More labor market freedom means more labor force participation

December 8, 2016

The U.S. labor force participation (LFP) rate has yet to bounce back to its pre-recession level. Some of the decline is due to retiring baby-boomers but even the prime-age LFP rate, which only counts people age 25 – 54 and thus less affected by retirement, has not recovered. Economists and government officials are concerned about […]

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Eight years after the financial crisis: lessons from the most fiscally distressed cities

November 17, 2016

You’d think that eight years after the financial crisis, cities would have recovered. Instead, declining tax revenues following the economic downturn paired with growing liabilities have slowed recovery. Some cities exacerbated their situations with poor policy choices. Much could be learned by studying how city officials manage their finances in response to fiscal crises. Detroit […]

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What else can the government do for America’s poor?

October 30, 2016

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 welfare reforms, which has generated some discussion about poverty in the U.S. I recently spoke to a group of high school students on this topic and about what reforms, if any, should be made to our means-tested welfare programs. After reading several papers (e.g. here, here […]

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Fixing decades of fiscal distress in Scranton, PA

October 25, 2016

In new Mercatus research, Adam Millsap and I and unpack the causes for almost a quarter of a century of fiscal distress in Scranton, Pennsylvania and offer some recommendations for how the city might go forward. Since 1992, Scranton has been designated as a distressed municipality under Act 47, a law intended to help financially struggling […]

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Loyalton, CA and the cost of faulty actuarial assumptions

October 21, 2016

The New York Times has an interesting piece on the pension troubles facing the small town of Loyalton, California (population 769). Loyalton has seen little economic activity since its sawmill closed in 2001. In 2010 the city made a decision to exit Calpers saving the city $30,000. The City Council thought that the decision to exit would […]

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Women are driving recent increase in age 25-54 labor force participation

October 7, 2016

Josh Zumbrun from the WSJ posted some interesting labor market charts that use data from today’s September jobs report. The one that jumped out at me was the one below, which shows the prime-age (age 25-54) employment and labor force participation (LFP) rate. In a related tweet he notes that the 25 – 54 LFP […]

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Pension funding practices and investment risk

October 6, 2016

A recent paper by Donald J. Boyd and Yimeng Yin of The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at SUNY  investigates how public pension funding practices contribute to big funding gaps and the need for sudden contribution increases. This is a situation public sector plans find themselves in due to three reasons 1) muddling the […]

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Privatizing Water Facilities Can Help Cash-Strapped Municipalities

October 5, 2016

In my latest Forbes piece I discuss water privatization in the U.S. and why it is often a good idea. “A public-private partnership has several benefits versus a completely public system. First, private firms often operate in many different jurisdictions, which means they have more experience and are able to institute best practices based on their […]

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New York’s Buffalo Billion initiative has been underwhelming

September 28, 2016

New York’s Buffalo Billion plan has come under fire amidst an ongoing corruption probe looking into whether some contracts were inappropriately awarded to political donors. The investigation has led to funding delays and there are reports of some contractors and companies rethinking their investments. But even without these legal problems, it is unlikely that the […]

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Economic Freedom, Growth, and What Might Have Been

September 16, 2016

Economists are obsessed with growth. And for good reason. Greater wealth doesn’t just buy us nicer vacations and fancier gadgets. It also buys longer life spans, better nutrition, and lower infant mortality. It buys more time with family, and less time at work. It buys greater self-reported happiness. And as Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman has […]

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