The age of unemployment

The 2007–09 recession hit older workers, throwing many into unemployment lines instead of retirement parties.
Growing concerns about the adequacy of retirement savings and whether retirees will have enough money to live comfortably in later life appear to have discouraged early retirement.
The nonprofit Urban Institute released a study examining the necessity for many older adults to keep working during the traditional retirement years and the special challenges that older job seekers face.
Joblessness among older workers has soared in recent months. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, about 2 million adults age 55 or older were unemployed in August 2009. That’s more than double the number unemployed in November 2007...

Uncertainty about whether workers today are saving enough for retirement further complicates the outlook. New trends in employment, employer-sponsored pensions, and health insurance influence retirement decisions and financial security at older ages.
UI undertook this study to evaluate retirement policies, demographic trends, and private sector practices.

Rising Senior Unemployment and the Need to Work at Older Ages

(Urban Institute, September 2009, pdf, 19pp/160kB)


Twitter in Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) analyzed how members of Congress used Twitter during two one-week periods in July and August 2009. Among the data: as of Aug. 2009, 127 Representatives and 31 Senators were registered with Twitter and issued approximately 1,187 tweets during those periods. Of six categories that CRS used--position taking, press or web links, district or state activities, official congressional action, personal, and replies--the most frequent tweets were for press and web links.

From data collected on Sept. 2, 2009, on followers: Congress had a total of 1.7 million+ followers. Representatives had followers ranging from 130 to 13,000+, with the median Representative having 1,617 followers. Senators had followers ranging from 353 to 1.2 million+, with the median being 3,998 followers.

CRS concluded:
As Members continue to embrace new technologies, their use of Twitter and other forms of social media may increase. These mediums allow Members to communicate directly with constituents (and others) in a potentially interactive way that is not possible through mail or e-mail. For Members and their staff, the ability to collect and transmit real time information from constituents could be influential for policy or voting decisions.

Social Networking and Constituent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress, R40823 (pdf, 15pp/185kB), from Open CRS, Sept. 21, 2009

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Do the right thing...or pay later

...statistical indicators are important for designing and assessing policies aiming at advancing the progress of society
New York Times (NYT) reports Wednesday on the recent study on "new assessment tools that incorporate a broader concern for human welfare than just economic growth." Authored by Nobel prize-winning economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, the report is their response to the President of the French Republic, Nicholas Sarkozy, "unsatisfied with the present state of statistical information about the economy and the society,...to create a Commission, subsequently called, The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (CMEPSP)":
...to identify the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress, including the problems with its measurement; to consider what additional information might be required for the production of more relevant indicators of social progress; to assess the feasibility of alternative measurement tools, and to discuss how to present the statistical information in an appropriate way.
NYT considers the report as being "more critique than prescription" and "a treatise on the inadequacy of G.D.P. growth as an indication of overall economic health." The report itself states that "our measurement system [needs] to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being."
  • When evaluating material well-being, look at income and consumption rather than production.
  • Emphasise the household perspective.
  • Consider income and consumption jointly with wealth
  • Give more prominence to the distribution of income, consumption and wealth.
  • Broaden income measures to non-market activities.

Report of the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress
(September 2009, pdf, 292pp/3.2MB)



Fourth sector

The Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation (PSI) published a report on the Fourth Sector, "a new sector of organizations at the intersection of the public, private, and social sectors." These are organizations that integrate social missions with business practices, creating a new class of "for-benefit" organizations. The thesis of author Heerad Sabeti is that:
...a new class of organizations with the potential for generating immense economic, social, and environmental benefits is emerging--and this sector can be consciously developed and expanded through broad recognition and engagement.
He suggests a new supportive ecosystem for the Fourth Sector, including new kinds of financial markets, legal structures and regulation, tax policy, and assessment and reporting standards.

The Emerging Fourth Sector, Executive Summary (pdf, 15pp/804kB), Sept. 2009
    (Only the executive summary is currently available as a free download)

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Retiring boomers' impact on assets

With the 78 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 beginning to retire (the oldest having turned 62 in 2008), some economists had warned of a fall in prices of assets as boomers sold their holdings to finance their retirement. However, a paper from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that such a scenario is unlikely, based on the behavior of earlier groups of retirees. CBO cites three factors:
  1. Retirees generally are cautious about selling assets to finance consumption because they might need those assets in the future. They might live longer than expected, and medical costs, which are likely to rise as people age, could be higher than anticipated.
  2. Rather than spend all of their assets, retirees might intentionally retain some to make bequests.
  3. Wealth in the United States is highly concentrated: One-third of the nation’s financial assets is held by the wealthiest 1 percent of the U.S. population. The wealthiest people do not spend significant portions of their assets during retirement and in most cases die leaving bequests.

Will the Demand for Assets Fall When the Baby Boomers Retire?
      Report (pdf, 33pp/788kB), Sept. 2009
      Blog, Sept. 8, 2009

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Internet, income, education, civic engagement

Whether they take place on the internet or off, traditional political activities remain the domain of those with high levels of income and education.

So begins the summary to a new study by researchers at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Traditional Internet political civic engagement activities are viewed as: emailing government officials; signing an online petition, emailing an editor; making political contributions on the internet; communicating with civic/political groups by messaging, instant messaging or using the group's social networking site.

Examining the data regarding offline civic activities and their online counterparts, the researchers found:
Online political activities are marked by the same high levels of stratification by income and education as their offline counterparts.

Political activity is highly correlated with income, whether that activity takes place online or off.
However, examining political engagement on blogs and social networking sites, they found "young adults more likely to engage in "new" forms of online civic engagement;" and the income and education gaps for these who take part in the new civic activities are reduced:
...those under age 35 represent 28% of the respondents in our survey but make up fully 72% of those who make political use of social networking sites, and 55% of those who post comments or visual material about politics on the Web. The youngest members of this group—those under age 25—constitute just 10% of our survey respondents but make up 40% of those who make political use of social networking sites and 29% of those who post comments or visual material about politics online.
Without offering more than the suggestion that the new social media might be changing the traditional character of civic engagement, the study asks:
[W]ill these forms of internet-based political engagement which entail opportunities for political expression and communication among large numbers of dispersed people foster the forms of political participation that involve attempts to influence political outcomes?

The Internet and Civic Engagement by Aaron Smith, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, Henry Brady
(Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 2009, pdf, 66pp/5MB)

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Insurance reform

Regulation of the insurance industry has been the purview of the states since 1868, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in a recent paper. CRS traces the history of this jurisdiction to the present, with increasing Congressional interest in insurance oversight in the current financial crisis, particularly with the failure of American International Group (AIG).
A major catalyst for congressional interest has been the aftermath of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA), which modernized the regulatory structure for banks and securities firms, but left the insurance sector largely untouched. Many larger insurers, and their trade associations, had previously defended state regulation but consider themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the current regulatory structure. They are now largely arguing for an optional federal charter akin to that available to banks.
CRS summarizes several bills introduced in the current Congress addressing this issue.

Insurance Regulation: Issues, Background, and Legislation in the 111th Congress, R40771 (pdf, 16pp/192kB), from Open CRS, Aug. 19, 2009

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