Over the past few decades, India has witnessed a paradoxical trend: even as real incomes have grown, average calorie intake has declined. UMass Amherst Economics Professor Deepankar Basu and co-author Amit Basole ’12 PhD, investigate this phenomenon using a panel data set for 28 Indian states running over the period 1993-2009 in their paper, The Calorie Consumption Puzzle in India: An Empirical Investigation. Results show that a food budget squeeze (rapidly increasing expenditure of non-food essential items like education, transportation, and healthcare that leaves less for food) and declining home grown food consumption can explain the puzzle. The authors do not find evidence for strong effects of diet diversification or declining calorie needs. Their research has been cited in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (10/22/12) and the Times of India (10/27/12).
A new report from the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst says U.S. commercial banks and large nonfinancial corporations have been carrying huge cash hoards and other liquid assets, totaling $1.4 trillion. At the same time, small businesses have been locked out of credit markets, preventing them from expanding. In the report, UMass Amherst Economics Professor Robert Pollin, James Heintz ’01 PhD, Heidi Garrett-Peltier ’10 PhD and Jeannette Wicks-Lim ’05 PhD of PERI examine the impact that mobilizing these excess liquid assets into productive investments could have on job creation. They find that if we moved those liquid assets into business expansions, U.S. employment could expand by about 19 million jobs by the end of 2014, with unemployment falling below 5 percent. (Physorg.com, 12/7/11; News Office release)
Given the recent attention to potential cuts to the federal defense budget, UMass Amherst Economics Professor Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier ’10 PhD of the Political Economy Research Institute revisit their assessment of the employment-creation potential of military spending. As in the previous editions of this study (2007 and 2009), they find, unequivocally, that government spending on the military is a far weaker engine of job growth than are investments in clean energy, health care, or education, and is even weaker than spending the same amount on household consumption. Pollin and Garrett-Peltier also find that alternative productive investments create a much larger number of jobs across all pay ranges. (AOL, Times Argus (Vt.), Alter Net, 11/29/11; Lawyers, Guns and Money, 11/30/11; CBSNews.com, 11/4/11; CNN.com, 11/3/11)
“Environmental Justice” looks at unequal access to a clean environment by race and class. President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 made EJ a federal priority.
The UMass Amherst team is part of a three-university consortium for research on EJ. Boyce and Ash co-direct the Corporate Toxics Information Project of the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst.
The other two lead researchers are Paul Mohai of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, a pioneer of EJ research and the lead investigator for the project; and Manuel Pastor, Jr., who heads the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (and holds a 1984 Ph.D. in Economics from UMass Amherst).
Boyce, Ash, and their collaborators will use a unique dataset from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators’ project (RSEI) to examine the social, economic, and geographic structure of exposure to industrial toxic releases in the United States.
According to Boyce, “The RSEI data give an extraordinary window into both who is on the receiving end of toxic industrial pollution and who is on the sending end. No other data permit this type of analysis. Our research will be useful to environmental justice scholars, community activists, and socially responsible managers and investors.”
Ash, who is also appointed in the Center for Public Policy and Administration, notes, “This research can improve understanding of the dynamics of environmental inequality, with broader impacts in public policy, community health, and corporate environmental performance.”
Boyce and Ash’s Corporate Toxics Information Project (CTIP) publishes the Toxic 100. CTIP emphasizes the use of right-to-know information to improve environmental performance. As Boyce describes it, “Our aim is to move from the ‘right to know’ to the ‘right to clean air and water.’”
A new study by Heidi Garrett-Peltier ’10 PhD, assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute, finds that infrastructure projects with major bicycling and walking components are more labor-intensive than “road-only” building projects. The study says the bicycling and walking oriented work generates about 46 percent more jobs overall. (Bikeportland.org [Ore.], Post-Gazette [Pittsburgh], 6/20/11)
Jeannette Wicks-Lim ’05 PhD and assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute, is cited in a report on the occupations most likely to gain from unionization including nursing aides, office clerks, accounting clerks and janitors. (Suite101.com, 5/30/11)
Most of the job growth that will occur in the United States by the year 2016 will be in low-paying occupations. Unions could improve overall job quality.
