Christianity Today: What's a Congregation Worth?
Back in February 2010, Google announced its plans to build out a fiber-optic network for a city in the United States, promising connection speeds around 1Gb/s — 100 times faster than the broadband most people are used to. The announcement led 1,100 cities to apply, and today Google has just announced the winning city: Kansas City, Kansas. ...
Hmmm .... I may have to move .4 miles west to the other Kansas City.
The Money Illusion (Scott Sumner): Progressive wishful thinking
Progressive bloggers have many admirable characteristics. They try to rely on real science, not junk science. They look for public policies that reduce suffering. But when it comes to government they often become slightly unhinged, adopting the sort of “faith-based” reasoning that they tend to deride in conservatives. Recently I’ve notice three blog posts by Greg Mankiw that (directly or indirectly) challenged progressive faith in big government. All were derided by progressive bloggers, but in each case Mankiw was clearly right. ...
Interesting post. I've never understood how a strong faith in the provodential power of government is somehow a antidote to strong faith in the provdence of "invisible hands" in the market.
Scott Winship Web: Men's earnings have NOT declined by 28 percent since 1969
... But he ends by trumpeting Hamilton Project analyses claiming to show that men's earnings declined by 28 percent between 1969 and 2009. This claim, like the Mandel analyses, reinforces Cowen's argument that we are in a Great Stagnation, but it's not true! ...
... Here's the basic problem: the analyses assign all nonworking men annual earnings of $0, and since labor force participation among men has declined, the result is a big drop in median earnings over time. But a lot of that decline in labor force participation is attributable to earlier retirement (they include men as old as 64), later and longer school enrollment (they include men as young as 25), rising "disability" rates (which do not correspond in any obvious way with changes in health or job demands but which do correspond with increasing generosity in disability benefits), and other factors having nothing to do with the strength of labor markets. ...
... Note, however, that comparing 1969 and 2009 holds up a likely peak year (when the business cycle was at a high) to a trough year (when it was at a low). Comparing 1969 to 2007 is apples-to-apples, and when I did that, the median was EXACTLY the same in both years (to the dollar, which is a pretty crazy coincidence). Finally, if I use the Bureau of Economic Analysis "personal consumption expenditures" deflator, which I think overstates inflation somewhat less than other commonly-used deflators, median earnings among men rose 7 percent from 1969 to 2007.
Seven percent is no great shakes, but this figure is also too small for assessing how men's economic fortunes have changed over time. None of these analyses account for the fact that as a group, husbands reduced their hours over time in response to rising work and wages among wives. Nor do they account for the rising share of non-wage benefits in total compensation (health and retirement benefits have eaten into wages, presumably following the preferences of the median worker). Nor do they include the impact of taxes (which have declined) and tax credits (which have increased). In addition, even my figures may overstate inflation, ...
Economist: Hidden hunger
How much can farming really improve people’s health?
IN A market in southern Uganda two traders squat behind little piles of sweet potatoes and a sign that says “with extra vitamin A”. A passing shopper complains about the price: 10% more than ordinary sweet potatoes. Yes, say the traders, but they’re better, bred with extra vitamin A. The bargaining goes back and forth, but the struggle to improve the crop has already been won. Since 2007, when an outfit called HarvestPlus began distributing the “biofortified” rootcrop in Uganda and Mozambique, 50,000 farmers have started to plant it or crops like it. Vitamin A intake has soared and the produce commands a premium. The shopper eventually buys some.
Nutrition has long been the Cinderella of development. Lack of calories—hunger—is a headline-grabber, particularly as rising food prices push more people towards starvation. But the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies harms even more people and inflicts lasting damage on them and their societies. It, too, worsens as food prices rise: families switch from costly, nutrient-rich, fruit, vegetables and meat to cheaper, nutrient-poor staples. ...
New York Times Economix: More Americans Dropping Out of the Labor Force
I’ve written before about the very low share of Americans who are in the labor force right now. In February, for example, just 64.2 percent of adults were either in a job or actively looking for one, representing the lowest participation rate in 25 years.
This milestone has largely been attributed to the sour job market, which has discouraged many people from even looking for jobs. But to some extent the low participation rate may reflect more permanent changes to the work force. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office, for example, projects that the participation rate will continue to fall in the years ahead: ...
The report observes that the participation rate peaked at about 67 percent during the late 1990s and in 2000, since that’s when baby boomers were in their prime working-age years of 25 to 54. Women had also been entering the labor force at a rapid clip.
But since then the share of women who choose to work has fallen. In fact, it’s now at the lowest level in nearly 20 years. Meanwhile baby boomers are reaching retirement age and dropping out of the labor force. Additionally, the share of people under age 25 who are working or looking for work has also fallen: ...
