Betsey Stevenson reviews what has happened to women’s employment and labor force participation in the recovery from the pandemic.
Betsey Stevenson reviews what has happened to women’s employment and labor force participation in the recovery from the pandemic.
In a new economic analysis, Bradley Hardy, Georgetown University, and Trevon Logan, The Ohio State University, revisit their previous work for Hamilton Project and assess the economic recovery of Black Americans throughout the pandemic.
In a new framing paper, Mitchell Barnes, Lauren Bauer, Wendy Edelberg, Sara Estep, Robert Greenstein, and Moriah Macklin examine the U.S. social insurance system. They consider the social insurance system as a whole as well as its component parts, providing an overview of major federal programs in the areas of education and workforce development, health, income support, nutrition, and housing opportunity.
In this proposal Robert Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Benjamin Keys propose a plan to support homeowners and renters to stabilize households and housing markets during future economic downturns. Their proposal would create new emergency rental assistance accounts for low-income households; implement an automatic, three-month forbearance period for vulnerable mortgage borrowers in response to elevated local unemployment; and establish a permanent tax credit exchange program that would allow states to exchange tax credits for direct subsidies at a fiscally neutral price when demand from tax credit investors falls.
In this proposal, Richard Arum and Mitchell Stevens propose twin federal government initiatives to incentivize innovation in instructional delivery throughout the national postsecondary ecology, to bridge the divide between academia and the workforce system, and to accrete a cumulative science of adult learning.
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of aggregate expenditures in the economy, slows sharply during recessions. This slowdown can exacerbate employment losses and reduced production, making a recession even worse. Claudia Sahm proposes automatic direct payments to individuals to support consumer spending when the national unemployment rate rapidly rises.
In the face of large declines in tax revenues and increased demand for state programs during and after recessions, state governments are often forced to raise taxes, cut programs, or both. In order to protect state Medicaid programs and counteract recessions, Matthew Fiedler, Jason Furman, and Wilson Powell III propose to automatically increase the federal share of expenditures under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program when a state’s unemployment rate exceeds a threshold level.
Low recipiency rates and an imperfect Extended Benefits program weaken the unemployment insurance program’s effectiveness during recessions. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich and John Coglianese propose five reforms to strengthen the automatic stabilization functions of the unemployment insurance system.
The design of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program prevents it from providing sufficient assistance to families with children during economic downturns and from serving as an effective stabilizer. In order to help TANF better deliver on both these fronts, Indivar Dutta-Gupta proposes ways to change the funding, design, and administration of the program.
High regional inequality is driven, in part, by local land-use regulations that prevent low- and middle-income workers from accessing high-productivity places. In this paper, Daniel Shoag of Harvard Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve University discusses the problems with current housing policies and their effects on economic growth and mobility. To remove these barriers, the author outlines local, state, and federal policy initiatives that can boost housing supply in booming parts of the country.
Many place-based policies have been unsuccessful, failing to deliver cost-effective benefits to disadvantaged communities; meanwhile areas across the county have large and rising concentration of poverty. David Neumark proposes that the federal government subsidize employment in places that are struggling, focusing on nonprofit jobs that contribute to local public goods.
Women now make up almost half the U.S. workforce, and more than half of the U.S. population. Despite the central role women play in the economy, our labor laws and institutions do little to address the various ways in which women are held back at work. This not only hampers women’s economic well-being, but also has implications for U.S. productivity, labor force participation, and economic growth. In this paper, Ansel and Boushey propose policies aimed at boosting women’s economic outcomes: paid family leave, fair scheduling, and combatting wage discrimination. They show how enacting carefully designed policies will better address the challenges of today’s labor force, enhance women’s economic outcomes, and provide benefits for the national economy.
The rapid growth of the older population in the United States will dramatically increase the need for elder care, most of which will be provided at home by family members. Supporting an older person sometimes comes at the cost of leaving the labor force, particularly for caregivers in jobs with an inflexible work schedule. This paper proposes a federal earned sick leave mandate guaranteeing one hour of flexible, multi-purpose sick leave for every 30 hours worked. By helping workers periodically adjust their work schedules to accommodate intermittent and urgent caregiving activities, paid sick leave would increase both home caregiving and employment, as fewer workers would be forced to choose between these activities.
