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Posts by Samantha O'Connor

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what people are talking about this week:

  • In response to Horace Dediu’s recently published chart of adoption ramps for technology, Matthew Yglesias of Slate makes the point that a robust economy makes for an innovation friendly environment.  [Slate]
  • Discussions about adult children moving back in with their parents abound, but this week, the New York Times reported on a study by Jed Kolko of Trulia that looks at the rate in which parents move in with their adult children.  Not only do foreign born parents, particularly from India and Vietnam, move in with grown kids at a high rate, but, in recent years, the U. S. has seen a surge in this trend among all groups.  As the baby boom generation continues to age, and the economy continues at its lackluster pace, should I be looking for an in-law suite when I buy my next house? [Economix]
  • On Tuesday, Massachusetts state legislators passed a bill establishing the highest state minimum wage in the country: $11 an hour.  Even if the bill doesn’t pass the House, it looks like it will make it onto the ballot in the next election.  As supporters of a higher minimum wage push for raises from Alaska to Washington, D. C., Massachusetts is only one example of a nationwide trend. [Think Progress]
  • If a picture is worth a thousand words, the New Yorker has 6000 words for you on income inequality.  From charts illustrating pre-tax income growth for both the top and bottom earners, to a comparison between the United States and other developed nations’ efforts to close the gap, these charts paint a picture of income distribution in the United States.   [New Yorker]
  • Ben Bernanke speaks to charges that the Fed’s QE efforts have done little to help “Main Street” with some observations about how the bond buying program has helped to create jobs, gotten household finances on track, and contributed to the recovery of the American auto industry.  [Real Time Economics]

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what people are talking about this week:

  • The Institute of International Finance’s Capital Markets Monitor for this month raises red flags about corporate debt levels, according to the Wall Street Journal.  They quote the IIF, saying, “Against the backdrop of recession, sluggish recovery and low inflation, many highly indebted corporate borrowers may already be struggling to service their debt.”  This could mean market pressures reducing corporate performancSkyline_of_Little_Rock,_Arkansas_-_20050319e in developed countries, and severe turbulence for companies based in emerging markets.  [Wall Street Journal]
  • Could Little Rock be the next Detroit?  Researchers at Boston College put together a report examining the proportion of city revenues that go towards pension costs in 173 cities, and found the Arkansas capital to be well above average, with 17.6% of revenues going to pensions.  What will this mean for the city’s finances?
  • As young people in today’s economy are constantly being told, a college degree is crucial to future financial stability, with those holding a B.A. experiencing lower rates of unemployment overall, while on the other had, costs for obtaining that degree are meanwhile spiraling out of control.  But the cut rate degree programs being rolled out in Florida and Texas aren’t the magical answer to this dilemma.  In fact, as Rebecca Schuman for Slate reports, they seem to be a poor choice both educationally and economically.  [Economist]
  • There’s been a lot of talk in economic circles (and political campaigns) about the gender wage gap.  But the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week came out with a report that puts an interesting spin on the data: .  Of course, this study doesn’t address the different reasons women and men go into part time positions, or the career paths they follow thereafter, but it adds an interesting spin to the discussion. [New York Times]

Marketplace of Ideas

These are the economic topics being discussed around the web this week:

  • If you’re curious about past and present housing and construction booms, check out this map from Business Insider that shows when the majority of homes in every county in the U. S. were built.  [Business Insider]
  • Is Apple engaging in “Planned Obsolescence” as it rolls out its new IPhone model?  If so, is this sound business practice, or cheating the consumer? [New York Times]
  • After the majority of mainstream economists failed to predict the financial crisis, a backlash of sorts ensued.  Now some institutes of higher education are joining the revolt and suggesting that the way we teach economics should be re-evaluated.  [Guardian]
  • As the faulty roll-out of the ACA continues to dominate discussion, Kathleen Sebelius made waves today when she claimed responsibility and apologized for the host of problems on the website.  [Forbes]
  • Following up on last week’s headline grabbing study about economics and greed, Business Week’s Francesca Di Meglio conducted an interview with Adam Grant, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, about how economists and economics students could become more altruistic, and what that would mean for the field.  [Business Week]

