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World’s jobless to rise amid economic uncertainty, growing inequality – UN labour report


The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) released its 2017 World Employment and Social Outlook report today, which finds economic growth trends lagging behind employment needs and predicts both rising unemployment and worsening social inequality throughout 2017.

“We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic and social crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new labour market entrants every year,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

According to the report, global growth domestic product (GDP) growth reached a six-year low last year, well below the rate that was projected in 2015. Forecasters continue to revise their 2017 predictions downwards and uncertainty about the global economy persists, generating worry among experts that the economy will be unable to employ a sufficient number of people and that growth will not lead to inclusive and shared benefits.

Throughout 2017, global unemployment is expected to rise by 3.4 million. The increase, while a modest 5.7 to 5.8 per cent, is due to deteriorating labour market conditions in emerging countries – particularly those in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, unemployment is expected to fall in developed countries – especially in Northern, Southern, and Western Europe, the United States, and Canada.

In addition, the figure of 1.4 billion people who are employed in vulnerable working conditions is not expected to decrease. That number represents 42 per cent of all employment for 2017.

“Almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries,” said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report. That statistic is even worse for emerging countries. Those living in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are facing the greatest risk.

While the number of people living in poverty has been declining in recent years, rates of progress have begun to slow and are expected to continue to diminish in 2017. In developing countries, the rate of poverty is actually increasing.

Since 2009, the percentage of the working-age population willing to migrate abroad for work has risen in almost every region in the world. That trend was most prominent in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Arab States.

The report also points out a number of social inequalities that are creating barriers to growth and prosperity. Gender gaps in particular are affecting the labour market. In Northern Africa, women in the labour force are twice as likely as men to be unemployed. That gap is wider still for women in Arab States. As a result of these and other social inequalities across a wide range of demographics, the ILO estimates that the risk of social unrest or discontent is growing in almost all regions.

“Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion. This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs,” said Mr. Ryder. “Persistent high levels of vulnerable forms of employment combined with clear lack of progress in job quality – even in countries where aggregate figures are improving – are alarming. We need to ensure that the gains of growth are shared in an inclusive manner.”

The ILO advocates policy approaches that address root causes of secular stagnation as well as structural impediments to growth.

“Boosting economic growth in an equitable and inclusive manner requires a multi-faceted policy approach that addresses the underlying causes of secular stagnation, such as income inequality, while taking into account country specificities,” said Mr. Toobin.

Such progress, the ILO emphasized, is only possible through international cooperation. A coordinated effort to provide fiscal stimuli and public investments would go a long way to provide an immediate jump start to the global economy and could eliminate an anticipated rise in unemployment for two million people.


Date         :              January 12, 2017

Source     :               UN News Centre


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Education access problem ‘is poverty, not gender’


UN plan to eradicate gender inequality misses larger problem of low access rates linked to poverty, University of Cambridge experts warn

When the United Nations began its push to improve access to higher education in the world’s poorest countries last year, it was hailed as a historic moment by many education experts.

Never before had the UN set itself targets to increase participation in tertiary-level education. Instead, it had focused almost exclusively on making sure that children around the world had the chance to gain a decent education at a primary or secondary school, while efforts around post-18 education were centred on technical or vocational training.

By including a goal of achieving “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” as part of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, there is hope that university attendance can be boosted across the globe, particularly for women.

However, the UN’s focus on eradicating gender inequality in education – a cause championed by Michelle Obama, America’s outgoing first lady, among others – may in fact cause governments to lose sight of more pernicious educational inequalities, two University of Cambridge educationalists have warned.

According to a study by Sonia Ilie and Pauline Rose, from Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, educational inequalities concerning poverty are far greater than those regarding gender.

Using data from the Young Lives project, a University of Oxford longitudinal study tracking about 12,000 children born in 1994 over their entire education, Dr Ilie and Professor Rose found that women’s participation in higher education often exceeded men’s, although the participation gap remained huge when income was considered.

For instance, only 2 per cent of Ethiopia’s poorest fifth of male 19-year-olds are in higher education, but 9 per cent of its poorest female 19-year-olds are. Meanwhile, 22 per cent of the richest 19-year-old men and 30 per cent of the richest 19-year-old women are at university.

Income was also a key factor in Vietnam, where some 8 per cent of the poorest 19-year-old men are in higher education compared with 14 per cent for women from low-income families, the Young Lives data show. In comparison, participation rates for richer 19-year-olds stood at a fairly healthy 48 per cent and 56 per cent for men and women, respectively.

“We need to keep on focusing on gender inequalities, but it is clear that the gaps in educational outcomes are far larger when you compare different income groups,” Dr Ilie told Times Higher Education.

Those educational inequalities are particularly apparent at primary school level, where income was far more important than gender in determining whether children went to school or not, said Dr Ilie, who presented her results at the Society for Research into Higher Education’s annual research conference in Wales last month.

“The push to get everyone into primary schooling has fundamentally altered the education landscape, and many more young children are going to school,” she said.

“Later on in the education system, the figures tend to favour boys, but the gender gap is starting to get a lot smaller,” she added.

Throwing the UN’s weight behind ensuring equal access to higher education for both sexes was likely to have an impact on this problem, even if it was not the most pressing challenge faced by these countries, which is poverty-related inequalities, Dr Ilie added.

“Whenever there is an explicit focus on a target like this, you see an increase in monitoring activity and governments look in more depth about what is happening,” she explained.

Offering quality universal education was particularly important for improving access to university as only 5 per cent of those not enrolled in school by the age of eight made it into higher education, the Young Lives information showed, said Dr Ilie.

“If you do not start learning very early, it is a huge missed opportunity and your chances of reaching higher education diminish hugely,” she explained.