Child care is a necessity for working women with young children. However, the costs of high-quality center-based child care in the United States—particularly for children under age five—are prohibitively high for many families. In this proposal, Elizabeth Cascio describes a multifaceted approach to child-care policy that reduces the financial burden of child care, encourages maternal employment, and supports child development. The proposal would replace existing federal child-care tax policies with a single refundable federal child-care tax credit that is more generous to lower-income families and families with children under the age of five. To address child care quality, Cascio proposes investments in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and in expansion of universal preschool for four-year-olds. State and local governments could pursue these investments on their own or with federal assistance.
Despite widespread public support for paid parental leave, the United States is the only industrialized country without a national policy providing mothers with rights to paid leave following the birth of a child. Ruhm proposes a national paid leave program that entitles both mothers and fathers to 12 weeks of paid time off work. The proposal includes job protection during the leave, broad eligibility, and income-tiered wage replacement rates. The program would be financed by general revenues and administered by a new office established within the Social Security Administration, with program evaluation scheduled three to five years after initial implementation.
Popular commentary often points to the lower lifetime earnings and longer expected life spans of women relative to men as a reason to be especially concerned about the economic risks women face as they age. Indeed, women aged 65 and older are twice as likely as their male counterparts to live in poverty. Disability and widowhood are major drivers of economic insecurity for women later in life. To reduce the risk of economic insecurity among older women, the authors propose to allow Social Security beneficiaries to forgo some benefits when claiming to finance greater benefits in the event of widowhood, disability, or both. The proposed changes would be voluntary and self-financing.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that promotes work. Despite the strong evidence for the effectiveness of the EITC and recent bipartisan expansions, the maximum EITC has been frozen in inflation-adjusted terms for most families since 1996, so the 25 million EITC families with fewer than three children have not seen a real increase in more than 20 years. The authors propose to build on the successes of the EITC with a ten percent across-the-board increase in the federal credit. This expansion would provide a meaningful offset to stagnating real wages, encourage more people to enter employment, lift approximately 600,000 individuals out of poverty, and improve health and education outcomes for millions of children.
The experience of the Great Recession reveals important holes in the safety net. In particular, the central cash-assistance program in the United States, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is failing to reach many poor families. In addition, the program does not automatically expand during economic downturns, when the need for the program is likely greatest and when additional consumer spending would be particularly helpful. To strengthen TANF, Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes propose reforms to expand both the program’s reach and its responsiveness to cyclical downturns. They also propose ways to improve its transparency, which will help researchers and policymakers understand how the program works, who it supports, and how effectively it meets its goals.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to households that lack food security, with benefit allotments determined by the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the assumptions underlying the TFP are based on increasingly unrealistic assumptions about food preferences, time availability, and prices faced by many SNAP recipients. As a result, SNAP is less effective than it could be. In this Hamilton Project paper, James Ziliak proposes a series of reforms to the TFP aimed at strengthening nutrition assistance.
Substantial evidence shows that consumers often lack the high-quality information to select the best insurance plan, and once they have selected a plan they are less likely to switch, even as better plans become available. In response, David Dranove, Craig Garthwaite and Christopher Ody propose that exchanges develop a personalized decision support tool to give consumers the information they need to select the best plan. Additionally, they propose that exchanges establish a system of smart defaults, where an algorithm is used to move consumers to new plans if those plans deliver more value.
Workers rely more than ever on individually directed retirement savings vehicles, such as defined-contribution plans and IRAs, to provide the income necessary for a comfortable retirement. John Friedman proposes combining the various types of retirement accounts into a single Universal Retirement Saving Account and instituting tax credits for businesses that encourage workers to save.
Americans currently spend over $300 billion a year on long-term services and supports (LTSS), paid for through government programs, private insurance, and importantly, individuals’ own out-of-pocket spending. Wesley Yin proposes changes to the financing of long-term care (LTC) insurance so that individuals can have more-affordable and more-complete insurance against long-term services and supports (LTSS) expenses, and so insurance firms can manage their risks more efficiently.
