- On Capitol Hill
- On Wall Street
- In the Press
- Policy Reform Work
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.
This week another GOP presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, announced his support for raising the retirement age, a policy that would force older workers with inadequate retirement savings to depend on the labor market for needed income and savings. Yet, today's federal jobs report announced a May unemployment rate of 3.7% for older workers over 55 and nearing retirement. This is a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since last month, but it still means that 1.5 million older workers want to work but can't find a job.
This situation is particularly dire for older women. Given women's longer life expectancy, they will need to sock away retirement savings for five more years than men. According to the Census Bureau's Survey of Income Program and Participation (SIPP), over half of older women ages 50-64 have nothing saved for retirement. For women of the same ages who do have retirement savings, their median retirement account balance is $40,000.
As we've seen, the labor market is no panacea for the retirement crisis. Older women have an unemployment rate of 3.6% in May, which means 715,000 women over 55 cannot find a job. Meanwhile, more older women are in the labor market. Since the 1980's, older women workers have increased by 171%, from 15 million to 40.5 million. The gender wage gap is also persistent, following women from college graduation through the pre-retirement years. In 2013, older women made between $0.73 and $0.80 for every dollar made by men of their own age.
For an older woman facing her last years to save, trying to work and save in this labor market means it will take her longer and she will get less.
Raising the retirement age is not a solution, for women or for men. Rather, we need to reform the failing pension institutions that got us here by creating Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) on top of Social Security to provide guaranteed income to seniors for life. By allowing people a viable path to saving, we can allow all workers the choice to continue working or to leave the labor market when it doesn't treat them well.
This week's Worldly Philosopher, Julia M. Puaschunder, describes how meritocracy enables intergenerational mobility to foster equitable societies.
Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century is about societal inequality, but it also raises important questions about social mobility.
Inequality occurs in immobile societies. If individuals cannot advance based on education, work and natural skills, societal status depends on their parents' wealth, income and networks. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Economic Policy Reform Report finds a significant relationship (r=.56, 88, p<.05) between inequality and wage distribution by measuring the gap between the wages of those with fathers with and without any higher education. The Great Gatsby Curve connects wealth in one generation with the ability to move up the economic ladder in the next generation. As you can see, children from poor families are less likely to improve their economic status in countries where income inequality is higher.
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
This morning's April employment report shows a U.S. economy with continuing weaknesses, underscored by other economic data indicating that first quarter GDP may actually have declined. The economy added 233,000 jobs, with a stagnant unemployment rate of 5.4% and a continuing historically low labor force participation rate. But jobs numbers for February and March also were revised, showing 39,000 fewer jobs than previously reported. That puts the three-month rolling average for job creation below 200,000 per month.
The weak jobs number must be viewed in relation to other data suggesting a weakening economy. In March, the dollar hit a 40-year high against the Euro and has been strengthening against almost all other currencies, hurting U.S. exports and leading to a March trade deficit of $51.4 billion, a six-year high.
Some of the dollar's growth has been driven by expectations of Federal Reserve interest rate increases, but today's employment report is another signal that the Fed should hold its fire. This is a weak economy that is going nowhere fast, and increasing interest rates could tip it into recession, or at least lock us into stagnation. We are now in the 70th month of the (very weak) economic recovery, much longer than the post-World War II average of 58 months.
In the labor market, working hours and wages aren't growing, another signal of overall economic weakness. Hours worked in April didn't increase, and average hours in the private sector are exactly the same as one year ago. And average hourly earnings increased by only 3 cents in April, for a 2.2% increase over the past year.
These are not strong labor market numbers.