend on other priorities.”
Full post can be found here.
Commenting on the mobility/inequality link, Jim Manzi writes:
But what about all the other potential reasons, beyond what their Gini Coefficient was in 1985, for varying levels of social mobility between countries as diverse as Japan, France, and New Zealand?
The most obvious example is just the size of the countries. It’s at least plausible that much bigger countries contain more variety. In fact, if you do something as simple as recreate the Great Gatsby Curve, but use the population of each country as the X-axis, you get a very strong a statistical relationship (log-linear R2 = .64). Big countries have higher IGE. Call it the Moby Dick Curve.
Alternatively, we might see that some countries tend to specialize more than others. As a practical example, part of the reason that a country like Finland can have so much equality and social mobility versus America might be that many more of the relatively poorer farmers who trade food for Finnish mobile phones live and reproduce in other countries. If so, then we might see that if we replace the X-axis with exports as a % of GDP, there could be another statistically significant relationship with IGE. Check (R2 = .48).
Full article here.
Tim Taylor cites a study showing:
Along with the flexibility to expand enrollments, for-profit higher education has shown considerable flexibility in teaching groups not well-served by traditional higher education. “African Americans account for 13 percent of all students in higher education, but they are 22 percent of those in the for-profit sector. Hispanics are 11.5 percent of all students but are 15 percent of those in the for-profit sector. Women are 65 percent of those in the for-profit sector. For-profit students are older: about 65 percent are 25 years and older, whereas just 31 percent of those at four-year public colleges are, and 40 percent of those at two-year colleges are.” In addition, for-profits are typically non-selective institutions, requiring only a high school diploma or a GED certificate.
Full article here. Of course, long time readers of my blog already know this.
Brookings Institute Scott Winshop on mobility:
However, evidence on earnings mobility in the sense of where parents and children rank suggests that our uniqueness lies in how ineffective we are at lifting up men who were poor as children. In other words, we have no more downward mobility from the middle than other nations, no less upward mobility from the middle, and no less downward mobility from the top. Nor do we have less upward mobility from the bottom among women. Only in terms of low upward mobility from the bottom among men does the U.S. stand out.
Full article here.
The New York Times writes:
Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
Full article here.
Part of Obamacare was a transitional “High Risk Pool” program to cover people who were unable to get insurance until the rest of the law’s provisions kicked in in 2014. The program allocated $5 billion. Medicare’s chief actuary assumed that it would attract 400,000 people; the CBO projected 200,000–but only because they assumed that HHS would use its authority to limit enrollment in order to keep the program below its budgetary cap.
The experience was not quite what had been expected. By January 2011, 8,000 people had enrolled, a number that rose to 12,000 by April. As of October 2011, by dramatically relaxing the requirements, lowering premiums, and paying brokers to enroll people, HHS had managed to get that number up to 41,000. Where were all the people with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t get insurance–the ones whose plight had been the impetus behind ObamaCare?
Full post can be found here.