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s happening in the online discussion this week:

  • The jobs report was anything but exciting this month, and the Washington Post speculates that this soft recovery shows no signs of abating. [Wonkblog]
  • The College Board reported a slowdown in the rise of college tuition and fees this month.  The Wall Street Journal wrote on this this, along with five other factoids about higher education costs worth noting.  What do these trends suggest about the future of higher education and the costs of attainment? [Real Time Economics]
  • To go along with the report on tuition costs, it’s worth noting NPR’s update to last month’s report on the most and least lucrative majors.  To give a better idea of correlation between majors and future earning, they’ve included data for students who earn graduate degrees in the relevant fields, and found some (not surprising) bumps, particularly in fields like medicine and psychology, where graduate degrees are required for entry in the profession.  [NPR]
  • Ray Dalio knows a thing or two about successful investing, and he’s passing some of his strategies and secrets on to the public in a 30 minute animated video.  This release isn’t just meant to help individuals learn tips for successful investing: Mr. Dalio believes that a more educated investing public can help stave off crises like the 2008 financial meltdown.  [New York Times]
  • One of the biggest stories of the month so far has involved football and the concussion-related risks to players the game entails.   Jeff Bercovici of Forbes makes a case for applying economic thinking to the rules of the game, writing, “Any economist will tell you it’s folly to try to alter a behavior without addressing the incentives that shape that behavior.”  Would the application of economic logic to the rules result in a safer playing environment?  [Forbes]
  • If ESPN is focused on football, economists are all too busy talking about Adam Grant’s blog post for Psychology Today, based on research from Robert Frank at Cornell, that suggests economists and economics majors are the least altruistic, most selfish members of academia.  The discussion is heated.  What do you think of the theory, and Grant’s suggestions for changes to the way Economics is taught?  [Psychology Today]

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s happening online this week:

  • Now that Janet Yellen, the overwhelming favorite of economists, has been nominated as head of the Fed, will more women seek economics as a career, or even a major?  According to Claudia Golden at Bloomberg, “for every female undergraduate in the major, there are three males in the major…Many young women don’t seem to understand that economics is also for those who have broad intellectual interests and for those with research and policy interests in health, education, poverty, inequality, crime, obesity, the environment, terrorism or infectious disease.”  Perhaps a woman in such a high profile role may make economics seem like a more valid option for smart women in college.  [Bloomberg]
  • Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller have been announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on the measurement and valuation of financial assets, though their work has sometimes been contradictory.  [Economist]
  • According to Moody’s, U.S. growth is being hampered by political indecision, and the current shutdown and fight over the debt ceiling means far reaching consequences as businesses hold back on investing in research and development, remain conservative with their hiring practices, and foreign investments start to dwindle .  [Wall Street Journal]
  • In response to all of these negatives, it’s the future generations who should be standing up and shouting the loudest, according to New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman.  “Whether they realize it or not, they’re the ones who will really get hit by all the cans we’re kicking down the road. After we baby boomers get done retiring — at a rate of 7,000 to 11,000 a day — if current taxes and entitlement promises are not reformed, the cupboard will be largely bare for today’s Facebook generation.” [New York Times]
  • As the shutdown drags on, Fitch has announced that the United States’ ‘AAA’ Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings have been placed on Rating Watch Negative. [Fitch]

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what happening this week in the online discussion of the economy:

  • The OECD Skills Outlook 2013 is out and has some interesting implications for the employment situation in the U.S., especially in their data regarding basic education like literacy and math skills.   As Matthew Yglesias points out, “Having basic math skills might be the difference between being able to cook at a restaurant or cut hair at a salon and being able to parlay that experience into a managerial or entrepreneurial role. Literacy is absolutely key to moving up the value chain in a wide range of workplace situations where you might need to be able to communicate effectively with customers or people above or below you in the hierarchy.”  The U.S. ranks below the OECD average scores in both of these areas.  The report comes with some interactive charts that help to visualize these and many other aspects of the skills gap.  [Slate]
  • The IMF estimates that the world economy will grow by 3.6% in 2014, a weaker prospect than was estimated back in July.  For an interactive map breaking down the estimates by country, check out the Economist blog.  [Economist]
  • The government shutdown is affecting more than government workers or vacationers trying to visit national parks.  It has serious economic implications, as evidenced by Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, which showed that American’s confidence in the economy fell at the fastest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.  What could this mean for consumer spending and the economy at large?  [Real Time Economics/WSJ]
  • Now that Janet Yellen’s nomination for the Fed chair is set to become official, economists weigh in on the candidate, and the challenges she will face as chair.   [Real Time Economics/WSJ]
  • This week the new $100 bill was released.  While updates like gilded numbering should deter counterfeiters, the real excitement about the new currency is coming from collectors.  Graeme Wood takes a look into the mind of currency collectors, and explains some of what makes a bill worth so much more than it’s face value.  [Boston Globe]

Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s happening in the online world of economics this week:

  • The government shutdown is the top news story this week, but the real worry may be the debt ceiling.  Forbes, in an article about the implications of the shutdown, writes that “The real issue would be a failure to raise the debt limit by October 17, when stop-gap measures are expected to be exhausted and the debt limit becomes binding.”  [Forbes]
  • That’s not to say that the shut down will have no economic implications itself.  Investors in particular should be aware of the effects on stock prices that previous shutdowns have had.  Bloomberg analyses these effects, noting that the S&P “has risen 11 percent on average in the 12 months following a government shutdown, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on instances since 1976.” [Bloomberg]
  • A study out of Oxford University looking at job automation and the future labor market was released last week.  Miles Brundage, analyzing the report for Slate, agrees with the conclusion that workers in transportation, logistics, and office administration may very well lose out to AI in the near future, but adds his own reservations that social intelligence and other universally human traits can’t be automated, writing, “As AI researcher Ernest Davis points out, there has been “only very limited progress” in equipping robots with commonsense reasoning skills.”  So, while AI will certainly change the face of the labor market as it exists today, technology is not likely to displace the human workforce any time soon.  [Slate]
  • In other labor related discussions, the New York Times ran an article this week on the increase in sewing jobs available in American textile factories and the difficulty in filling those positions.  Stephanie Clifford writes, “The American textile and apparel industries, like manufacturing as a whole, are experiencing a nascent turnaround as apparel and textile companies demand higher quality, more reliable scheduling and fewer safety problems than they encounter overseas.”  Unfortunately, workers no longer have the training to take over the types of specialized, non-automated jobs involved in industries like textiles, leaving the factories with too few qualified applicants. [New York Times]6887720697_7c07811da9_b
  • Do you think the Millennial Generation is too obsessed with frivolity?  Disconnected with the way the world really works?  NPR questions that belief with this article about the driving narrative force behind the biggest Young Adult novels of the last few years: the Economy.  Analyzing novels like Divergent and The Hunger Games, Marcela Valdes makes a compelling case for the current economic uncertainty fueling the dystopian stories that are topping the best seller lists.  [NPR]

The Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s going on in the online world of economics.

  • Is the American Dream of social mobility still alive and well?  The Economist probes this question this week, reviewing Tyler Cowen’s new book Average is Over. [Economist]
  • Retirement today has taken a beating.  Bloomberg profiles Tom Polome, a 77 year old former vice president of marketing who made a good salary and considered himself upper middle class.  He’s spending his retirement flipping burgers.  Palome’s story isn’t unusual, as workers near retirement saw their nest eggs gutted by the financial crisis.  [Bloomberg]
  • On Tuesday, we got our first detailed look at the premiums consumers can expect for health insurance in 36 states after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Prices covered wide ranges and varied greatly from state to state, and a lot of information was left out of the report.  We’ll have to wait for the exchanges to open to get the full picture.  [New York Times]
  • Richmond, California has been working on a plan to use eminent domain to reduce underwater mortgages by seizing the actual mortgages rather than the property.  In turn, the banks are arguing that such actions are unconstitutional.  The Richmond government is fighting back, claiming this program will serve the public good, by preventing blight.  Read the Washington Post’s overview of the situation, and figure out what side you stand on.  [Washington Post]
  • Last week, the Fed defied expectations, and did not taper their purchase of mortgage and treasury bonds, sending the financial world into a tizzy.  The Atlantic wrote of the decision, “The Fed’s statement was laden with typically stolid prose, but if you could have distilled it and the subsequent press conference by Bernanke, the message would have been simply this: “There is no certainty. Get over it.””  [Atlantic]
  • Colin Camerer is known as the Caltech professor who studies human behavior by melding economics and neuroscience.  Now that he’s received a MacArthur Genius grant, he’ll be able to delve even more deeply into his “pioneering research into how the brain works while making decisions about such things as whether to participate in an economic “bubble,” when prices accelerate.” [Los Angeles Times]

The Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s going on in the online world of economics.

  • As mobile technology becomes cheaper, it’s use in developing nations gets a boost from an unlikely source: Mobile money sources, which drive up mobile phone use amongst the unbanked.  The Brookings Institute looks at this relationship, and considers the implications for mobile banking and the increased usage of mobile technology in the developing world.  Author John Villasenor writes, ” We already know what the developed world looks like when smartphones are everywhere. But the far more interesting question may be what the developing world will look like when cost declines bring entry-level smartphones within financial reach of nearly everyone.” [Brookings]
  • The internet is abuzz with chatter about the Census Bureau’s Annual Report on Incomes and Poverty, released Tuesday.  The Wall Street Journal writes about young workers and their struggles to find jobs, homes, and future securityThe Washington Post writes about median household incomes, which have remained stagnant this year, and have actually clocked in at lower than 1989 rates.  Read the full report here.  [Census]
  • Larry Summers has announced his withdrawal from the nominations for Fed Chairman this week.  The Economist speculates on the various reasons why his bid failed, saying, “Mr Summers had what in previous eras would be the two most important qualifications to lead the central bank: unimpeachable economic credentials and the trust of the president.” [Economist]
  • This week marks the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse, and Pew Research Center has put together a survey analysing American sentiment about the economy in the five years since the Markets failed.  They’ve found, among other things, that a large majority (63%) “say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash.” [Pew]
  • The U.S. shale oil boom has done a lot to transform the economies of places like North Dakota, but this week a study from IHS points to three countries poised to experience a similar boom from their shale oil reserves: Argentina, Algeria and Russia, among other places, have the potential to produce up to 5m barrels a day, which would have a significant impact on the oil market.  [Financial Times]

The Marketplace of Ideas

Here’s what’s going on in the online world of economics.

  • babiesRichard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard have written a paper on the “Parenting Gap“–the idea that the quality of a child’s parenting effects social mobility.  They found that, across the board, the children of stronger parents have more success, from pre-school through adulthood.  So what makes a strong parent?  Emotional support, quality time, and conversation are a few of the illusive qualities of strong parenting.  Read the full report here. [Brookings]
  • Emmanuel Saez has updated his paper “Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States” with preliminary 2012 data.  [UC Berkley]
  • If you haven’t yet jumped on the smartphone bandwagon, you might be be smarter than your outdated phone: The Pew Research Center has found a 16% decline in the average cost of a smartphone over the past two years.  According to the report, much of this steady and marked decline comes from the increase of smartphones being sold and used in emerging markets.  So while “The devices tend to be quite prevalent at the upper end of the income distribution,” their prevalence amongst all age groups and income levels will likely start to become more ubiquitous.  [Pew]
  • Where do we stand with the nominations for a new Fed Chairman?  This week, a group of more than 300 economists, including such big names as Joseph E. Stiglitz and Alan S. Blinder, signed a letter to President Obama urging the appointment of Janet Yellen.  Read the Wall Street Journal’s reaction here.  [Institute for Women’s Policy Research]
  • There is a lot of talk about the correlation between majors and future earnings, and a lot of talk about women and their career choices.  Anthony Carnevale, an economist at Georgetown University, is studying the cross section: women in lucrative majors who go into non-lucrative fields [NPR]