“We also need to focus on what is happening in schools – it’s not enough to simply master basic numeracy and literacy as you need to acquire a good grasp of higher-level maths to improve your chance of getting into university,” she added.

Education targets laid out in the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, agreed in September 2015

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
  • By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university


By            :               Jack Grove

Date         :               January 12, 2017

Source     :               Times Higher Education

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How students’ aspirations exacerbate social inequality


Q: How do differences in students’ aspirations affect social inequality in school?

A: While the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) show that Singapore outperforms most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, including the territory of Hong Kong, in both mathematics and reading, they also show that Hong Kong clearly outperforms Singapore in terms of social equity.

Indeed, the report shows that while socio-economic status (SES) explains only 5 per cent of the variation in science performance in Hong Kong, it explains 17 per cent of the variation in Singapore.

So, parents’ social status matters much more here than in Hong Kong for academic success. This is a significant finding and one supported by recent economic literature, which explores a new potential mechanism to explain social inequalities at school, namely: students’ aspirations.

In new research, we show that an aspiration failure reinforces social inequalities at school.

Using data on 14-year-old students in France in their last year of secondary school, we first find evidence that aspirations affect test scores as well as the probability to follow an academic track in high school, meaning that aspirations do matter. This is one way in which social inequalities in aspirations can affect social inequalities in school achievements between secondary school and higher education.

Specifically, we show that social inequalities in aspirations exist even among equally achieving classmates and then disentangle several factors leading to these inequalities.

First, students from different social backgrounds do not have the same existing options on top of their mind. Low-SES students are, for instance, 7 per cent more likely to mention vocational high school as part of the existing options than their equally achieving high-SES classmates, and 12 per cent less likely to mention tracks of five years of higher education or more.

These differences in awareness of existing tracks are a source of inefficiency of aspirations, as both low- and high-SES students cannot make efficient decisions if they do not have in mind all existing options.

Second, even when they mention the same existing options, low-SES students are still 4 per cent less likely to state that academic high school is attainable than their equally achieving high-SES classmates.

As a matter of fact, they may have good reasons to aspire lower than high-SES students. Indeed, even with an equal academic capacity and school environment, students from different social backgrounds may have different budget constraints, for instance, that could make some options unattainable to them. This is true even with high school being free in France, for example, because they would have a lower probability to have access to tuition at night.

In fact, we find that low-SES students progress less well when test scores are measured than their high-SES classmates of the same initial academic level. Low-SES students are, thus, right to feel less capable. But do they assess their objective disadvantage correctly?

We provide evidence that they do not. To do so, we examine students’ self-perception of both current academic capacity and future academic progress and find evidence that low-SES students underestimate them both.

On the one hand, students exhibit excessively fatalistic views to the extent to which future academic success is determined by social background. For example, the real probability of passing the end-of-high-school exam for a reasonably good low-SES student (above the median) is 13 points lower than that for a similar high-SES student in France, but students perceive this gap to be more than two times bigger than it is. Students are thus too fatalistic with respect to the impact of social background.

On the other hand, low-SES students – in particular the high-achievers – underestimate their scholastic ability. To see this, we measure students’ scholastic self-esteem by using the “Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents” conceived by Susan Harter in 1988, including questions such as whether students feel that they are just as smart as others, or whether they feel that they do well at class work. We find that this index of scholastic self-esteem is 39 per cent smaller for low-SES students, compared with their equally achieving high-SES classmates.

More specifically, this measure explains 25 per cent of the deficit in high-achieving low-SES students mentioning a master’s degree among their attainable tracks. These findings highlight the role of social stereotypes in shaping students’ perceptions and cognition, with important consequences for educational aspirations and later outcomes.

More importantly, we show that social differences in academic aspirations cannot be explained by differences in professional aspirations. Overall, academic aspirations are not consistent with professional aspirations, suggesting that teenagers view their educational aspirations and professional aspirations quite separately.

This is especially so for low-SES students. For instance, in France, they are as likely to prefer a job that requires a master’s degree as their equally-achieving high-SES classmates, while they are 26 per cent less likely to prefer to pursue a master’s degree.

Low-SES students have a clear disadvantage from the beginning and their lower aspirations drag them down even further, even when these are not justified. This inefficiency calls for government intervention to help disadvantaged students aspire to their true potential to increase upward mobility.

The writer is an assistant professor in economics at the National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on the economics of education. This is a monthly series by the NUS Department of Economics. Each month, a panel will address a topical issue. If you have a burning question on economics, write to stopinion@sph.com.sg with “Ask NUS” in the subject field.


By            :               Nina Guyon

Date         :               January 11, 2017

Source     :               Straits Times


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New Book: The Prison School


Educational Inequality and School Discipline in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Author                   :               Lizbet Simmons

Date                       :              November 2016

Publisher                :              University of California Press


Public schools across the nation have turned to the criminal justice system as a gold standard of discipline. As public schools and offices of justice have become collaborators in punishment, rates of African American suspension and expulsion have soared, dropout rates have accelerated, and prison populations have exploded. Nowhere, perhaps, has the War on Crime been more influential in broadening racialized academic and socioeconomic disparity than in New Orleans, Louisiana, where in 2002 the criminal sheriff opened his own public school at the Orleans Parish Prison. “The Prison School,” as locals called it, enrolled low-income African American boys who had been removed from regular public schools because of nonviolent disciplinary offenses, such as tardiness and insubordination. By examining this school in the local and national context, Lizbet Simmons shows how young black males are in the liminal state of losing educational affiliation while being caught in the net of correctional control. In The Prison School, she asks how schools and prisons became so intertwined. What does this mean for students, communities, and a democratic society? And how do we unravel the ties that bind the racialized realities of school failure and mass incarceration?