Unions have historically existed to protect workers from unsafe working conditions, unfair treatment, low pay and insufficient benefits. According to AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s largest organized unions, over 36 percent of public employees are unionized compared to only 6.9 percent of private sector workers.
This is primarily due to the fact that private sector labor laws do not prohibit employers from using intimidation and harassment to prevent unionization. While educators continue to represent a large portion of unionized workers, according to a 2009 educational study written by Jeannette Wicks-Lim at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the following four occupations stand to gain the greatest benefit from union representation: nursing aids/personal home health care aids, general office clerks, janitors, and accounting clerks.
Jeannette Wicks-Lim ’05 PhD, Political Economy Research Institute, writes a column about the need for a green jobs program to provide employment and to counter pollution and reliance on fossil fuels. (Dollars & Sense, Sept./Oct. issue)
We Need a (Green) Jobs Program
Clean-energy investment would promote job growth for a wide swath of the U.S. workforce.
By Jeannette Wicks-Lim
Fourteen months of an unemployment rate at or near 10% clearly calls for the federal government to take a lead role in job creation. The White House should push its clean-energy agenda as a jobs program but steer clear of all the hype about “green-collar” jobs. Green-collar jobs are widely perceived as job opportunities accessible only to an elite segment of the U.S. workforce—those with advanced degrees, such as environmental engineers, lab technicians, and research scientists. Such jobs are inaccessible to the 52% of unemployed workers with no college experience. The truth is, however, that clean-energy investments could serve as a powerful engine for job growth for a wide swath of the U.S. workforce.
My colleagues at the Political Economy Research Institute and I examined a clean-energy program that includes making buildings more energy efficient, expanding and improving mass transit, updating the national electric grid, and developing each of three types of renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and biomass fuels. Here’s what we found. Read more…
Catherine Haskins’ (2010 PhD) dissertation, “Household Employer Payroll Tax Evasion: An Exploration Based on IRS Data and on Interviews with Employers and Domestic Workers” has recently received national attention. Haskins finds that nanny tax evasion is on the rise, leading to both budgetary and societal concerns. In last 15 years, the number of households paying the 15.3% tax (which is withheld for Medicare and Social Security) has decreased by more than half. Just as concerning, workers who are paid under-the-table are not eligible for unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, or access to Social Security and Medicare. (New York Times, 8/30/10; NPR, 8/19/10; Johnston’s Take 8/16/10)
Arjun Jayadev ’05 Ph.D. and his colleague at the Roosevelt Institute, Mike Konczal, are co-authors of the working paper, The Boom Not The Slump: The Right Time For Austerity, recently cited in Paul Krugman’s New York Times blog entry, Expansionary Austerity?
Jayadev and Konczal’s paper critiques the idea that large-scale deficit reductions are associated with economic expansion which is a conclusion drawn from the Alberto F. Alesina and Silvia Ardagna (2009) paper, “Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes Versus Spending.” Alesina & Ardagna’s research has led many popular commentators to suggest that the U.S. can adopt such a policy and grow.
Not likely, according to Jayadev. In fact, the opposite may be true. If the U.S. proceeds to take steps to reduce the deficit during this economic slump, we may actually experience a decline in growth. “When you look at three years after the deficit reduction episodes, quite often growth rates actually slow down compared with three years before. So, if we were to reduce the deficit immediately there is a distinct possibility that may happen here. This is especially the case since in the last two months there has been a distinct slowdown in the United States.”
With the U.S. economy still struggling, it is obviously important to question how best to proceed. The Jayadev-Konczal paper provides an alternative perspective to those advocating an immediate deficit reduction. “There is a debate right now and certainly there will be policy decisions made after November. The economy has not recovered as people had hoped as the stimulus was too small for that to occur (this is not 20-20 hindsight since many people noted it at the time). Now we are going to have to look at another round of stimulus money or cutting back. What our paper shows is that there is no historical evidence provided by the advocates of deficit reduction that cutting back in a similar situation that the U.S. is in has ever led to growth and debt reduction.”
UMass Amherst economics alumnus, Curtis Haynes Jr. ’81, ’93G, was appointed to the City of Buffalo’s Common Council on January 14, 2010. He represents the Ellicott District and his current term runs through the end of the year. Dr. Haynes is also an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at Buffalo State College.