Arts thru tech

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published a report on Americans' participation in certain "benchmark" arts activities through electronic and digital media--radio, TV, CDs, DVDs, the Internet, and portable media devices. The benchmark activities surveyed: Jazz, Classical music, Opera, Musical plays, Non-musical plays, Ballet and other dance, Visual arts such as paintings, sculptures, or photography, and Programs about artists, art works, or art museums. The report is based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA).

Its conclusions:
  • Arts participation through media appears to encourage — rather than replace — live arts attendance.
  • Education shows the strongest relationship with arts participation through electronic media.
  • A sizeable group of Americans — particularly racial/ethnic minorities and older adults — participate in benchmark art forms solely through electronic media.
  • The rate of arts participation through electronic media for different racial/ethnic groups depends on the art form.
  • Given the relatively high rate of young adults who engage in literature through media, the overall rate of literary participation via media may increase markedly in the future.

Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation, June 2010
      Report (pdf, 146pp/2.72MB)
      Multi-media version

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America's children

In May and June the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) has been publishing sections of a compilation of national and 50-state data on the nation's children.
The report provides a statistical compendium of key child data showing alarming numbers of children at risk: the number of poor children has increased by 2.5 million since 2000 to 14.1 million, with almost half of them living in extreme poverty, and 8.1 million children lack health coverage―with both numbers likely to increase during the recession.

According to the CDF report, children in America lag behind almost all industrialized nations on key child indicators. The United States has the unwanted distinction of being the worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates, and in child gun violence.
The report covers: Key Facts, Child Population, Child Poverty, Family Structure, Family Income, Child Health, and Early Childhood Development. Sections to come: Education, Other Vulnerable Children and Youths, and Gun Violence.

The State of America's Children 2010

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Retail clinics

Retail clinics are medical clinics located in pharmacies and grocery and "big box" stores. Since they first opened in 2000, they now number nearly 1200. RAND Health conducted a study of the clinics focusing on three areas: 1. A profile of retail clinics (locations, services, and ownership); 2. Patient characteristics; and 3. Costs, quality, and preventive care delivery. Its key findings:
  • Most (88 percent) U.S. retail clinics are located in major metropolitan areas, and one-third of the U.S. urban population can easily access a clinic.
  • Retail clinics typically serve younger adult patients who do not have a regular health care provider.
  • For a selected group of conditions, retail clinics deliver lower-cost care of equivalent quality compared with other settings.
  • Approximately one in five visits to a primary care physician and one in ten visits to an emergency department are for a problem that can be treated at a retail clinic.

Health Care on Aisle 7: The Growing Phenomenon of Retail Clinics, pdf (7pp/160kB), html, June 14, 2010



Small business as jobs generator

The Brookings Economic Studies program issued a policy brief on the role of small business in job creation.
As the nation strives to recover from the “Great Recession,” job creation remains one of the biggest challenges to renewed prosperity. Small businesses have been among the most powerful generators of new jobs historically, suggesting the value of a stronger focus on supporting small businesses—especially high-growth firms—and encouraging entrepreneurship.
The paper examines the following recommendations to strengthen the small business sector:
  • Improve access to public and private capital.
  • Reexamine corporate tax policy.
  • Promote education and research to train workers and spur innovation.
  • Rethink immigration policy.
  • Explore ways to foster “innovation-friendly” environments.
  • Strengthen government counseling programs.

The Future of Small Business Entrepreneurship: Jobs Generator for the U.S. Economy, pdf (8pp/456kB), html, June 2010

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The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). Employers first began offering HRAs in 2001 and HSAs in 2004. HRAs are employer-funded and reimburse workers for qualified medical expenses. An HSA is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account set up by an individual to likewise pay for certain medical expenses. EBRI states:
The theory behind these accounts is that when individuals are given more control over funds allocated for health care services, they will spend the money more responsibly, especially once they become more educated about the actual price of health services. Furthermore, these accounts can be used as tax-advantaged vehicles to save for health care expenses in retirement.
In 2009 these plans covered 15-19 million people, representing 9-11 percent of the privately insured market. There was $7.1 billion in 5 million accounts.

Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006–2009, June 2010
      Issue Brief (pdf, 32pp/546kB)
      Executive summary



SS "notch" for '47?

In a May brief the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reports on lower Social Security benefits for new retirees born in 1947 compared to those born in 1930-1946. This is due to an "unintended quirk" in the benefit formula, and the paper urges congressional action for adjustment.

Since cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) were adopted in 1975, this is the first year of no COLA. The formula for granting COLA interacted with a spike in inflation in 2008, and those born in 1947 did not receive the 5.8 percent "windfall COLA" paid in Jan. 2009. The paper explains the term "notch" from the 1970s when beneficiaries born in 1917-1921 appeared to be at a disadvantage because of changes in SS benefit rules.

A New Social Security 'Notch'? Bad News for People Born in 1947, May 2010
      Brief (pdf, 8pp/203 kB)

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