“At a time of increasing public apprehension regarding the long reach of state violence into the lives of communities of color, Lizbet Simmons’ The Prison School offers us a revealing analysis of the interlocking trajectories of education and punishment.  A compelling example of the engaged scholarship we need during this period, her work is a passionate plea to root out the punitive impulse, born of racism, at the heart of public education.”—Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

The Prison School provides a rigorous, radical critique of the now taken-for-granted notion of a ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’  Lizbet Simmons’s work is a pillar contribution to a widening stream of abolitionist scholarly work and research.”—Dylan Rodríguez, author of Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime

“Written with passion and clarity that is rare for an academic text, Simmons utilizes ethnographic detail to expose how the Prison School came into being and how it operated.  For those who recognize the dangers posed by mass incarceration and who hold onto the hope that education can provide an alternative pathway for our most vulnerable youth, this book will be a wake-up call and hopefully a call to action.”—Pedro A. Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of California, Los Angeles

“What began as a chance encounter on the streets of New Orleans became a remarkable sociological investigation of how a public school, ostensibly serving kids struggling in their community schools, came to be housed in a prison. Simmons offers a compelling narrative of what happens when public schooling and mass incarceration become fused in logics and practices. The Prison School opens a window into historical and contemporary forces that produce racial subjugation, exclusion, and state failure with devastating consequences for young African American men coming of age in New Orleans.”—Mona Lynch, author of Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court and Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment. 

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Why the media is a key dimension of global inequality


Every day, much of humanity now holds in its hands the means to connect and be connected across the world: to family, entertainment and the broadcasts of corporations, states and, increasingly, terrorist organisations such as Islamic State.

This connected world has major implications for social progress and global justice, but so too do the media and information infrastructures on which that world depends.

The project of “networking the world” is more than two centuries old.

While it has always been the project of states, it has increasingly become the preserve of some of the world’s largest corporations including Facebook, Google and, less well known in the West, China’s Tencent and Baidu.

Profit, freedom and inequality

Just as economic models rooted in markets and consumption are expanding into ever more world regions and intruding into ever more domains of everyday life, so corporate logics are colonising media and digital platforms.

Take education as one example: concerns are developing regarding school learning materials increasingly provided not by the state but by commercial media companies such as Apple and Google.

More recently, Facebook faced civil society opposition in India when it sought to introduce its Free Basics platform as a default means of internet access for less affluent populations.

However, the same move has gone unopposed in African countries facing greater resource challenges.

Market forces have appropriated the design, regulation and pricing of the platforms we use to connect, portray the world around us, express our political allegiances and even forge our visions for the future (as explored, for instance, in tech evangelist Kevin Kelly’s work).

Profound inequalities

Particularly in the Global North but also the Global South, the information networks and communication protocols that underlie media infrastructures are designed and operated by private, corporate entities.

Direct technical authority over networks and protocols gives these entities an authority that is inherently regulatory.

Global platform companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple – each of which occupies a dominant market position globally – enjoy correspondingly stronger and more pervasive regulatory power. Yet these platforms have so far been driven by only one goal: profit.

The story of expanding global media networks is often told as if they spread freedom everywhere, liberally and evenly. But when we ask freedom for whom, the tale gets more complex.

There are profound inequalities in basic media access within nations and among continents. While global elites may be better connected everywhere, the same is not true of those who work for them. Media systems offer tremendous communication resources to people who can function in Western languages, are able-bodied and have the necessary buying power.

Unfortunately, in Colombia, a home internet connection costs 20% (US$48) of the minimum wage (US$217/month), putting it out of reach for a domestic worker.

Justina, a full-time domestic worker in the city of Barranquilla, told us in a recent interview that she must instead buy a $1 Tigo prepaid card at the corner store that gives her access to precarious internet for only 48 hours at at time.

The inequalities are even greater in media production. Even if a smartphone gives migrants an image of the country they hope to reach, they will most likely lack the ability to influence how their arrival will be represented.

Our media representations of the world’s problems are drawn from a very narrow pool of perspectives. Subsequently, our media systems showcase certain voices while marginalising others, especially people of colour, differently abled people, migrants, women and girls.

From Hollywood, where 96.6% of all directors are male and only 7% of films are racially balanced, to digital platforms where elites find new ways to gain a following, the media shows us a world as lived only by a few. The public conversation about access needs to consider how opportunities for content creation and visibility can be shared more widely.

It is a myth that rural communities, Indigenous people and the Global South are not interested in media and the digital world, but sadly our current media infrastructures carry little – if any – input from these large sections of humanity.

What if media infrastructure and digital platforms were designed with communities’ diverse languages, needs and resources in mind?

The results have the potential to be transformative, as when the Talea de Castro Indigenous community in southern Mexico designed Rhizomatica Administration Interface (RAI), a graphic interface for a local cellphone network responsive to local information needs, languages and modes of communication.

Much more often, however, the algorithmic mechanisms that shape what is available to users of digital platforms are driven exclusively by an advertising logic that undermines diversity and reproduces the social capital of those with power.

Two principles for reform

Media and information regulation shows a more subtle, but equally powerful inequality. National and multinational regulatory bodies from the mass media era are struggling to adapt in the age of smartphones and tablets.

Content delivery’s increasing shift to mobile devices gives corporations, not states, the dominant influence over what can be watched, when and by whom. Consequently, it is corporations, not regulators, that now set the parameters of what can be received on what device, and by what means.

The problem is that the regulation of media and digital platforms is too important to cede to a few powerful organisations that make decisions, implement policy and design online architectures behind closed doors. Instead, transparency and greater civic participation should be the guiding principles of internet governance, policy and regulatory frameworks.

