Viewing entries tagged
Poverty and Inequality

Motivating Constructive Behavior: A Matter of Payoff, Markers of Progress, Doability, Consequences, and Less Attractive Alternatives

The program was funded by the city of Chester and had previously been managed by a local non-profit - rather poorly it would seem, given its dismal job placement and dropout rates. My employer - Associates for Research in Behavior - took over the city’s contract with the promise of improving outcomes by applying the principles of motivation to the business of training adult students. The main principles were: …

Housing the Chronically Homeless - Affordably! Part II: Breaking Down The Costs

Bottom line: this is doable. Rental income covers the developer’s costs and profit and the ongoing building management and rental subsidy cost per resident is just $1103 a month. A few years ago, the average cost of supportive housing in San Francisco was $17,353 a year per person. Given Bay Area inflation rates, let’s say it’s $24,000 now, or $2000 a month. The above scheme is a lot cheaper. Now if only local politics would align with my vision.

Housing the Chronically Homeless - Affordably! Part I: Some Concrete Suggestions

Straight off the street, no money, get a totally subsidized 8x10 SRO, with bathrooms down the hall. Those with at least $600 for monthly rent could get a studio. Couples with at least $600 for rent each would qualify for bigger studios or a small one-bedroom apartment. All in the same building, as an incentive for individuals to aspire for something better, something that is within reach, and with help available (e.g. completing benefit paperwork, arranging monthly rent transfers).

California's Gig-Worker Law Just Passed - to the Advantage of Some Workers and Detriment of Others

Occupations granted exemptionsd from the new law include physicians, accountants, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers, aestheticians, commercial fishermen, marketing professionals, travel agents, graphic designers, grant writers, fine artists, enrolled agents, payment processing agents, repossession agents, and human resources administrators.

Occupations that were not granted an exemption include: franchise owners, owner-operator truck drivers, nurse anesthetists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, radiation therapists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, respiratory therapists and audiologists, language translators, janitors, youth sports coaches, construction workers, manicurists, medical technicians, nightclub strippers, and software coders.

Behind The Headlines: How Much Do Uber Drivers Really Make?

Excuse me, but if you’re going to compare the earnings of independent contractors and employees, you have to consider the tax consequences of being an independent contractor. Why? Because they get very generous expense deductions by virtue of being self-employed. And if you’re referring to the wage of an employee, then you need to also indicate the pre-tax wage. After all, political arguments for a higher minimum or living wage always use the pre-tax wage as the aspirational reference point, e.g. $15 an hour (which would be roughly $12.51 an hour after taxes). ….So here are the right comparisons and the right figures…

The Net Price of a Public College Education in the US

… if you’re on a tight budget and seeking a two- or four-year degree, public colleges are the way to go (unless, of course, a private school is offering a fantastic scholarship package). My basic message is that college degrees from public institutions are usually very affordable. Scary news stories about the cost of getting a degree usually refer to the “sticker price” of colleges, but that’s a ridiculous metric: only the affluent pay anything close to the full sticker price. What’s important is the net price of college - that is, after grants and scholarships.

Neighborhood Matters: Increase Residential Mobility, Decrease Inequality

Back in the day, I ran an adult education and vocational training program in Chester, Pennsylvania. At the time, Chester had the highest unemployment and crime rates in the state of Pennsylvania. The program’s ultimate goal was to find decent jobs for our students. That would have been impossible if their job search were limited to Chester. The jobs were in Philly - around 30 minutes away by train. Unfortunately, many students were terrified at the prospect of going to Philadelphia; some had never been there their entire life. So field trips to Philadelphia became part of the curriculum.

Which Legacy Counts? The Case of Racial Differences in Homeownership, Part II

According to a 2006 HUD report covering the period of 1990 - 2003, close to half of low-income buyers did not sustain home ownership for more than five years. However, HUD found no evidence that first-time buyers were systematically using higher cost or riskier mortgage products during this period. Instead the report noted that “the share of low-income home buyers with severe payment burdens (over half of income) rose from 14.5% of buyers in the first part of the 1990s to 20.1% by 2003”.

Which Legacy Counts? The Case of Racial Differences in Homeownership, Part I

So many questions! For instance, why do government policies that ended over 50 years ago count more towards the “legacy” than more recent policies? Is homeownership a necessary condition for social mobility? When does homeownership undermine social mobility? How much does wealth facilitate social mobility? What other factors come into play?

Why Is There So Much More Homelessness in Oakland than San Diego?

This was a very bad year for Oakland, California: poor town was just revealed to have the highest per capita homeless rate in the state. What’s going on here? My initial thought was that it must be Oakland’s homeless policy… Then I noticed that San Diego doesn’t have near the homelessness problem as Oakland, despite having beautiful weather (making living outside still awful but a bit more tolerable than being on the streets in Chicago). So I decided to dig deeper.

Crossing the Southwest Border from 2000-2018: Are There Any Clear Patterns?

No doubt these Central American countries remain violent and unsafe - but the changing numbers of families leaving for the US appear unrelated to homicides rates. Guatemala in particular has seen declining homicides for a decade and has a much lower homicide rate than El Salvador and Honduras, yet the number of Guatemalan families apprehended at the border has skyrocketed over the past three years

Behind The Headlines: "Wealthy Opponents of New Shelter Claim Homeless Are Bad for Environment"


“This project will have a significant effect on the environment due to these unusual circumstances, including by attracting additional homeless persons, open drug and alcohol use, crime, daily emergency calls, public urination and defecation, and other nuisances,” the lawsuit states.

Opponents of the shelter have long said that their ultimate concern is public safety, a point that homeless rights advocates have argued was bigoted and dehumanizing.

Fact-Checking The Democratic Debates: Statements about the US Economy

Politicians run on platforms, which are statements of goals, problems, and proposed policies that aim to achieve the goals by fixing the problems. I often share the stated goals of both Republican and Democratic politicians. Yes to widespread prosperity! What’s more likely to give me pause is their take on what’s wrong with this country and what to do about it. Consider, for example, how Democratic candidates discussed economic issues in last week’s debates:

Household Income in the US: What's Changed Since 1979?

…Of course, the most affluent households did a lot better than the rest (228% cumulative income growth for the top 1%). But even the lowest income group made significant gains (69% cumulative income growth), mostly because their taxes went down and government transfers became increasingly generous during this period.