Success in the New Economy

Colleague Chris Shannon sent along this lead from a community college in California. It’s about the mismatch between today’s educational aspirations and available jobs. The graphics are super.

Citrus College supported the production of “Success in the New Economy” to help a broader audience begin to understand preparation today for tomorrow’s labor market realities. The end result is a compelling case for students to explore career choices early, make informed decisions when declaring their college education goal, and to consider technical skill acquisition, real-world application and academics (career technical programs) in tandem with a classic education. This balanced approach to life and learning results in a well-educated and employed workforce. … Direction and Motion Graphics: Brian Y. Marsh Written and Narrated by: Kevin Fleming

The complete transcription of the video with data references is available here.


Video Explanations of the Economy

The Cleveland Fed’s Dan Littman sent me something that looks like a lot of fun: short and playful video explanations of how the economy works.

So far I have watched only the episode on money and half of the episode about the Federal Reserve (featuring a Fed president who has amnesia and has to have the Federal Reserve System explained to him by his children). I do think the series could be helpful for teachers and others who want an accessible way to explain economics.

See what you think. Go to We the Economy, here.





Trusting the Cash Recipient

Lately, I’ve become more aware that having government agencies and nonprofit organizations decide what is good for people in need may not be as effective as letting the recipients of the assistance decide for themselves. I don’t know what took me so long.

The Boston Globe recently featured a study that demonstrates the point. Kevin Hartnett writes, “From November 2013 to April 2014, [the International Rescue Committee] split 87,700 Syrian refugees living in the mountains of Lebanon into two groups: Those living in villages or settlements above 500 meters received a food voucher, plus an ATM card that was refilled with $107 per month; those living below 500 meters received only a food voucher. The cash was meant to allow refugees living at higher elevations to purchase warm clothing and heaters for the winter. It also provided researchers with the chance to compare the two groups and analyze how infusions of cash change refugee life.

“One of the main things they found was that the refugees with ATM cards didn’t actually spend much of the money on blankets and clothing — instead they applied it to more basic needs like food and water, which allowed them to eat more meals and larger portion sizes. The researchers also observed that the cash allowances had positive social effects, like allowing more families to send their children to school instead of off to work, and stimulated local village economies. At the same time, they found little evidence of the negative consequences associated with cash welfare: The money didn’t boost consumption of ‘vice’ goods, it didn’t spur inflation, and there were no signs of corruption.”

More at the Globe, here.

Photo: Melita Podesta


Aging + Place, a Joint Center Symposium

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing sponsored a symposium Friday on cutting-edge design and new research related to the future of aging in America, here.  I will just summarize four points made by one of the many inspiring speakers.

Ruth Finkelstein, of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said (1) every sort of community design should work for all ages. For example, in New York City, you can ask any bus to kneel for whatever reason you need to avoid steps. Such accommodations benefit people from across a community.

(2) Since the data show that the people who live longer are generally the people who have been better educated, we need to improve longevity by strengthening the whole spectrum of education from the beginning. (3)  Community planning should involve older adults. On the basis of her own experience in communities, she calls them the “geniuses of planning.” Planners would never have figured out that bike paths might might help revitalize a troubled neighborhood: the elderly did. And they took up biking, too. (4) Older adults are an asset and not a drain on a local economy. Who in your struggling postindustrial or rural community has a guaranteed income? What do they do with it? Spend it in your community.

Planners really need to start thinking differently. What are the positives to be leveraged?

Finkelstein is also on the advisory committee of WHO’s Age-Friendly Communities and the associate director of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center.



Fed Chair Checks Job Situation in a Working City

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has long been a student of the role that jobs play in family financial stability and the larger economy. To get some firsthand stories during her Massachusetts visit yesterday, she visited an employment agency in Chelsea, a city that was one of the winners of the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge competition.

From Binyamin Appelbaum at the NY Times today: “Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, went into the field Thursday to do some informal research about the health of the labor market. Ms. Yellen visited a two-year-old nonprofit program that is helping people to find work in this formerly industrial city just north of Boston and heard from organizers and job seekers that it is getting a little easier to earn a living.

“She also heard, however, that without the intensive support of the Connect program, many of its beneficiaries think they might still be looking for work — showing how difficult it can be for the many people who have lost jobs to find new ones.

“ ‘Two years ago, at the beginning, to have anyone get hired was a huge deal,’ Anne Auerbach, a counselor for the Connect program, said after meeting Ms. Yellen. ‘Now some people are getting hired. It has gotten somewhat better.’ Ms. Yellen will speak Friday morning at a conference on economic inequality hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which organized Thursday’s field trip.”

Ylan Mui at the Washington Post interviewed other Federal Reserve officials on the importance of employment and community development, including our own bank preseident.

“ ‘When you think about maximum employment, monetary policy can deal with the cyclical,’ Boston Fed President Eric S. Rosengren said in an interview Thursday. ‘If we were able to change the mindset in some of these cities, the employment picture in these cities would clearly be better.’

“In Chelsea, Yellen will tour a program called Connect, which focuses on financial security. The program includes support groups for those with credit problems to veterans returning to the workforce, individual financial counseling and job skills training. About a third of participants do not have a high school diploma.

“The three-year-old program seems to be gaining traction where monetary policy cannot. Ann Houston, executive director of the Neighborhood Developers, one of the organizations involved in the project, said those in the program see a $400 median increase in monthly net income. The median increase in credit score is 35 points.

“ ‘Increasingly, there’s this recognition that monetary policy is sort of a blunt instrument,’ said David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development at the San Francisco Fed, which has compiled extensive research on programs and places that have successfully reduced poverty. ‘In that case, you need a little bit more of a surgical tool, and that’s where community development comes in.’ ”

More at the Washington Post, here, and the NY Times, here.

Janet Yellen (left) and Leah Maurer at the Boston Fed on October 16, 2014.


Janet Yellen Visits Us Today

We are excited to have Janet Yellen at the Boston Fed today, an outstanding economist and the first woman to serve as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“Dr. Yellen is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley where she was the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics and has been a faculty member since 1980. …

“Dr. Yellen is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as President of the Western Economic Association, Vice President of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the Yale Corporation.

“Dr. Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967, and received her Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1971. She received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000.”

More at the Board of Governors site, here.


Signs of Growth in Rhode Island

Alex Kuffner has an interview in the Providence Journal with former Communities & Banking author Leonard Lardaro about the economic outlook for struggling Rhode Island.

Writes Kuffner, “The Rhode Island economy showed signs of sustained growth in August, according to the latest Current Conditions Index compiled by University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro. The index for August was 75, matching the score for July, which was the highest for the calendar year so far. More important, said Lardaro, the score for August was higher than it was for August 2013. It was the first year-on-year increase in 12 months. …

“In an interview, Lardaro said that several areas of the state’s economy performed solidly. Manufacturing, a sector that has suffered for decades, was surprisingly strong. So was residential construction. Retail sales continued on the uptick, increasing by 3.7 percent compared with a year earlier.

“The unemployment rate in Rhode Island remained steady at 7.7 percent in August, according to figures from the state Department of Labor and Training. While the state gained jobs, the labor force declined, the department said. …

” ‘We have a long way to go,’ [Lardaro] said. “But there are more positives than negatives.”

More from the Providence Journal here. Read Professor Lardaro’s Communities & Banking article here.

Photo: Point Judith, RI, fleet