Crucial to this is the internet’s capacity for surveillance – not just when we buy goods and services online, but also in ordinary social interaction.

The increasing dependence of all communication flows gives corporate networks the ability to use and reuse the resulting data to make algorithmic discriminations between consumers and citizens.

In many parts of the world and for large parts of the population, everyday life routinely involves online access to a wide variety of purveyors of news, information and popular culture, as well as search engines, social networking platforms and other content aggregators that seek to help users find, organise and make sense of it all.

While access to these resources may be offered at no financial cost to users on an advertiser-supported basis, consumers often pay a price in the form of the automated collection of information about their personal reading, viewing and listening habits. This information can be used for surveillance and censorship, or to target advertising and suggest content more likely to appeal to each user.

Such surveillance has so far been largely beyond public regulation, yet this new ability to deeply modulate how the social world appears to us has not escaped national governments’ notice, for example in China, India and the United States.

It is undeniable that the media’s rapidly changing infrastructure offers huge opportunities for those campaigning for social progress to connect, act and challenge the significant inequalities that underlie media systems themselves.

We propose two principles to guide this expanding struggle.

The first is that media cannot effectively contribute to social progress until opportunities for access and participation in the production and development of media content are more widely shared. The second is that media infrastructure is a common good whose governance and design should be much more open to democratic engagement than currently.

Ignore these principles, and the world’s visions of social progress will be less effective and far less diverse. Start to take these principles seriously, and the global struggle for social justice becomes both deeper and more open to the hopes of populations long ignored.


By: Nick Couldry and Clemencia Rodriguez
Date: November 28, 2016
Source: The Conversation


Nick Couldry Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory, London School of Economics and Political Science
Clemencia Rodriguez, Professor of Media Studies, Temple University

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Inequality Among Women Is Crucial to Understanding Hillary’s Loss


Working-class women who voted for Trump tell us a lot about feminism’s relationship to class politics.

Attempts to explain what the hell happened on Tuesday have been coming fast and furious. Hillary Clinton was touted by her supporters as the most qualified candidate ever to run for president. How could she have possibly lost to a buffoon who is not only a political novice but also a despicable bully, nasty racist, world-class grifter, and deranged sex criminal?

Racism was certainly an important factor. A slew of studies have found that Trump supporters rack up high scores on measures of racial resentment. Sexism, too, is part of the story. Hillary Clinton was subjected to a nonstop barrage of ugly misogynist attacks by Trump, his supporters, and users of social media. No wonder the gender gap—24 points—was the largest in the history of presidential elections. And if you still question whether racism and misogyny played a significant role in this election, the many frightening acts of violence and harassment aimed at women and people of color that have occurred in the wake of Trump’s victory should quell any remaining doubts.

But as is the case with every election, Tuesday’s outcome was multi-causal. I would like to identify an additional culprit: economic inequality, or more specifically, economic inequality among women. Women of color supported Clinton by wide margins–understandably so, because the Democrats have historically cared a lot more about their interests than the Republicans have.White women, however, flocked to Trump by a substantial margin and were crucial to his victory. Yet not all white women supported Trump: There was a yawning class divide in their vote. One widely used proxy for the working class is adults who lack a college degree. And while white women who are college-educated supported Hillary over Trump by 6 points, their white, non–college educated counterparts chose Trump by a margin of 28 points. That added up to a cavernous class gap among this group—34 points, 10 points more than that record-setting gender gap.

Class differences among women are an all but taboo subject. But scholars such as Leslie McCall have found that economic inequality among women is just as large, and has been growing just as fast, as economic inequality among men.This economic divide among women has created one of the most significant fault lines in contemporary feminism. That’s because professional-class women, who have reaped a disproportionate share of feminism’s gains, have dominated the feminist movement, and the social distance between them and their less privileged sisters is wide and growing wider. In the decades since the dawn of the second wave, educated women gained access to high-status jobs, but working-class women experienced declining wages and (because of the rise of divorce and single parenthood among the working class) shouldered an increasingly heavy burden of care. Yet mainstream feminist groups and pundits have consistently stressed the social and cultural issues that are most important to affluent women, while marginalizing the economic concerns of the female masses.

The class divisions between women came to a head in the 2016 election, when Big Feminism failed women, big-time. Mainstream feminists sold women a bill of goods, arguing that the election of a woman president would improve the lot of women as a class. Echoing Sheryl Sandberg’s dubious thesis, they claimed that leadership by women will as a matter of course produce gains for all women—though actually, the social science evidence for this claim is mixed at best. There was also a lot of talk about how having a woman president would “normalize” female power.

But if you’re a woman living paycheck to paycheck and worried sick over the ever-diminishing economic prospects for you and your children, you’re unlikely to be heavily invested in whether some lady centimillionaire will shatter the ultimate glass ceiling. Exacerbating the problem is that Clinton, the person whom feminists blithely assumed that working-class women would deeply identify with (because after all, didn’t they?) was such a painfully flawed candidate. In addition to a political record littered with betrayals of women, people of color, labor, and other key constituencies, she showed arrogance and terrible judgment by giving the Wall Street speeches and setting up her own State Department e-mail server. That was gross political malpractice.

Some of Clinton’s policy proposals were strong, especially her plans for paid family leave and expanded child care. But Clinton never found a way to craft a compelling message that persuaded people that she cared about people like them. It’s telling that she seemed far more relaxed and comfortable making speeches to Wall Street plutocrats than she ever was on a campaign trail. Also problematic was her campaign slogan, the fangurl-ish “I’m With Her.” Why not something more inclusive and democratic, like, say “She’s With Us”? In addition, in this moment of high populism, her many appearances with glitzy celebrities like Lena Dunham and Katy Perry did not help.

