Twilight Zone Tuesday, or Delayed Sept. Jobs Report

As if I didn’t already feel like I’d stepped into the twilight zone, trying to teach classes on a Tuesday morning after two days of traveling from Thailand to Easton, the September jobs report came out today, two and a half weeks late due to the shutdown.

In sum, the economy was already struggling before the shutdown, and now $24 billion later, it’s probably going to be even more difficult to get humming again. One bright spot, many more full time jobs than part-time jobs are being created than previously thought, which is good and exposes a chink in the Obamacare-kills-jobs refrain. There’s lots of good summaries out there on the jobs report, but if you have time, I think you should go read it yourself.

Woohoo, Spring Break Reading List!

It’s Spring Break for Gettysburg College, which means I have jetted off to somewhere it decidedly does not look like Spring. Well, perhaps at least in the conventional definition. I’m quite happy to see snowflakes my entire break, but many of my students were appalled that I wasn’t heading south for warmer weather. Oh, well.

A break from classes means work with new data, getting caught up with student blog posts, and of course books. Below is a peek into what I’m reading this week, though it likely won’t be the last you hear from me about these books.

Fundamental division

In a totally not related but very appropriate follow-up to my post last week on the social safety net, Noam Scheiber at The New Republic has an analysis of the President’s inauguration speech up. Reading through the speech this morning, what struck me was just how progressive the rhetoric was, despite a relatively significant track record of not very progressive policies supported by the President over his first term. Scheiber points out that the speech is not unique for its liberal nature, but for its defense of liberalism, which is quite eloquent.

Scheiber also notes the fundamental divide that appears to exist in Americans’ understanding of the role of government that I mused on briefly.

What Obama has learned over the past four years is that we don’t actually agree on that much. A lot of people—a huge chunk of the country, in fact—emphatically disagree him. It turns out that the bloodsport aspect of politics isn’t so much a cause of our dysfunction. It’s largely an effect—an extension of the fact that people have really strong feelings on both sides of these questions. And if you want to win some of them over, it’s not enough to raise the level of political discourse and treat one another with more civility. You’ve got to change how people feel about the underlying questions of policy and values. You’ve got to explain to them why too much income inequality is counterproductive and why the safety net is indispensable.

I wonder if this marks a significant coming policy shift in the Obama administration. We shall see, I guess.

A good read on the gender wage gap

I’m in London this week for a conference and had a very funny discussion at breakfast about blogging and the public element of putting one’s life on the internet. It reminded me that I haven’t been reading many blogs lately (or writing for that matter, sorry, I do still love you all), and prompted me to go visit a few of them after getting back from dinner this evening.

The particular blog I was discussing this morning was Chris Blattman’s, and I was pleased to find his post today included a link to Jordan Weissman’s “Why are women paid less?” at the Atlantic. Being on UK time, I missed the debate last night, but feel I’m getting caught up a bit with help from the above and other, very helpful, very serious news sources.

Job switching among Baby Boomers

I’m teaching Labor Economics this Fall for the first time, which means I’m constantly in search of interesting ways to get students to think about how we study questions of why people work, why they get hired, how firms decide how much labor to hire, and more. In one of these quests this afternoon, I found a BLS report from July outlining duration and number of jobs held by later period Baby Boomers (born 1957-1964) over their lifetimes.

It’s a short, descriptive report and the numbers come from the NLSY79, which is a fantastic longitudinal study of employment and educational outcomes, families and more. What I found so interesting about the report is that it shows that baby boomers, on average, held 11.3 jobs over their working lives. That number struck me as high. Even though about half of those jobs were held before age 24 (think summer jobs, part-time jobs while in school), there’s still a lot of switching over 30-40 working years. And it runs contrary to the narrative that I’ve both heard and repeated, which says that our parents were likely to take one job and keep it throughout until they retired, while my generation (which is unclear to me–too old to be a Millenial, but feel too young to be Gen X), is more likely to have switch jobs often and have shorter tenures at each job.

Of course, we can’t really compare the lifelong numbers until my generation is much older, but I wonder how much that narrative is perception (because we have the closest experience to more volatile period of the ages of 18-24), or because we actually enjoy less job security.

Anticipating divorce

This Journal of Human Resources paper by Elizabeth Ananat and Guy Michaels is a few years old now, but as I’m readying my first dissertation chapter for submission, I’ve been reading up and reminding myself of various literatures and it seemed appropriate. Ananat and Michaels present an intuitive, causal story for how divorce causes women to live in poverty. It seems pretty straightforward: the break-up of a marriage means women are less likely to live in a household without income from someone else, but also that women work to compensate for such income losses by going back to work, moving in with siblings, etc.

Divorce increases the probability of living in a household without other earners. In fact, we estimate that breakup of the first marriage significantly increases the likelihood that a woman lives in a household with less than $5,000 of annual income from others—the likelihood rises from just over 5 percent for those whose first marriage is intact to nearly 50 percent for those whose first marriage breaks up. However, women can and do respond to income loss from divorce by combining with other households, through paths including remarriage or moving in with a roommate, sibling, or parents. Moreover, women further compensate through private (for example, alimony and child support) and public (for example, welfare) transfers, and by increasing their own labor supply.