Helping unemployed workers return to work has long been a policy challenge in the United States, and the urgency of the problem tends to increase during and after economic downturns. In this paper, Adriana Kugler offers three pilot programs to reform the unemployment system by encouraging different ways to return to work. The first program would allow the unemployed to continue claiming benefits while receiving entrepreneurial training and other assistance for setting up a business. The second program would support the unemployed through temporary positions and internships that might lead to full-time jobs. The third program would provide partial benefits to claimants who accept part-time jobs.
In this policy memo, Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman propose that the federal government subsidize state work-sharing payments during economic downturns, make work sharing a requirement for state unemployment insurance systems, change federal requirements to modify provisions of state work-sharing plans that may discourage employer participation, and provide states with adequate funding to administer work-sharing programs. This proposal, targeted at workers who would otherwise become unemployed during cyclical downturns, aims to reduce the number of layoffs during economic downturns. This proposal is chapter twelve of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Harry J. Holzer proposes the creation of financial incentives for public colleges and university systems to offer classes in high-return fields and for employers to offer more training to their employees. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have some academic preparation for higher education, aims to generate better labor market outcomes and wage gains. This proposal is chapter eight of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food Stamp Program—is an essential part of America’s social safety net. Diane Schanzenbach proposes five reforms that could strengthen SNAP, including incentives for participants to purchase healthier foods and improvements to the benefit formula.
The current tax system hampers low- and middle-income families who add secondary earners to the workforce to augment their primary breadwinner’s income. In a new Hamilton Project discussion paper, Melissa Kearney and Lesley Turner propose a secondary earner tax deduction that would help make work pay for dual-earner families.
Changes in the government’s role in housing finance could contribute to budget savings. Phillip Swagel’s proposal to increase the role of private capital in housing finance improves incentives for risk taking and investment, reduces taxpayer exposure to risk, and fosters competition and innovation in housing finance.
Jeffrey Liebman and Jack Smalligan propose a path to improve our disability insurance system, through demonstration projects and administrative changes, that could potentially increase employment and economic engagement among workers with disabilities and provide more rapid and reliable resolution of disability insurance claims for those who cannot work.
Slowing the rate of health care spending growth will likely require transitioning away from a fee-for-service system to a global payment system. Michael Chernew and Dana Goldman propose policies to promote efficiency in the Medicare program by providing incentives to treat disease rather than paying for individual services in a way that encourages improvements to the quality of care.
Karen Dynan examines the design of government incentives for personal savings, outlining how reforms to these programs would improve saving and economic security for low-income households and reduce expensive and ineffective federal subsidies for high-income households.
Tax reform discussions often center on tax expenditures. Alan Viard proposes to replace the mortgage interest deduction with a refundable credit as a way to reduce the artificial incentive for the construction of high-end homes by better targeting the tax breaks for housing.
Cost sharing under the Medicare Parts A & B programs is both variable and uncapped, with an overall structure that is hard to rationalize. Jonathan Gruber proposes reforms to Medicare cost sharing that insures consumers against high out-of-pocket costs, aligns the costs faced by consumers with the actual cost of care, and discourages incentives in private plans that encourage excess use of Medicare benefits.
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has failed to support the ongoing employment and economic self-sufficiency of workers with disabilities, leading to rapid growth in program expenditures and declining employment of Americans with disabilities. This proposal offers a blueprint for reversing this needless employment decline and stemming the dramatic growth of the SSDI program.
In the past three decades, American families have faced a dramatic increase in economic risk. This paper responds to this rise by proposing a broad-based, stop-loss insurance program designed to help families weather economic shocks.
The current system of unemployment insurance has not been updated since 1935 and is in need of reform to meet the needs of today’s workforce. This paper outlines three broad reforms to update the unemployment insurance system.
This paper describes a proposal to restructure social insurance after job loss in order to improve protection against long-term effects of unemployment, provide more progressive allocation of benefits, reduce incentives for firms to lay off workers, and encourage reemployment.