This decline in labor force participation rates among the nation’s young people isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“That change appears mostly to reflect a long-term increase in school enrollment (particularly among teens in the summer months) and a declining tendency for students to work while they are enrolled in school,” the report says.
Still, the underlying structural changes mean in the coming decade there will be an ever-larger share of nonworking Americans supported by a shrinking share of working Americans.
Do I hear a renewed immigration debate coming?
Check out the article for several good graphs.
Our seminaries are dying and the Master of Divinity degree has been discredited. Will we make the necessary changes to better prepare leaders for the Church, or will we limp and wander into the future?
Our seminaries are dying and the Master of Divinity degree has been discredited.
Bishops and other church leaders once believed both were essential to effective ministry, but today they are considered one of several routes to ordination and an increasing number of church leaders are arguing that attending seminary may actually be detrimental to the process they once considered the gold standard.
A large number of the mainline seminaries are selling their buildings and property, cutting faculty, and eliminating degree programs. Those that are not, are competing for a shrinking pool of prospective students and rely on scholarships and lower academic standards to attract the students that they do have.
There are countless reasons for the crisis, some of them as old as the professional preparation of clergy itself.
In the quest for academic respectability, seminaries have not always remembered that preparing clergy was the mission and lifeblood of their institutional life. Some have focused on preparing scholars, which though essential, is secondary to its primary ministry of preparing new generations of spiritual leaders. Some have prepared students who lacked the practical skills to effectively lead a congregation. Others have produced students who were so poorly grounded in the Christian faith that they lacked the necessary spiritual formation to be effective. ...
A lengthy but interesting article. He gives his own prescription at the end. What do you think?
New York Times: Rising Wealth Inequality: Should We Care? (Tyler Cowen)
Why do Americans seem unperturbed about the growing gap between the rich and the poor?
First, a lot of Americans live very well, even if they don’t enjoy all of the benefits of the lifestyles of the very wealthy. It is quite possible that a person in the upper middle class is happier than a billionaire. ...
Second, a lot of envy is local. People worry about how they are doing compared to their neighbors, their friends, their relatives, their co-workers, and the people they went to high school with. ...
Third, many Americans draw an important distinction between earned wealth and unearned wealth. If someone has become a billionaire, but he worked hard for it and supplied a good or service of real value (say Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook), for the most part Americans will respect and admire that person. ...
Cheap Talk: Social Class And Attitudes About Inequality
To see the problem, suppose that your family’s history has led you to believe that individual effort matters very little for success. Then you have little incentive to work hard and you will be relatively unsuccessful. You will notice that some people are successful but you will attribute that to the luck of their social class. (However it easily could be that you are wrong and their success is due to their hard work.) Indeed even in your own family history you will record some episodes of upward mobility, but because your family doesn’t work hard you rightly attribute that to luck too. In a world with such inequality and where effort matters little you see a strong moral justification for redistribution and little incentive cost.
On the other hand if your family has learned, and teaches you, that effort matters you will optimally work hard. You will be more successful than average and you will attribute this to your hard work. (It easily could be that you are wrong and in fact the source of your success is just your social class.) You will see that other families are less successful on average and as a result you see the same moral reason for redistribution, but you think that effort matters and, understanding how redistribution reduces the incentive to work hard, you favor less redistribution than the median voter.
How does this contribute to the debate in the link above? This indeterminacy in attitudes toward redistribution means that differences across countries and over time are essentially arbitrary and due to factors that we can call culture. Inequality is high in the United States and low in Europe. You are tempted to say “and yet there is less outrage about inequality in the US than there is in Europe” but in fact you should say “precisely because there is…”
It's been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America. ...
When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees. ...
Wilcox's analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.
Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated. ....
I reviewed Wright's book last summer. It is really good stuff. You can find it at Amazon: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media
Tax Foundation: No Country Leans on Upper-Income Households as Much as U.S.
During my recent testimony before the Senate Budget Committee (found here), I cited an OECD statistic that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system among industrialized nations. This prompted one Senator to point out that if the richest 10% of taxpayers earn the most of any OECD country, shouldn't it make sense that they bear the largest tax burden of any country?
The answer can be found in the OECD table below. This table shows the share of taxes paid by the richest 10 percent of households, the share of all market income earned by that group, and the ratio of what that 10 percent of households pays in taxes versus what they earn as a share of the nation's income.
The first column shows that the top 10 percent of households in the U.S. pays 45.1 percent of all income taxes (both personal income and payroll taxes combined) in the country. ...
By contrast, column #2 shows that the richest decile in America earned 33.5 percent of the market income ...
Interestingly, countries with top personal income tax rates that are higher than in the U.S., such as Germany, France, or Sweden, have ratios that are closer to 1 to 1. Meaning, the share of the tax burden paid by the richest decile in those countries is roughly equal to their share of the nation's income. By contrast, we prefer to have the wealthiest households in this country pay a share of the tax burden that is one-third greater than their share of the nation's income.
