Aging in Vermont

I enjoyed this article on aging in Vermont. It’s by Joel Banner Baird at the Burlington Free Press [BFP].

“How many enjoy the status of a wise elder? How many are routinely teased? How many are merely tolerated, or marginalized? To further explore challenges faced by Vermont’s aging demographic, we we posed some questions to Greg Marchildon, the state director of AARP Vermont. …

“Greg Marchildon: Ageism and the negative stereotypes it spawns about the elderly pervade our culture in ways many of us don’t even realize. It occurs daily in the workplace in very damaging ways to where some 60 percent of older workers now say they have been impacted or lost their jobs as a result.

“It shows up in health care when older patients don’t get the care or attention others receive; it shows up in the media, in advertising, movies and TV …

“America is obsessed with youth. Ask any plastic surgeon or dermatologist about America’s obsession with youth and the lengths we will go to not grow old!

“BFP: How about the elderly who are willing and able to work alongside their younger peers?

“GM: Workplace ageism is perhaps the most obvious form of discrimination that we hear about. Whether it’s being passed over for advancement, denied retraining, disregarded at a meeting or handed a pink slip, older workers have been fighting age discrimination for decades. … About two thirds (64 percent) of older workers (ages 45-74) say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Of those, a whopping 92 percent say it is very or somewhat common. … AARP works to fight this form of prejudice on many fronts — the courts, Congress, state legislatures and by educating our members on how to identify the practice and what to do about it. …

“Local communities, states, and the entire economy suffer when ageism is widespread and prevents people from contributing to the workforce and society as much as they are able. Productivity is negatively affected; demand on entitlement programs often increases; people are paying fewer taxes than they otherwise would. The potential creative contributions of older people are often lost as well. Neighborhoods and communities suffer too. Households aged 65 and over interact with neighbors more than any other age group. Older adults serve as mentors, coaches, and companions to youth and other adults as well as their peers — sharing their experience, perspectives, professional knowledge and skills. …

“As we say at AARP: ‘Grow Old — Everybody’s Doing it!’ ” More here.

Photo: wikimedia

The Role of Public Transit in Greater Boston

Paul McMorrow, of CommonWealth magazine, writes in a Boston Globe op-ed that public transit is a major pillar of the Greater Boston economic recovery and should be paid for by users.

He looks at the opportunity provided when “Massachusetts voters overturned a new law that would have ratcheted up the state’s gas tax at regular intervals …

“The gas tax repeal took the stuffing out of a weak transportation finance package that the Legislature enacted last year. Beacon Hill now has a chance to take a second run at the issue, and get it right this time. This means getting out of the way, and allowing the area served by the MBTA to raise the money it needs to keep moving itself forward.

“Massachusetts is at a tipping point in how it pays for its roads, bridges, buses, and trains. … Beacon Hill has repeatedly refused to fund all the T’s needs, because suburban lawmakers fear a political backlash for throwing money at Boston. Last year’s financing package, even with the now-vaporized gas tax revenue, wasn’t close to big enough. The solution is for Beacon Hill to move out of the way, and allow the people who benefit from the T to pay for it.

“Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Portland, Ore., all pay for transit, partially, with local and regional revenues. A 2011 MassINC report estimated that a payroll tax of 0.3 percent — less than half what Portland collects — would cost the average Boston household $3.85 per week, but put roughly $400 million into the T. …

“A localized transit tax would need Beacon Hill’s cooperation, but it’s the only way the T is going to keep up Boston’s growth. The T makes the Boston region possible, so the Boston region should at least be able to vote on whether to raise the funds to keep it going.”

More here.

Payday-Lending Ban Results Will Surprise You

When Boston Fed visiting scholar Roman V. Galperin (Johns Hopkins Carey Business School) set out with Andrew Weaver (MIT Sloan School of Management) to test the effects of banning payday lending, it seemed possible that people who needed cash fast would be found to turn to another high-cost “alternative financial service.” That is not what the data showed.

A Boston Fed Issue Brief, “Payday Lending and the Demand for Alternative Financial Servicespdf, , presents “research that explores the impact of banning or strictly regulating high-cost consumer financial services like payday loans.

“Industry supporters maintain that such bans deprive consumers of vital access to cash, while opponents contend that these services trap individuals in a cycle of debt and thus generate more harm than good.

“We specifically measure the effect of state bans on payday lending on the demand for an alternative source of high-cost consumer credit: tax refund anticipation loans. We employ a unique matched zip-code strategy to construct an appropriate control group. Our results provide support for the view that ‘cycle-of-debt’ borrowers dominate the payday lending market. These results imply that restrictions on high-cost consumer financial services may improve consumer welfare.”

Find the study here.

View of the Boston Fed from across the street


Anthony Poore on Vermont Public Radio

My Regional & Community Outreach colleague Anthony Poore spoke at an event in Vermont Wednesday, one of the states in the Boston Fed’s six-state district. The event was about millennials and homeownership.