Indeed, Clinton’s failings as a candidate are among the reasons I’m not so sure that voter sexism determined the outcome of the election (though it surely played a role). It’s more likely that what ultimately did her in was not her gender but her failure to connect with voters. It’s easy to imagine other Democratic women, most notably the populist Democratic firebrand Elizabeth Warren, killing it this election. Unlike Hillary, Warren has the virtue of not being one of the architects of the failed policies of the past (NAFTA, Wall Street deregulation, etc.) that helped create the profound economic dislocation that so many working-class voters have suffered.

The destruction that Bill Clinton’s policies wrought in now-depressed rural areas in battleground states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania came back to haunt Hillary. The residents of those regions, who are largely white and working class, have been ravaged by the abandonment of major industries and the social and economic ills that followed in its wake: record low levels of labor-force participation, downward mobility, drug epidemics, and more. In his reporting from Rust Belt cities in southwestern Ohio and eastern Kentucky, the journalist Alec MacGillis has described “the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied.” The social and economic unraveling in these left-behind places is particularly acutely felt when compared to America’s coastal cities, which are soaring ahead. Rising regional inequality was surely one of the driving factors in this election, as it was for Brexit.

In these white working-class communities, it is the women who have experienced some of the worst hardships. You may have heard of that famous studythat showed that showed an unprecedented decline in longevity among white Americans who lack college degrees. But most media reports missed a crucial point: As the statistician Andrew Gelman pointed out, “Since 2005, mortality rates have increased among women in this group but not men.” And in addition to economic insecurity and rising mortality rates, working-class women have suffered from another indignity: invisibility. During the campaign, there was a blizzard of articles about the concerns of elite Republican women and white working-class men, but practically nothing about female members of the working class. Tamara Draut, one of the few journalists who bothered to talk to working-class women, zeroed in on the pain they feel about their marginalization:

In my dozens of interviews with working class women across the country, a common refrain has echoed: They feel invisible in our politics, our economy and our culture. They feel that our political leaders don’t care about their struggles or their aspirations—from the daily grind of balancing work and caregiving to the dream of giving their children a better future through college, without saddling them with crippling debt.

Since the election on Tuesday, all over social media and the mainstream media, liberals have been issuing hysterical denunciations of the white working class. But their tantrums over the “deplorables” will only help feed the monster of right-wing populist backlash. As Alec MacGillis tweeted, “Can’t overstate how much anti-big media scorn’s driving this [support for Trump].” The white working class is keenly aware that liberal elites despise them, thank you very much. And one thing elitist liberals overlook is that the white working-class racism they rightly abhor is itself exacerbated by a failing economy (studies have shown that racism flourishes during bad economic times).

If we want to end this nightmare and defeat Trumpism once and for all, we need to figure out how to win these voters back. It’s not like we have a choice. Working-class whites are approximately one-third of the electorate. The Democrats will not be able to win national elections without peeling off more of their votes. Obviously, progressives should never make appeals to these voters’ racism and sexism (leave that to the Republicans). But we do have at least one powerful basis for common ground: economics.

White working-class women appear to be more open than men are to progressive appeals (62 percent of them voted for Trump, as opposed to 72 percent of their male counterparts). That suggests that the most promising path forward would be to agitate for a robust economic agenda focused on women’s needs: a $15 minimum wage, universal child care and pre-K, paid family leave, free college, and tough laws that crack down on wage theft and guarantee fair scheduling and equal pay for women. One of the strengths of such an agenda is that its appeal is hardly limited to women. In our brave new economy, increasing numbers of men now labor under the kinds of precarious working conditions—low wages, minimal benefits, little if any security—that have traditionally characterized women’s employment. Policies like these would help the men, too. They would not be not just righteous, but politically pragmatic.

But it’s not only the Democratic Party that is badly in need of reform. The feminist movement, too, needs to reorient itself. Feminists would be well-advised to ease up on pop culture navel-gazing and corporate pseudo-feminist drivel like Lean In. They need to shift their central focus from the glass ceiling to the sticky floor, which, after all, is the place where most women dwell. And should feminism once again become a vibrant bottom-up mass movement instead of a top-down elite concern, there’s no telling how far it could go.

By: Kathleen Geier
Date: November 11, 2016
Source: The Nation

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She has written for The Washington Monthly, Salon, Reuters, and other publications.

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What Supermarkets Reveal About Inequality


By 2050, the United States is expected to be roughly 46% white, 30% Hispanic, and 12% black, according to Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas.

Meanwhile Texas’ own demographics are ahead of the curve, clocking in at 45% white, 38% Hispanic, and 12% black back in 2010.

But despite that diversity, historically, sociologists and others who study inequality have focused largely on disparities between just two groups, whites and blacks.

A new study co-written by Kinder Institute researchers and published in the journal Race and Social Problems suggests that that method is likely outdated, given the shifting demographics of the country. Too often, the discussion leaves out the huge, and growing, Hispanic population group.

The typical black-white way of studying inequality may have “outlived its relevance” and needs to be reassessed, write Kinder Institute Research Fellow Heather O’Connell, Rice University Associate Sociology Professor Jenifer Bratter and Lester King, a researcher with the Houston Sustainability Indicators Project at Rice University in the paper titled “Community Resources in a Diverse City: Supermarket Location and Emerging Racial Hierarchies.”

Focusing on access to supermarkets in Houston, the researchers assessed how Houston’s large Hispanic population fit into the better-documented black-white disparities.