Economist: Taming Leviathan
THE argument sounds familiar. The disruptive reforms that have so changed the private sector should now be let loose on the public sector. The relationship between government and civil society has been that between master and servant; instead, it should be a partnership, with the state creating the right environment for companies and charities to do more of its work. The conclusion: “We are in a transition from a big state to a small state, and from a small society to a big society.”
A Republican presidential candidate in America? David Cameron rallying Britain’s Tories? Neither: the speaker is supposedly China’s most highly regarded bureaucrat. Last year Ma Hong won the country’s national award for government innovation—a great coup for her department, which is trying to get more non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to take over parts of welfare, health and education services in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.
The award partly reflects the whirl of activity that is Ms Ma. She has dismantled most of the controls on local NGOs: rather than be sponsored by some government department, all they have to do is register with her. She began in 2004 with industrial associations, but has extended the net to include independent charities. Almost 4,000 “social groups” are now registered—nearly double the number in 2002, when they were all tied to the state. ...
... It is not hard to poke holes in China’s version of the Big Society, as we shall see later in this special report. But there is plainly a drive to make government work a little more like the private sector. “Just as a human has two legs, China has a very long economic one and a very short social one,” observes Ms Ma. “They should be of equal length.” ...
Very interesting article. Just starting in on the other articles that are part of the special report.
The Worrying Class in developed countries laments: "We don't make anything any more."
They fear that, as more people find employment in services, their nation loses the ability to provide for itself and gives up the "good jobs" which sustain the middle class.
They obsess about exports and trade imbalances while making a fetish of manufacturing and the blessings it brings to their country. But a quick look at the data shows that the developed world actually makes a great deal of stuff.
The United States alone produces roughly 20% of all the world's manufactured goods. We may not make many toys or cell phones any more, but we do make most of the world's artificial knees and hips, medical scanners and jet aircraft. Those sound like good jobs to me.
Manufacturing fetishists also ignore the fact that many factory jobs were actually not very good jobs at all. ...
... I wonder how many of the worriers want their children to grow up to tighten bolts in a factory instead of going to university and getting a job in the service sector?
The worrier's core error is the idea that manufacturing makes "real wealth" while service jobs only move things around.
This is simply wrong. There's nothing less real about service jobs.
Doctors, accountants and personal trainers create value for their customers just like auto workers do.
To quote George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux: "The value of a dollar's worth of cloth is exactly the same as a dollar's worth of web design. One dollar." ...
... This isn't the first time people have made a fetish of one particular industry and tried to stop the economy from evolving in strange new ways. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution a group of proto-economists known as the Physiocrats took agriculture as their fetish.
They claimed that real wealth only came from working the land and that the new rage for making things was diverting people from the one true economic activity.
I'm sure that if we could go back in time 10,000 years we would find a group of prehistoric economists convinced that real wealth only comes from harvesting food that has grown by itself and that all these people planting seeds are reducing the wealth of the tribe. ...
I think there is something else at work here. There is still a widely shared sense that objects have inherent economic value. Since a service entails no material object it can not have any inherent value. The value is socially constructed and therefore not real.
What this overlooks is that ALL economic value is socially constructed. How much is the Hope Diamond worth to you if you live stranded on a remote island with no chance of being found? Very little. How much is it worth if you live in modern market-driven economy? A great deal. What matters is the supply and demand according to people who trade in a market ... period! No market, no value.
It took centuries for this "price theory of value" to be come apparent to ancient thinkers. Even Adam Smith and Karl Marx did not quite grasp it. A great many today still have a hard time grasping it and it is a major source of confusion for economic thinking in public discussions.
Marketing Charts: Millennials Value Parenthood More than Marriage
Today’s 18-to-29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life, while 30% say the same about having a successful marriage .
This means there is a 73% gap in the way Millennials value parenthood more than marriage.
When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just 20%. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.
More significantly, 18-to-29-year-olds were much more likely to be married and/or have children in 1997 than 2010. Forty-one percent of Gen Xers had children in 1997, 14% more than the 36% of Millennials who had children in 2010. And 29% of Gen Xers were married in 1997, 32% more than 22% of Millennials who were married in 2010. ...
John H. Armstrong: The Church and the World of Business
I have personally engaged in a number of attempts to connect the field of business with the redemptive mission of Christ. The typical evangelical approach to applying one’s faith to vocational activity is admittedly facile. It primarily emphasizes personal piety and evangelism within the workplace rather than a genuinely kingdom centered perspective regarding divine calling, or vocation. This approach is utterly inadequate in transforming culture or in effectively bearing witness to the in-breaking of God’s reign in Christ.
What is needed is for men and women in the world of business to see their activity as a redemptive instrument in service of the kingdom. This is scarcely heard of in modern evangelicalism, much less encouraged. ...