I use the same logic to say that as long as she has some idea that the divorce (or union dissolution in my case as I include unmarried couples) is imminent, a woman should make compensatory decisions regarding the future loss of income, not just the immediate loss of income.

E.O. Ananat with Guy Michaels. “The Effect of Marital Breakup on the Income and Poverty of Women with Children.Journal of Human Resources 43.3 (2008): 611-629.

Equal Pay Day

The end of the semester is starting to kick my butt, so posting here might be a bit light in the next couple of weeks. On May 2, I’ll be in San Francisco for the PAAs. If anyone else is going, I’d love to meet up and chat.

Today is tax day, and I was super confused why until Matt Yglesias explained it for me. I was a bit stressed about filing my local tax return on time yesterday (which, I don’t even really understand. Why can’t the state just collect it and distribute? Commonwealths, I don’t get it. Whatever.). It’s unclear to me whether it would have been late had I sent it today, but I guess better not to know, right?

As well as tax day, by coincidence, today is Equal Pay Day. As you might guess, it’s something I can get behind. So I’ve collected some links about Equal Pay. I totally had just planned to slap them up here, but (see above) I can’t even put up a link list without pontificating on something.

  1. Me, last week, on proposed language for new work law in Venezuela, as presented by a consortium of women’s groups.
  2. Text of Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act of 2009 (pdf)
  3. Mitt Romney and advisers refusing to say whether he’d support Lily Ledbetter Act
  4. Tweets on #EqualPayDay and #fairpay
  5. Stevenson and Wolfers on the subsidies for the rich that are written into the tax code, a class issue, but Betsy has also been vocal about how it subsidizes one-earner, two-parent families, essentially penalizing women who work. (if you didn’t see her on Up with Chris Hayes this weekend, check it out, she’s kind of a rockstar. Like a nerdy rockstar economist, but you know what I mean).
  6. Gender wage gaps by state from the National Women’s Law Center (h/t @Fem2pt0)
  7. Some facts from the National Committee on Pay Equity
  8. Colbert on the War on Women, Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Act, and Glen Grothman
  9. Clara Jeffrey and Monika Bauerlain of Mother Jones on women in journalism. Part of a bigger discussion within journalism about women writers. Not going to close the pay gap if women aren’t writing the big stories, too. (Me, earlier, on distribution of women writers/editors/reviewers in big magazines)
  10. Raise the minimum wage, from Bloomberg (h/t @price_laborecon 10 & 11)
  11. How to end the gender pay gap in seven steps, awesome post on The Nation from Bryce Covert
  12. Feministing has a good list as well. I’ll let you look at them yourself rather than repost them all.
  13. And because no discussion of feminism, apparently, is complete without a reference to a Ryan Gosling meme, here’s a nod to the same. (h/t @ridahb)
  14. Last, but not least, the Department of Labor’s Equal Pay Day release.

I’m sure more will come up during the day, so I’ll update, and feel free to send good ones my way. If by some chance you haven’t dressed yet, AFSCME says wear red to stand up for equal pay.

Equal pay for equal work, including housework

My twitter feed is abuzz with Romney’s claim that Obama is really responsible for the war on women. While I noted a few weeks ago here that the recovery has been slightly weaker for women, it’s certainly not true that women’s employment has decreased under Obama or that any specific policies enacted have had the goal of decreasing women’s employment.

Brian Beutler has a good post about it up at TPM.

Male-dominated industries took a hard, early hit during the recession. As those industries rebound, more jobs are going to men than to women. Conversely, women lost a huge number of jobs in states and municipalities as a result of teacher layoffs — a hemorrhaging that could have been stanched by Obama-proposed legislation to spur teacher hiring, which the GOP blocked.

Meanwhile, I’m reading proposed Venezuelan legislation for the new Organic Work Law (Ley Orgánica de Trabajo or NLOT) and marveling at the language put forth by a consortium of women’s groups. Case in point, one of the goals of the proposed legislation:

Visibilizar el aporte de las trabajadoras del hogar no remunerado a la vida social, y garantizar sus derechos laborales.

My translation: “Make visible the contributions to the social fabric of unpaid, female home workers and guarantee their workers’ rights”

The text is filled with language that appears to have the goal of being inclusive particularly of women’s contributions in the home. It calls for giving those responsible for “reproduction and life care” access to social security payments, “equal pay for equal work”, and up to 14 months paid maternity leave  I don’t have enough understanding of the law to say whether it’s a “good law” per se, but it’s incredible that so many women’s groups in Venezuela agreed to this proposed language.

Note that this isn’t the law, and might not ever be. But someone’s talking about it.

The text of the proposed law, in Spanish, was sent to me by Florangel Parodi, former Venezuelan Minister for Women. I’m happy to pass it along if anyone is interested.