Houston’s demographic transformation provided the perfect testing ground. The city transitioned “from an essentially biracial Southern city into the single most ethnically and culturally diverse large metropolitan region in the nation,” as the Kinder Houston Area Survey puts it. The city is roughly 44% Hispanic, 26% white, 23% black, and 6% Asian, according to the latest census estimates.

Supermarket access has consistently served as a “symbol of neighborhood quality and community-investment,” the report explains. Others agree. The Houston Grocery Access Task Force, convened by the city as a public-private response to inequalities, has also highlighted supermarkets’ connections to community health, housing values, and employment opportunities.

“Many communities that are underserved by supermarkets also lack other important amenities and services needed to attract and retain retail investment, such as sidewalks, lighting, and good transportation networks,” a 2012 report from the task force concluded.

In their analysis, the Rice University researchers focused on large grocery stores that had a payroll of at least 50 workers, chain name recognition, and at least $2 million in annual sales. That approach often excludes smaller stores and ethnic markets, they acknowledged, but was consistent with efforts to examine whether an area was receiving significant external investment.

They found that white-black disparities persisted when it came to supermarket access, “even after accounting for local differences in economic composition.”

“Increasing racial (and) ethnic diversity, even in Houston, is not erasing the social consequences of race in our society,” said O’Connell.

But the report also found a more detailed breakdown of disadvantage in what it described as a “tri-racial system.”

Using data from the American Community Survey, the 2010 census and 2010 business listings of big-name supermarkets, the researchers categorized neighborhoods by the racial/ethnic majority in each areas, as well as the second-largest racial or ethnic group. They would up with pairings like white-Asian or Hispanic-black.

Overall, roughly half of Houston’s block groups are within a half-mile of a supermarket. But, because of clustering, they’re not evenly spread throughout the city. “This clustering leaves some areas of the city with relatively less investment, particularly when comparing the southern and northeastern portions of the city with the northwestern corner of the city,” the authors explain.

That’s where the neighborhood categories come in. The most consistent predictor of a neighborhood not having access to a supermarket is the size of its black population. Communities that were majority white with Asians as the second-most populous group were the most likely to have a supermarket within walking distance. They were followed by Hispanic majority neighborhoods that had a sizable Asian population, then by neighborhoods with no majority.

The researchers identified these three types of neighborhoods as the most advantaged in terms of supermarket access. At the bottom of the list were black-Hispanic, white-black, and black-white communities.

After controlling for median income, population and land size, intersection density, percentage of people with a college degree, and the concentration of retail jobs, the researchers found that 80% of neighborhoods with a majority of white residents followed by Asian residents were expected to have a supermarket within one half-mile, compared to only 30% of neighborhoods with a majority of black residents followed by white residents.

In the middle, the researchers found a third tier of stratification for largely Hispanic communities. The findings also point to substantial differences even among majority white spaces. So, while a neighborhood dominated by white and Asian populations is most likely to have a supermarket nearby, a white-majority neighborhood where black residents made up the second largest group is one of the least likely to have a supermarket within a half-mile.

“What this tri-racial system tells us is that social stratification is happening along multiple racial and ethnic lines and to somewhat differing degrees depending on the group,” said O’Connell.

By: Leah Binkovitz
Date: November 28, 2016
Source: Rivard Report

 This story was originally published by The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a multi-disciplinary “think-and-do tank” housed on the Rice University campus in central Houston, focusing on urban issues in Houston, the American Sun Belt, and around the world.

Leah Binkovitz is a staff writer for the Kinder Institute and its Urban Edge blog. She previously covered Fort Bend County for the Houston Chronicle. Before that, she was a journalism fellow in Washington, D.C., where she reported for the Washington Post and NPR. Binkovitz earned her bachelor’s degree from University of California — Berkeley and her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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How Inequality Found a Political Voice


MILAN – It took a long time for widening inequality to have an impact on politics, as it suddenly has done in recent years. Now that it is a central issue, national economic priorities will need to shift substantially to create more equitable, inclusive economies and societies. If they do not, people could embrace explosive alternatives to their current governments, such as the populist movements now sweeping many countries.

Political leaders often speak of growth patterns that unfairly distribute the benefits of growth; but then they do relatively little about it when they are in power. When countries go down the path of non-inclusive growth patterns, it usually results in disrespect for expertise, disillusionment with the political system and shared cultural values, and even greater social fragmentation and polarization.

Acknowledging the importance of how economic benefits are distributed is of course not new. In developing countries, economic exclusion and extreme inequality have always been unconducive to long-term high-growth patterns. Under these conditions, pro-growth policies are politically unsustainable, and they are ultimately disrupted by political dislocations, social unrest, or even violence.

In the United States, rising inequality has been a fact of life at least since the 1970s, when the relatively equitable distribution of economic benefits from the early post-World War II era started to become skewed. In the late 1990s, when digital technologies began to automate and disintermediate more routine jobs, the shift toward higher wealth and income inequality became turbocharged.

Globalization played a role. In the 20 years before the 2008 financial crisis, manufacturing employment in the US rapidly declined in every sector except pharmaceuticals, even as added value in manufacturing rose. Net jobs loss was kept roughly at zero only because employment in services increased.

In fact, much of the added value in manufacturing actually comes from services such as product design, research and development, and marketing. So, if we account for this value-chain composition, the decline in manufacturing – the production of tangible goods – is even more pronounced.

Economists have been tracking these trends for some time. Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor and his colleagues have carefully documented the impact of globalization and labor-saving digital technologies on routine jobs. More recently, French economist Thomas Piketty’s international bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, dramatically widened our awareness of wealth inequality and described possible underlying forces driving it. The brilliant, award-winning young economists Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez have enriched the discussion with new research. And I have written about some of the structural economic shifts associated with these problems.