... When will the church get into the world of business and make disciples who can transform this sphere of human endeavor?
Grover Cleveland at Pileus Blog points us to an interesting CNN video about Conscious Capitalism by Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey. Mackey discribes himself as a libertarian but unlike Mitlon Friedman believes that business has to be about more than maximizing shareholder value. Five years ago Friedman and Mackey debated each other at Reason: Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business. Here is the recent Mackey video at CNN:
The age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population fell to an all-time low of 741 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 — 2.3 percent lower than the 2008 rate, according to preliminary 2009 death statistics released today by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. This marks the 10th year in a row that U.S. deaths rates have declined.
Life expectancy at birth increased to 78.2 years in 2009, up slightly from 78.0 years in 2008. Life expectancy was up two-tenths of a year for males (75.7 years) and up one-tenth of a year for females (80.6 years). Life expectancy for the U.S. white population increased by two-tenths of a year. Life expectancy for black males (70.9 years) and females (77.4 years) was unchanged in 2009. The gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations was 4.3 years in 2009, two-tenths of a year increase from the gap in 2008 of 4.1 years.
The findings come from "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009," which is based on death certificates provided to NCHS through the National Vital Statistics Reporting System from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
The full report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs.
Christian Science Monitor: New nuclear plants may have withstood the Japan earthquake
The 9.0 Japan earthquake was dire but the current meltdown might have been avoided by new advances in nuclear plant technology.
The latest nuclear reactor designs could help avoid the overheating and explosions that have occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan following the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck on Friday. Newer reactor designs propose the use of passive cooling systems that would not fail after a power outage, as happened in Japan, as well as other novel approaches to managing reactor heat. ...
... The reactors at the nuclear plant, built in the early 1970s, rely on active cooling systems that require electricity. Newer plant designs would lessen or eliminate the need for active cooling, making use of natural convection or a "gravity feed" system to cool reactors in the event of an emergency.
In one design, for example, the relatively new Westinghouse AP1000, water is suspended over the reactor housing. If pressure within the system drops, this allows the water to fall into the reactor area, submerging it in enough water to keep it cool.
While passive systems could be better in the event of electrical failures, they might not always be the safest systems. Kadak says that in an active system, it's easier to ensure that coolant gets exactly where it needs to be—it's simply pumped to the right location. Designing passive systems, on the other hand, requires complex models of how fluids will behave in a system that could be rendered incorrect if the system is damaged.
Kadak says that even more advanced reactor designs could overcome these issues. ...
Mouw's Musings: The Orthodoxy of Rob Bell
I told the USA TODAY reporter that Rob Bell’s newly released Love Wins is a fine book and that I basically agree with his theology. I knew that the book was being widely criticized for having crossed the theological bridge from evangelical orthodoxy into universalism. Not true, I told the reporter. Rob Bell is calling us away from a stingy orthodoxy to a generous orthodoxy. ...
I haven't read Bell's book and probably won't get to it any time soon. I like Mouw's take in this post. I agree with his take on the subject of universalism.
Economist: What are cities good for?
IN COMMENTS, Stephen Morris asks:
What is the evidence that cities are more efficient ways of organising economic activity? Specifically, how do we know that - in this day-and-age of telecommunications - the existence of cities arises from superior efficiency in organising economic activity, and not merely from superior efficiency in organising rent-seeking?
It's a good question. How do we know cities are productive and not just centres for rent-seeking? The answer is simple: because they export. ...
... Why would a bottom-line oriented firm pay so much for land and labour? The only reasonable explanation is that they're getting something in return. There must be location-specific advantages that deliver productivity savings which compensate for higher costs. Otherwise, firms would move to cheaper locations, produce for less money, and undercut the Bay-area businesses. And what the research indicates is that skilled-worker productivity is often much higher in dense agglomerations. That's the benefit firms get. That's why the firms can afford to pay high wages. ...
... Incidentally, we have a pretty good idea what happens when location-specific advantages disappear, as they sometimes do. When transportation costs were higher, there were huge advantages to industrial agglomeration. But as transportation costs fell, those advantages weakened. As a result, producers began doing just what we'd expect them to do: moving their operations to lower cost areas and undercutting the high-cost urban firms. This destroyed the high-cost industrial firms and the high-cost economy that had grown up around them, producing hollowed out cities across the American midwest and northern Britain and Europe. Only in those cases where another industry with different location-specific advantages arose did cities recover. These new "knowledge" industries may themselves prove vulnerable at some point in the future. For the moment, however, the exporting capacity of metropolitan firms suggests that economies are deriving huge benefits from their cities.
With exports from low-wage countries like China on the rise, the question of what this means for trade and jobs in developed countries is a furious war of words. This column, using firm-level data for France between 1995 and 2005, shows that competition from low-wage markets actually boosts the sales of high-quality goods – but it concedes the benefits are not universal. ...
