Our projects are designed to empower policy makers to create positive change. With a focus on collaboration and outreach, we provide original, standards-based research on key policy issues.
SCEPA joined with the Economic Policy Institute on Capitol Hill to brief congressional staff and policy experts on tax expenditures, or incentives given through the tax code without scrutiny by Congress.
SCEPA economists are working on the prospects for a more progressive economic order to emerge from the shock of the recession. They have published papers and documents that place current events in a longer-term context as well as policy proposals to deal with short-term concerns. They are also documenting the emerging discussion of how the discipline of economics is reacting to the Great Recession and the questioning of conventional economic analysis.
Lance Taylor, a SCEPA Faculty Fellow, presents an overview of his new book, Maynard’s Revenge, in a Google Tech Talk.
The book, published this November by Harvard University Press, is a timely analysis of mainstream macroeconomics, posing the need for a more useful and realistic economic analysis that can provide a better understanding of the ongoing global financial and economic crisis.
The government spends $143 billion through tax breaks in an effort to expand pension coverage and security. Yet, over half of the American workforce does not have a pension. Retirement insecurity hurts business plans, workers’ lives and retiree well-being. Reform is needed.
SCEPA’s Guaranteeing Retirement Income Project, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with Demos and the Economic Policy Institute, has a plan to guarantee safe and secure retirement income for all Americans.
- Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2012
In collaboration with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, SCEPA published a report that details the corrosive economic effects the Great Recession has had, and continues to have, on older unemployed workers. The paper, Unemployed Older Americans: A Profile, is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
The U.S. labor force is aging, and so are the people who are unemployed. In March 2011, the U.S. population comprised 305 million people, of whom 36.6 million were age 55-64; over a third (37.5%) of that population were not working -- 4.1% were officially unemployed, and 2% of those out of the labor force were discouraged workers. If we include discouraged workers among the unemployed, 4.8% of older Americans were willing to work but did not have a job in 2011. And these rates are up from the date the recession officially ended in March of 2009. At that time, the official unemployment rate for older workers was 3.04%, the discouraged rate was 1.71%, and the fraction of older Americans who were willing to work but unable to find a job was 3.57%.
While the harm caused by unemployment is unique to each person, this study focuses on the staggering variety of challenges and perils shared by older people. Our analysis results in three broad findings.
First, across every category, for instance male, female, white or nonwhite, an older unemployed person is now more likely to be unemployed longer than any other age group, including teenagers (Johnson 2009). As a result, older people who lose their jobs have a higher risk of remaining unemployed and withdrawing permanently from the labor force in involuntary early retirement.
Second, older workers who retire earlier than expected are less likely to have pension income or household wealth compared with those who retire voluntarily (Munnell 2008) and face higher rates of depression and anxiety (Bender and Jivan 2005 and Bonsang and Klein 2011).
Third, being unemployed is always trouble, but if you are in your late fifties, but not yet 64, you are in big trouble. Why? The age for eligibility for Medicare is age 65, but older people in general, and especially those who are unemployed, tend to experience a steep increase in need for medical care earlier than age 65 (Tu and Liebhaber, 2009). We also find that a loss of health care coverage among this group may cause economic losses beyond those who are unemployed and aged 55-64. The larger population may pay a higher price as uncompensated health care expenses incur. Moreover, since older Americans are more likely to withdraw from the labor force after experiencing a long bout of unemployment (Coile and Levine 2006), we speculate about whether job retraining programs designed to draw this population back into the workforce make sense.
This research is timely in light of the current discussion of the micro impacts of the Great Recession and for debates about the role of jobs and healthcare policy.
- Published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
SCEPA Faculty Fellow Willi Semmler recently published a SCEPA Working Paper, with co-authors Lars Gruene and Alfred Greiner, that analyzes when and how we should transition to green energy. Titled, "Economic Growth and the Transition from Non-Renewable to Renewable Energy," the authors argue that the transition to green energy can and should take place before non-renewable energy is exhausted. Their research uses a canonical growth model with two energy sources, including non-renewable energy that creates negative externalities in the form of CO2 emissions and renewable energy that emits much less CO2. Ultimately, the authors propose a solution that, given the cost of future externalities inherent in the continued use of fossil energy, recommends tax rates and subsidies to ensure a more rapid transition to renewable energy.
The research is part of SCEPA's Economics of Climate Change project, which will begin a public Speaker Series this Fall with the generous support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The series will feature experts on domestic and global policy dicsussing different approaches to a green economic transition, energy independence, the production of sufficient energy supply, and employment.
- Published on Friday, September 07, 2012
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
This morning's release of the August employment report continues the run of weak economic news that we've seen throughout the summer. Total employment rose by an anemic 96,000 jobs; with a slight decline in government employment, private sector jobs rose by 103,000. The unemployment rate edged down to 8.1 percent, due to fewer people looking for work, not vigorous job growth. After July's somewhat encouraging job growth of 163,000, we seem to be back on a weak trendline.
Monthly job growth this year has averaged only 139,000, compared to a not-much better average of 153,000 in 2011. The effects of the too-weak federal stimulus have now run their course, and there are no other drivers of growth from the private sector. Although the Federal Reserve retains the option to take further action, they have been hesitant to move, and monetary policy is not the primary medicine for this economy. Fed Chairman Ben Bernacke's speech at the annual Jackson Hole conference said that economic growth is "far from satisfactory" and the Fed will be "forceful" in pushing for a stronger recover.
Job creation by Republicans? "Zee-ro!"
The recent political conventions provided little hope of further stimulus. Republicans remain set on cutting federal spending and providing deeper tax cuts to the wealthy. Romney has said he will replace Bernacke when the chairman's term expires in January 2014 and the Republican platform, in a nod to libertarian Ron Paul, hints at exploring a return to the gold standard, couched as investigating "possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar."
President Obama warned against Republican policies, but told Americans we face a "hard path" to full economic recovery. Democrats, especially Bill Clinton, put the best face possible on the weak recovery (Clinton had an effective rhetorical device trope about who had created jobs in the recovery: "President Obama? 4.4 million. Republicans? Zee-ro."). But continuing weak employment will make this a nail-biter right down to November, when the October report will be released on Friday, November 2, just four days before the election.