Anthony didn’t know Vermont Public Radio was in the audience, but they did a nice report.

“Vermonters in the millennial generation are often seen as a success story in a state that has struggled to attract and retain young people. But cultural and economic trends mean millennials in the state are still falling short on the housing market. …

“John Pelletier is the director of the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy. He said one of the big factors is college debt.

” ‘If you’re a college grad with student loan debt in those age categories of 29 and under, less of you own a home than if you didn’t go to college,’ he said. …

“Speaking at the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference in Burlington, Pelletier and Anthony Poore of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said it’s not just the numbers that are keeping young people from buying houses. Poore said there were also some cultural differences between millennials and their parents.

“ ‘You know, these folks watched their parents lose their homes,’ he said. ‘These people saw their parents have to try to figure out everything they could to stay in their homes, so they’re beginning to ask themselves, really, is homeownership really all that?’

“Despite what Pelletier called the generation’s ‘failure to launch,’ the stats show millennials still plan on owning a home at some point.”

Go here to read more and to listen to the audio.

Anthony Poore, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston


Refugees Building a Life

Jane Devlin tweeted a link to an article on refugees in Arizona yesterday. I thought you might be interested.

Lourdes Medrano writes at the Deseret News, “In a small field on the outskirts of this desert town near the Mexican border, close to 30 women and men stoop over rows of pumpkins, carefully picking the pulpy autumn fruit along with its flowers, stems and leaves.

“The volunteers are part of an innovative program that helps refugees from war-torn countries find work and food. Called the Iskashitaa Refugee Network, the Arizona-based organization consists of a diverse group that harvests donated crops from local farms and people’s backyards to feed displaced populations from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“On this recent fall afternoon, Adam Abubakar, a refugee in his early 30s who came to Arizona two years ago from the conflicted Darfur region of Sudan, quickly clips pumpkin leaves and drops them in a tote bag for later distribution to newcomers who eat them. For Abubakar, picking fruits and vegetables comes second nature. Back in his homeland, he grew most of the food his family consumed before years-long raging violence pushed him out along with masses of fellow Sudanese. …

“As world conflicts escalate, droves of people like Abubakar flee war-torn lands, leaving everything behind in search of a safe haven. Each year, tens of thousands arrive in the United States, where the government provides refugees limited resettlement assistance and organizations such as Iskashitaa work to help the newcomers become self-sufficient as they adapt to American society. Refugees working in the pumpkin field not only harvest the fruits and vegetables they eat, but they also distribute crops to fellow newcomers, learn about urban gardening, market what they grow, and participate in cross-cultural food exchanges.”

More here.

indonesia copyright melita podesta

How Wall Street Diversity Might Fight Bubbles

A former researcher in my department at the Boston Fed, Kai-yan Lee, tagged me when he posted a NY Times article on why diversity might make Wall Street do its job better. He knows the Boston Fed is interested in both diversity and bubbles, and that I help run a monthly lunch conversation on diversity, “Race in America.”

NY Times columnist Neil Irwin asks, “Would more racial diversity on Wall Street make financial bubbles less likely to develop?

“That’s the intriguing possibility raised by an experiment that helps explain what factors lead markets to become subject to speculative booms and busts. And while its answers are far from definitive in offering conclusions for the world as a whole, at the least they offer a fascinating study in bubble-ology, or why markets seem so perpetually prone to excess.

“In a paper published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sheen S. Levine of Columbia University and five collaborators describe an experiment they conducted in Texas and Singapore.

“They trained a bunch of people (180 in all, in 30 different runs of the experiment) who had a background in finance in how to calculate the value of imaginary shares of stock, and tested them to make sure they all had similar analytical abilities. Then they had the traders buy and sell the shares among themselves, with each trader’s pretend profits in the simulation to be paid out as real cash. …

“In the markets with ethnic diversity, prices became 21 percent more accurate, relative to the fundamentals of the stocks, as trading proceeded. But in the homogenous markets, pricing accuracy declined by 33 percent over the course of the simulation.”

Read more about how diversity affected the outcomes here, at the NY Times.


Schools with Immigrants Often Perform Better

You never know what will turn up on twitter. One of the people I follow there is Teny Gross, executive director of Providence-based Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence.

Today he linked to an article about the influence of immigrants in schools.

Evan Bartlett writes at the UK-based Independent, “The diverse make-up of pupils in London’s schools is the reason the capital outperforms other parts of the country in academic attainment… There is a ‘London-premium’ on what Simon Burgess, professor of economics at the University of Bristol, calls ‘pupil progress’ — effectively this is a measure of how a pupil improves their grades between Key Stage 2 (11-years-old) and their GCSEs (16-years-old).

“Writing for The Conversation, Prof Burgess explains that the ‘higher pupil aspiration, ambition, and engagement among migrants’ in London’s schools is the reason for their success. While he explains that there is ‘nothing inherently different’ about children from migrant families, their social situation is likely to make them more ambitious.”

More at the Independent, here. Additional details here.