Our results show that, over 1995-2005, a period characterised by the surge of low-wage countries in international markets,
- France has specialised in the production of higher quality goods.
- This specialisation has had a positive impact on France’s export performances, dampening the fall of its market share in foreign markets.
Beyond the effect on aggregate trade, such adjustments in specialisation patterns are likely to have important macroeconomic consequences. Hausmann et al. (2007), for example, discuss how countries that specialise in higher quality goods can enjoy better growth performances in the long run. However, changes in the structure of production can also have important transitory effects. In particular, if the relative content of production in skilled and unskilled labour is not the same depending on the produced quality, a reallocation of production in favour of high quality goods is likely to modify labour-market equilibria (see Verhoogen 2008).
This may be part of the story when it comes to explaining the rising wage premium and employment inequalities between skilled and unskilled workers observed over the last 20 years in most developed countries.
Christianity Today: Not Many of You Should Presume to Be Bloggers
... James warned us, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1, NIV1984). James goes on to graphically portray the incredible power that our tongues have both to praise and to curse especially in the context of teaching. He then says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life." (James 3:13). Solomon echoes similar wisdom, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent" (Prov. 17:28).
Yet Facebook and Twitter do not encourage this kind of self-restraint. In fact, they encourage an opposing value system. Social media relentlessly asks us to publish our personal opinions on anything and everything that happens. There is no time for reflection in prayer, no place for discussion with other flesh and blood image bearers, and no incentive to remain silent.
You must declare your position, and you must declare it now.
We convince ourselves that by answering the questions social media asks us we are standing for truth alongside the great leaders of the church, but slowly and subtly as we respond to the prompts of our phones rather than our Bibles we begin to worship the false gods of immediacy, distraction, and celebrity in the Temple of Lord Zuckerberg. If you don't think the value system of technology affects you, ask yourself, If it was 2003 and some author wrote some book questioning some doctrine would I have felt compelled to publish my thoughts? ...
Economist: Internal affairs: Regional inequality
The gap between many rich and poor regions widened because of the recession.
THE differences between countries are often not as great as the disparities within them: each nation is divided by a common economy. An analysis by The Economist suggests that the gap between poorer and richer regions increased during the downturn in some developed economies. And the income gap between richer and poorer areas is likely to widen further as government-spending cuts disproportionately hurt less prosperous parts.
Regional data come with various health warnings attached. Comparing regions in different countries is tricky, because their size varies hugely. We mainly use the OECD definition of “small areas” (Britain is broken into more than 100 regions), except for America where data are available only on a state-by-state basis. Crude income numbers also ignore the fact that the cost of living is cheaper in rural parts than in big cities, which has the effect of exaggerating inequality. Urban areas are always likely to be wealthier than rural ones because of their higher productivity and their greater ability to attract companies and employees. ...
Lots of caveats to go with these stats. I'm not sure counting D.C. as a state is helpful. One thing I thought was interesting is the relative equality in Germany considering only twenty years of unification.
Economist: Rustbelt recovery
Against all the odds, American factories are coming back to life. Thank the rest of the world for that.
... For the first time in many years, American manufacturing is doing better than the rest of the economy. Manufacturing output tumbled 15% over the course of the recession, from December 2007 to the end of June 2009. Since then it has recovered two-thirds of that drop; production is now just 5% below its peak level (see chart 1).
Factory employment has been slower to recover than output, since productivity has risen. Nonetheless, that too is growing. In February factory payrolls rose by 33,000 from January. In the past year manufacturing employment has gone up by 189,000, or 1.6%, the biggest gain since the late 1990s. Total employment rose just 1% in that period. Unemployment has fallen more sharply than the national average in Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, which are relatively dependent on manufacturing. ...
... Beyond this cyclical bounce-back, though, a structural shift may also be under way. Makers of floorings, furniture and glass, all of which go into houses, were especially hard hit and have yet to start hiring again. But those that make things for businesses or customers overseas—computers, machinery, electronic equipment, heavy-duty trucks—are thriving. Cisco Systems and Intel Corporation notched up record sales last year. Caterpillar and John Deere, which makes diggers, bulldozers and farm equipment, saw sales leap. ...
Women may be half of the workforce, but they have largely been concentrated in lower-paying service jobs like waitresses, retail workers and administrative assistants. However, they could be moving up.
Women are beginning to pour into management and professional occupations that require more education and offer higher pay and status. In fact, women are now dominating some of the jobs that used to belong to men, according to the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. From finance and business operations to medical management, women now outnumber men in these 20 surprising jobs.
Accounting and tax preparation positions, for example, skew noticeably female. The Women’s Bureau cites accountants and auditors as 61.8% female, tax preparers as 65.9% female, and tax examiners and collectors as 73.8% female. In these positions, women earned a median of about $900 per week in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and workers can earn upwards of $50,000 per year. ...