Eventually, journalists picked up on these trends, too, and it would now be hard to find anyone who has not heard of the “1%” – shorthand for those at the top of the global wealth and income scales. Many people now worry about a bifurcated society: a thriving global class of elites at the top and a stressed-out class comprising everyone else. Still, despite these long trends, the political and policy status quo remained largely unchallenged until 2008.

To understand why it took politics so long to catch up to economic realities, we should look at incentives and ideology. With respect to incentives, politicians have not been given a good enough reason to address unequal distribution patterns. The US has relatively weak campaign-finance limits, so corporations and wealthy individuals – neither of which generally prioritizes income redistribution – have contributed a disproportionate share to politicians’ campaign war chests.

Ideologically, many people are simply suspicious of expansive government. They recognize inequality as a problem, and in principle they support government policies that provide high-quality education and health-care services, but they do not trust politicians or bureaucrats. In their eyes, governments are inefficient and self-interested at best, and dictatorial and oppressive at worst.

All of this began to change with the rise of digital technologies and the Internet, but especially with the advent of social media. As US President Barack Obama showed in the 2008 election cycle – followed by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the current cycle – it is now possible to finance a very expensive campaign without “big money.”

As a result, there is a growing disconnect between big money and political incentives; and while money is still a part of the political process, influence itself no longer belongs exclusively to corporations and wealthy individuals. Social-media platforms now enable large groups of people to mobilize in ways reminiscent of mass political movements in earlier eras. Such platforms may have reduced the cost of political organizing, and thus candidates’ overall dependence on money, while providing an efficient alternative fund-raising channel.

This new reality is here to stay, and, regardless of who wins the US election this year, anyone who is unhappy with high inequality will have a voice, the ability to finance it, and the power to affect policymaking. So, too, will other groups that focus on similar issues, such as environmental sustainability, which has not been a major focus in the current US presidential campaign (the three debates between the candidates included no discussion of climate change, for example), but surely will be in the future.

All told, digital technology is shuffling economic structures and rebalancing power relationships in the world’s democracies – even in institutions once thought to be dominated by money and wealth.

A large, newly influential constituency should be welcomed. But it cannot be a substitute for wise leadership, and its existence does not guarantee prudent policies. As political priorities continue to rebalance, we will need to devise creative solutions to solve our hardest problems, and to prevent populist misrule. One hopes that this is the course we are on now.


Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, is Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Academic Board Chairman of the Asia Global Institute in Hong Kong, and Chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on New Growth Models. He was the chairman of the independent Commission on Growth and Development, an international body that from 2006-2010 analyzed opportunities for global economic growth, and is the author of The Next Convergence – The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World.


By:                   Michael Spence

Date:                October 28, 2016

Source:            Project Syndicate


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Inequalities exacerbate climate impacts on poor


Evidence is increasing that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people, and these impacts are largely caused by inequalities that increase the risks from climate hazards, according to a new report launched by the United Nations.

The World Economic and Social Survey 2016: Climate Change Resilience—an Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities (#WESS2016), found that governments can play a significant role in reducing the risks of climate change to vulnerable populations. Through transformative policies,  the report shows that governments could address the root causes of inequalities and build climate change resilience.

While there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer greater harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident, but that it is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk.

In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, including a significant loss of lives. Developing countries are the most affected by climate change impacts. Low-income countries suffered the greatest losses, including economic costs estimated at 5 per cent of GDP.

“Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” noted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report. “We have no time to waste—and a great deal to gain—when it comes to addressing the socioeconomic inequalities that deepen poverty and leave people behind.”

The report argues that while climate adaptation and resilience are overshadowed by mitigation in climate discussions, they are vital for addressing climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Structural inequalities increase vulnerability

Families living in poverty systematically occupy the least desirable land to damage from climate hazards, such as mud slides, periods of abnormally hot water, water contamination and flooding. Climate change has the potential to worsen their situation and thereby worsen pre-existent inequalities. The report shows that structural inequalities increase the exposure of vulnerable groups to climate hazards.

According to the latest data, 11 per cent of the world’s population lived in a low-elevation coastal zone in 2000. Many of them were poor and compelled to live in floodplains because they lacked the resources to live in safer areas. The data also underscores that in many countries in South and East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, many people have no other option than to erect their dwellings on precarious hill slopes.

The report also found a larger concentration of poor and marginalized groups in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid aridity zones which cover about 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface. About 29 per cent of the World’s population live in those areas and are facing additional challenges owing to climate change.

Different forms of inequality, moreover, render some groups of people more vulnerable than others to damage from climate hazards. In Mumbai, India, for example, the houses of poorer families required repeated repairs to secure them against flood damage, and the cumulative cost of those repairs consumed a greater proportion of their income than for richer populations.

As a result of 2005 Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in the United States, the report found that multiple inequalities defined by income, race and education were major factors that increased the exposure and vulnerability of people, predominantly low-income African Americans, to hurricanes. It found that it was more difficult for the members of this specific population group to cope and recover during and after the hurricane.

Transformative policies for addressing root causes

According to the report, building resilience to climate change provides an opportunity to focus resources on reducing long entrenched inequalities that make people disproportionately vulnerable to climate hazards. The best climate adaptation policies, the report states, are good development policies that strengthen people’s capacity to cope with and adapt to climate hazards in the present and in the medium term.

Looking ahead, the report recommends the use of improved access to climate projections, modern information and communications technologies, and geographical information systems to strengthen national capacity to assess impacts of climate hazards and policy options statistically.

