Banking on risky investments is no way to guarantee a public pension

October 26, 2015

Over the past several years I’ve spent a lot of time studying public pension systems. That’s involved diving into the economics and actuarial literature, reading through many individual plan reports, and analyzing the trends in those systems in the context of the principles of financial economics. Why do this? It isn’t just a public finance […]

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Teenage unemployment in cities

October 26, 2015

New research that examines New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) finds that participation in the program positively impacts student academic outcomes. As the authors state in the introduction, youth employment has many benefits: “Prior research suggests that adolescent employment improves net worth and financial well-being as an adult. An emerging body of research indicates […]

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Pennsylvania taxpayer’s new “boutique” apartments

October 8, 2015

Eric Blumenfeld Realty Management (EBRM) recently secured $44 million in financing to restore the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. According to the article: “EBRM will renovate the 9-story property into a boutique residential community comprised of 109-rental units to sit above 20,000 s/f of restaurant and retail space.” But Blumenfeld did not receive ordinary financing. Instead […]

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Scranton, PA and the failures of top-down planning

September 22, 2015

City officials in Scranton, PA are concerned that a recently released U.S. census map used as a basis for distributing federal grant money doesn’t reflect reality. The map was created using 2010 census data and identifies which neighborhoods meet the U.S. government’s criteria for low-to-moderate-income classification. Such neighborhoods are eligible to receive Community Development Block […]

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Post-Katrina HUD funding has underwhelmed in Gulfport

August 28, 2015

Hurricane Katrina made landfall 10 years ago and devastated much of the gulf coast. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, both public and private aid flooded into the effected areas. Not all of this aid was effective, and my colleagues at the Mercatus Center have meticulously analyzed what worked, what didn’t, and how the […]

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The cost disease and the privatization of government services

August 12, 2015

Many US municipalities are facing budget problems (see here, here, and here). The real cost of providing traditional public services like police, fire protection, and education is increasing, often at a rate that exceeds revenue growth. The graph below shows the real per-capita expenditure increase in five US cities from 1951 to 2006. (Data are […]

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Rent control, housing supply, and home values in Seattle and Houston

August 4, 2015

In my recent op-ed about rent control I point out that Houston, TX  permitted more home and apartment building than Seattle, WA from 2005 to 2014. The graph below shows the magnitude of this difference. The bars are the number of permits each year (the left axis) and the line is the ratio of Zillow’s home […]

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State government spending hits new heights

July 30, 2015

There is a large literature in macroeconomics that examines the extent to which federal spending “crowds out” investment in the private sector. Basic theory and common sense lead to the conclusion that government spending must replace some private sector spending. After all, dollars are scarce – if the government taxes Paul and uses his money […]

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Education, Innovation, and Urban Growth

July 20, 2015

One of the strongest predictors of urban growth since the start of the 20th century is the skill level of a city’s population. Cities that have a highly skilled population, usually measured as the share of the population with a bachelor’s degree or more, tend to grow faster than similar cities with less educated populations. […]

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Rent control: A bad policy that just won’t die

July 13, 2015

The city council of Richmond, CA is thinking about implementing rent control in their city. Richmond is located north of Berkeley and Oakland on the San Francisco Bay in an area that has some of the highest housing prices in the country. From the article: “Richmond is growing and becoming a more desirable place where […]

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