Consider the Evidence: Inequality and mobility at the top
For the bulk of the population — everyone but the richest — we have multiple sources of mobility data. One is the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID); another is earnings records from the Social Security Administration. Both indicate that there has been no increase in income mobility in recent decades (see also here).
What about at the top? A good bit of the past generation’s rise in inequality consists of growing separation between the rich, especially the top 1%, and the rest of America. But has this been accompanied by increased churn among those at the top? ...
... The large increase in income inequality has not been offset by a rise in mobility at the top.
Tyler Cowen has written two posts that highlight mistakes he thinks economists make from the left and from the right. Interesting reading.
Library of Economics and Liberty: Do Labor Unions Promote the Middle Class?
... What Hacker and Pierson have done here is point to one effect of unions--labor economists call it the "threat effect"--but left out another that is stronger. But to see why, we need to back up and think about what unions have been in the United States since the 1930s. Unions, as economists, even many who are pro-union, have pointed out are legal monopolies. As pro-union Harvard economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff, put it, "Most, if not all, unions have monopoly power, which they can use to raise wages above competitive levels." They have this monopoly power mainly because the federal government gives them the power, not the right, to be the sole bargaining agent for workers in a plant or company, even if many of the workers don't want to be represented. These workers tend to be "the unseen." But because the unions drive wages above competitive levels, they cause some of the workers to be put out of work. ...
... What do these workers do? Sit and eat bon-bons the rest of their lives? No, they go out and find other work. If they find work in the non-union sector, that drives down wages there. Indeed, one of the main findings of the late H. Gregg Lewis, the famous labor economist at the University of Chicago, is that unions in their heyday, the 1950s and early 1960s, caused union wages to be 10 to 15 percent higher and non-union wages to be 3 to 4 percent lower. ...
... For US firms, the decision to manufacture overseas has long seemed a no-brainer. Labor costs in China and other developing nations have been so cheap that as recently as two or three years ago, anyone who refused to offshore was viewed as a dinosaur, certain to go extinct as bolder companies built the future in Asia. But stamping out products in Guangdong Province is no longer the bargain it once was, and US manufacturing is no longer as expensive. As the labor equation has balanced out, companies—particularly the small to medium-size businesses that make up the innovative guts of America’s technology industry—are taking a long, hard look at the downsides of extending their supply chains to the other side of the planet. ...
Kansas City Star: Surplus stuff stirs up charity debate
"...Some critics called a foul on the NFL-World Vision play, saying that while 100,000 brand-new T-shirts for needy people abroad sounds like a lovely idea, it actually does more harm than good.
The NFL has valued the shirts at $20 apiece, despite claims from critics that the shirts are basically unsellable and therefore essentially worthless. As a rule, World Vision does not accept donations of used clothing or other items.
“Shipping unwanted goods overseas is … not smart aid,” Saundra Schimmelpfennig wrote on her blog, Good Intentions Are Not Enough (www .goodintents.org).
“This partnership is a win-win for both World Vision and the merchandisers. The merchandisers get to print 100,000 unneeded T-shirts every year without having to shoulder the full cost, and World Vision gets $2 million worth of program costs to improve their expense ratios. And they both get free PR with photos and news stories of happy people receiving the unsellable T-shirts.”
Schimmelpfennig and other critics argue that T-shirts are readily available in most of the countries World Vision and other relief groups serve. The NFL donation will flood local marketplaces with unneeded (and unwanted, at least by U.S. consumers) goods, driving down the prices at which local merchants can sell their wares. ..."
Detroit Free Press: Shopping comes to health care: More hospitals post prices, negotiate costs
... In some of the most significant changes in decades, hospital systems are beginning to post their prices publicly and offer a range of help, including big discounts to uninsured and underinsured people with limited household incomes.
Health insurers also have embraced the trend. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Health Alliance Plan, Priority Health and Aetna are among those with improved Web sites that provide the average cost of a procedure. Some sites even zoom in on local prices when visitors type in their ZIP code.
"It's a fundamental shift" in how health care prices are set and publicized, said Stephen Hathaway, chief revenue officer for the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System. ...
... Traditionally hospital pricing has been based on what the industry calls "charges" -- the sticker price hospitals would love to get from everyone -- not lower rates negotiated with insurers.
What's coming is more information about average costs insurers typically pay for a medical service, along with information about doctor fees. Still, the information can be confusing, and prices can vary widely for all kinds of reasons, from the use of organized labor to hospitals' care for uninsured people, which may be passed on to other customers.
"Our hope is that people will make the right decision based on price and quality," Jeff Rubleski, Blues director of sales strategy, said of the price listings. "When a member sees a huge variance" in a service, "questions can be asked," he said. "It enables and empowers the member in ways we didn't see in health care 10 years ago."