The report voices a concern that international resources to support climate change resilience are insufficient. At last year’s Paris climate conference, COP21, countries committed to setting a goal of at least US$ 100 billion per year for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. However, adaptation costs alone range from $70 billion to $100 billion per year by 2050 in the developing countries and these figures are likely to underestimate real costs.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for transformative policies to deliver on our collective promise to build a life of dignity for all on a cleaner, greener planet. “The challenges are enormous, but the world possesses the know-how, tools and wealth needed to build a climate-resilient future—a future free from poverty, hunger, discrimination and injustice,” stressed the Secretary-General, noting the importance of the enabling policy environment as well as the support of the international community.


Date:        October 3, 2016

Source:    The United Nations



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How Social benefits for the Less Privileged Can reduce Racial Differences in Bullying Among Youth


Bullying – the repeated exposure to negative actions by one or more individuals over an extended period of time – has received increasing attention over recent years. Research shows that nearly 28% of sixth to twelfth grade students in the United States have experienced bullying, and approximately 30% of young people admit to engaging in one or more forms of this behavior.

For both bullies and victims, bullying along with other kinds of maltreatment can leave social and biological scars well beyond childhood. Maltreatment during early stages of the life-course can have lasting emotional effects that lead to substance abuse disorders during adulthood, because maltreated and bullied children often suffer from mental health disorders, anxiety, and depression. Victims of bullying are also at an increased risk of gun violence, severe assaults, crime, incarceration, and thoughts of suicide.

Addressing the Problem

Recently a number of anti-bullying organizations and advocates have announced plans to address different forms of bullying. For example, during the London 2016 Founders Forum this past June, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, implored technology companies to address issues of cyberbullying among children. In doing so, he established a taskforce “to develop a new, positive strategy to combat bullying.” How effective will this approach prove to be? Although technological checks on cyberbullying may reduce exposure to negative barrages online, the offline lives and personalities of bullying victims may not improve. What is more, this is a narrow approach to the issues, because bullying among school peers may be a response to the broader interpersonal and structural conditions that youth experience. Conditions of poverty and inequality may encourage bullying as one factor among many that place children at risk for adverse outcomes as adults. A broader approach to bullying might start by recognizing that social policies aimed at lessening economic hardship affect the prevalence of this behavior.

New Research on Social Conditions that Promote Bullying

My colleagues and I investigated how neighborhood disadvantage, cumulative disadvantage, and enlistment in a variety of needs-based social programs operated to accentuate or to alleviate the risk of bullying among American adolescents after the Great Recession of 2009-10. By extending Elijah Anderson’s concept of a “code of the street” to schools, we probe whether hyper-masculine behaviors that facilitate violence in economically distressed areas encourage classroom bullying too. In addition, we test whether social programs that mollify poverty and inequality attenuate the risk of bullying, thereby neutralizing classroom codes that are framed around economic resources and material goods.

Our research supports a number of conclusions, starting with the conclusion that bullies are severely disadvantaged. Not only are bullies more likely to reside in disadvantaged neighborhoods – residential locations that contain a number of disorders and reduced levels of social cohesion – but bullies are also exposed to higher levels of cumulative disadvantage – domestic violence, parental incarceration, and frayed parent-child relationships.

Economic deprivation hurts children and facilitates educational inequality. Adolescents are significantly more likely to have a parent contacted by school officials about any problems if they live in homes under constant threat of deprivation but are not enrolled in any social programs. Furthermore, these youth are more likely to repeat a grade if they reside in disadvantaged neighborhoods or experience cumulative disadvantage.

Overall, the families of bullies are enrolled in more needs-based social programs than families of non-bullies. This makes sense because adolescents are significantly more likely to bully if they come from families where parents often find it hard to cover the basics like food or housing. Nevertheless, adolescents from similarly needy families are more likely to engage in bullying if their families are NOT enrolled in social assistance programs that offer health insurance, temporary welfare assistance, and food subsidies via school lunches, Food Stamps, or supplemental nutrition for women and infants.

A key finding is that social programs that ameliorate economic hardship have the capacity to upend racial differences in bullying. Overall, Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks are significantly more likely to bully than non-Hispanic whites, and this finding is particularly salient among adolescents who experience neighborhood and cumulative disadvantage, even after accounting for biases and mechanisms that select youth into disadvantaged communities and families. Yet, when we compared rates of bullying by race among adolescents who were identical in their likelihoods of familial participation in social programs, we found that both Black-white and Hispanic-white differences in bullying disappeared. This is an important finding because racial differences in bullying may reflect the stresses and strains of social disadvantage experienced by adolescents. Should codes of the street be adopted within classrooms, as a result of neighborhood and cumulative disadvantage, the consequences of such externalizing behaviors like bullying may impede the development and accumulation of human capital at the very moments when adolescents are transitioning to adulthood.

Moving beyond Cyber-Solutions

Ultimately, our research shows that government programs that reduce poverty and inequality have the potential to moderate racial differences in bullying – and might offer further remedies as well. Our findings are consistent with other research, such as that showing the potential of government programs to help children with incarcerated parents.

Clearly social benefits can ameliorate many ills, including bullying. However, the uneven economic recovery and cutbacks in social programs may converge to place more youth at risk of greater material hardships – and therefore spark more bullying. As policymakers and technology experts devise methods to prevent cyberbullying, they should realize that adequate social programs to ameliorate poverty and inequality might do even more to counter this scourge.


Read more in Bryan L. Sykes, Alex R. Piquero, and Jason P. Gioviano, “Code of the Classroom? Social Disadvantage and Bullying Among American Adolescents, U.S. 2011-2012.” Crime & Delinquency (online first, April 2016).


By:           Bryan L. Sykes (University of California, Irvine)

Source:    http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/how-social-benefits-less-privileged-can-reduce-racial-differences-bullying-among-youth

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