He and others say transparency on health prices eventually will eliminate big cost differences among providers because no one will want to look as if their prices are out of line with going rates. ...
An actual market for healt care services. It comes with the patient having more control and it lowers the costs since health care suppliers having to compete for patients. What a novel idea. ;-)
What does ministry look like for my congregation in our changing context? Congregations across the PCUSA are asking the same question. I spent two days earlier this week in Indianapolis at the “Next” conference where Presbyterians explored this question together. My seven years of service on the General Assembly Mission Council has been dominated by questions about the future of joint ministry done at denominational and regional levels in partnership with congregations. Where do we begin?
My presbytery, Heartland Presbytery, has begun by contracting with the Vital Churches Institute to participate in The Acts 16:5 Initiative. Several congregations have formed teams consisting of a pastor and up to six congregational members who enter a three year discernment and transformation process. Some of the participating congregations are growing in number with healthy budgets, some are struggling to survive, most are somewhere in between. The idea is for these congregations to work as a cohort with the Vital Churches Institute periodically returning to coach them. The Institute is presently working with more than thirty presbyteries (as I recall) in a similar capacity.
We had the kickoff event for The Acts 16:5 Initiative last month. The two day event was in three modules intended to awaken congregations to present realities, to heighten expectations for their future, and to help set congregations on a path of continual discernment and refinement of vision. (And, no, we aren’t talking about a “vision statement” being the ultimate culmination of our work.) The final session of the event offered a menu of first steps, small and practical, that congregations might immediately take toward transforming life together. Their central theme is that “We must be the people of God before we do the work of the people of God.” Later consultations take the cohort deeper. I’m not going to recount all they presented but here are three interesting pieces I really appreciated.
First, if you’ve read much about church transformation, you’ve seen some variation of the bell curve graph that depicts the church life cycle, starting with growth, leading to stability, and ending with decline. Here it was called incline, recline, and decline. (While this frequently gets reduced to simple numbers, each stage is about more than just congregational size.) There is nothing inevitable about the cycle. Congregations in recline or decline can find a J-Curve that sets them on a new incline. Churches already on an incline can extend the incline.
Stan Ott, the Institute’s founder, suggested that we tend to use this model to look at the congregation only as an aggregate when in fact congregations exist as cells of members (like youth group, Presbyterian Women, deacons, etc.) We need to look at segments of the congregation in terms of the curve. Some cells may be quite vibrant while others may be seriously struggling. What is needed for each cell? What cells need to be let go? What cells need to be birthed? It is the combination of these cells that adds up to the aggregate picture.
Second, we were presented with a diagram of three overlapping circles that represent the three dimensions of the church:
They are inseparable, yet conceptually distinct, dimensions. We are doing all three when gathered and doing all three when dispersed. As I listen to many pundits speak on the need for change, I usually hear one or two of these dimensions being lifted up to the diminution of the others. This is a helpful construct for avoiding that mistake.
Third, their was diagram that showed a “Spectrum of Ministry and Mission.” It begins with big circles that shrink down to the individual and then expand again at the other end of the spectrum. The first three are the “Church Gathered” and the last three are the “Church Scattered”:
I find this a helpful construct for thinking about the various types of ministry we do.
As someone who has read tons on congregational transformation and seen many models come and go, and as someone who spent almost a decade working for transformation in a congregation that finally dissolved, and as someone who has consulted and participated with other struggling congregations, I come with some skepticism toward transformational programs. My impression is that Vital Churches has incorporated the best of what has been learned from previous transformational efforts. I think a key piece they offer that fills a critical gap in other processes is the development of a cohort of congregations who go through the process together with periodic input by a coach over an extended period.
I’m looking forward to serving on our congregation’s team and seeing how this all unfolds. You can learn more about The Acts 16:5 Initiative here. You can also find out more about denominational resources at The Office of Evangelism and Church Growth and at Presbygrow.
Thinking Praying Living: Though none go with me
... I increasingly believe that many of the struggles we face as a denomination are the aftershocks of our dislocation from the center of American culture. Many Presbyterians have been so used to the congruence between middle class white American culture and the Presbyterian Church that our movement away from the center is extremely disorienting. This disorientation causes deep confusion about identity and mission. We are no longer the chaplain to the culture. ...
... We have to find what God is calling us to when we’re no longer important. For many Presbyterians, this reality is painful and unwelcome. But it can also bring us to a more faithful clarity about identity and mission. Free from the expectations to of the past, we may be able to follow Jesus more closely.
The other night as I rested uneasily in bed, the words of a Gospel song my Holiness missionary parents taught me as a young child kept flitting through my head, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” The second verse stuck in my head,
Though none go with me,
still I will follow.
Though none go with me,
still I will follow.
No turning back,
no turning back. ...
Good stuff, Charles. That song was common in my Holiness origins as well. Maybe Presbyterians need to learn some of those old Holiness favorites. ;-)
From Greg Mankiw's textbook:
"Trade is, in some ways, a form of technology. When a country exports wheat and imports textiles, it is as if it had invented a form of technology for turning wheat into textiles. A country that eliminates trade restrictions will, therefore, experience the same kind of economic growth that would occur after a major technological advance."
"It is sometimes argued that although free trade technological progress has some victims, its benefits exceed its costs, so it is possible for its winners to compensate its losers out of their gains, everyone thereby coming out ahead in the end. ...
Presbyterian News Service: What’s next?
350 turn out in Indianapolis to talk about PC(USA)’s future
With the world and the church changing too rapidly for most Presbyterians to keep up, more than 350 gathered at Second Presbyterian Church here for two days this week for conversations about “the next Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
The NEXT gathering included more than 70 seminarians, making it demographically the youngest gathering of Presbyterians since the Presbyterian Youth Triennium.
The 30-hour event Feb. 28-March 1 was loosely structured around three broad topics ― mission, vocation and connection ― and was heavy on worship. “Whatever the next church is going to be, it’s going to be a worshiping church,” said the Rev. John Wilkinson of Rochester, N.Y., and a member of the conference planning team. ...
I was at this event. Pretty good report by PNS. I worked on a post about my experience but I decided not to publish. I want to let things simmer awhile.
I can say that the folks at Second Pres in Indy are absolutely exceptional at providing hospitality. This was an exceptionally well run event.
Christian Post: Theologians Launch Blog to Tackle Biblical Illiteracy
In an effort to combat biblical illiteracy, a group of 30 seminary professors have made themselves available to provide free education to the public.
The free education comes in the form of a blog – launched this week – with regular posts on anything from prayer and spiritual formation to historical theology and biblical exposition.
"At a time when biblical literacy is at an all time low and there are so many muddled, uninformed views of the Bible, something like The Good Book Blog is such a breath of fresh air," said author of Hipster Christianity and blogger Brett McCracken.
The Good Book Blog features daily posts by faculty from Biola University's Talbot School of Theology. ...
... So it may be that stories of terrifying doom and gloom just don’t have the effect of spurring people into action, and that people respond better to a story that offers some hope. And this may be true regardless of their initial world view. They also did other studies that backed these findings in different ways. And by the way it also seems really scary anti smoking advertisements can actually backfire if they clash with people’s underlying beliefs.
They also found that in climate change framing environmentalism as patriotic can be more effective than appealing to fear as a motive. We don’t know that this works beyond the US, in that patriotism may not be such a powerful force outside of the US. ...
I think there is a lot of truth to this. I think there is also the issue that when an apocalyptic future is forecast with only a radical (and ultimately unrealistic) reorganization of human existence offered as the solution, people experience alarm fatigue. It's easier to just tune out altogether than to do a few things that might improve the situation.
Marginal Revolution: Globalization and the Expanding Moral Circle
... What is the effect of globalization on the moral circle? Does trade melt barriers and expand the moral circle or does globalization make "the other" a more salient division allowing politicians to demonize and control through xenophobia? ...
... The authors conclude:
...not only is living in a more globalized country associated with more cooperation at the world level, but the same relationship holds as the degree of individual global connectedness increases as well. The cosmopolitan hypothesis receives clear support from our experiments.
... our findings suggest that humans' basic “tribal social instincts” may be highly malleable to the influence of the processes of connectedness embedded in globalization. ...
Matt Ridely offers more evidence of this in The Rational Optimist. There is an experiment used in economic studies called the ultimatum game. There are two players. The first player is offered $1,000. He may keep it all or divide it between him and the other player. The second player can except the division of the money but neither player gets any money if he rejects the split.
From a purely economic standpoint, the second player should accept the split even if he is offered just one dollar. He still comes out one dollar ahead. Even if he isn't offered anything, he still isn't out any money. Yet when the experiment has been run in cultures around the world, the second player will veto the transaction if some minimum threshold of the distribution isn't met. Some degree of obligatory sharing seems universal.
What Ridley points out is that the distribution threshold varies considerably by culture. What makes the difference? Ridely says that people who live in advanced commercial economies are more generous toward the second player than are people from more tribal contexts. People from commercial economies are likely to offer something close to a 50/50 split. They have been socialised to value cooperation with complete strangers as they work to accomplish their ends. Yet studies done with remote tribes who engage in little trade show 85/15 splits were offered and accepted. A particularly interesting study was the whale-hunting Lamalera where a 42/58 split prevailed. Their society requires the coordination of large teams of hunters and by giving the second player more, the first player was building a social obligation to help down the road. (See Ridley's book 86-87.)