Category Archives: Labor and Workforce Policy

DC’s Mayor Gray Vetos Living-Wage Law — Setting up City Council Vote to Override

Vincent Gray has vetoed a living wage bill in Washington DC that would require stores with corporate sales over $1 billion dollars that operated large footprint stores (75,000 square feet or more) to pay a super-minimum wage of $12.50.

The bill was targeted largely at a set of new Wal-Marts that were planned to be built in the city. Proponents wanted to ensure that workers were paid a fair wage.  Opponents worried that the law would limit grocery store access and jobs (even low wage jobs) for people who need them.  Wal-Mart has threatened to cancel the locations if the bill passes.  Some feel that the threat is hollow because the store wants to access the dense population in the city.  The City Council can override Gray’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the bill.

As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich once questioned, are we limited to a future of high wages and high unemployment (as in Europe) or low wages and low unemployment?  Hopefully we can create and plan a future with high wages and low unemployment.

Adding One To Ezra Klein’s 5 Worst Things About The Jobs Market

Ezra Klein from the Washington Post has a great analysis of today’s somewhat disappointing jobs report.

I’d like to add one point.  We need to create even more jobs to keep up with population growth.  Klein gets at this in his third point about weak job creation, but we need to remember that we aren’t just aiming at getting back to pre-recession job levels.  America is a growing country and getting back to pre-recession jobs levels in 2023 will mean that the country will still have high unemployment and numerous people out of the job market – we have to do better and create jobs faster.

#aesopacsp13 Recapping the AESOP-ACSP Joint International Congress in Dublin Ireland

I attended the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP, it is the North American association of planning academics) Joint International Congress in Dublin Ireland from July 15-19.  What a great conference!

Dublin is a nice European city to spend a few days in, especially with the “European” style of academic conference where proceedings are held at the host university’s campus instead of in a conference hotel.  Despite the logistical considerations of getting to and from the university, it was a great way to meet other academics and to get the see the city with them.

I also got to go on a mobile tour of Tallaght, a new town development in the Dublin suburbs.  While the town dates back centuries, it was interesting to see the greenbelt style development from the 1960s as well as the more recent new urbanist commercial and mixed use development.  The recent development is struggling because of the global recession, which Ireland felt especially acutely, but in the future the area should be a nice mixed-use community. The town is about a 20 minute drive from the Dublin historic core and is connected by light rail that takes between 45 minutes and an hour.  As the region grows, Tallaght should become an alternative place to live for people working in the city.

2013-07-17 15.54.24(Tallaght commercial plaza — with both vacant and occupied retail spaces)

I learned quite a bit from the papers that I heard at the conference too.  From strategies for shrinking cities to the downfalls of cycle theory to evidence on neighborhood change and gentrification to new methods of assessing divergence from the median, I am always impressed with the quality and depth of research on urban planning and urban issues.  I also got very helpful comments on my dissertation research and suggestions for follow up studies.  I am excited to continue my research and to hear more in Philadelphia at the ACSP 2014 Conference.  (I am going to follow up with a number of posts on specific papers and presentations that caught my attention.)

And a final note – conferences are also a great way to meet new like minded people.  I met so many people, both in person and through the high quality tweeting on #aesopacsp13, that I look forward to continuing to communicate with and to be a part of my academic and professional community.


Recapping Lincoln Education and Land Policy @LandPolicy Conference

This post is somewhat belated.  The 8th Annual Land Policy Conference was held by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, MA in early June, and this year’s topic was Education, Land, and Location.

Eric Hanushek, an educational and urban economist from Stanford, was the keynote speaker where he gave an overview of research that he had conducted for the OECD that identified a economic benefit to the United States of somewhere in the range of $40-50 trillion dollars (in present terms) associated with closing the achievement gap between minority and white students in America.

The rest of the conference was made up of thorough discussions of national and international research on how land policy and education are inter-related.  Presenters (and chapters in the upcoming volume) will provide a vast overview on some relatively traditional research topics – including how school quality is capitalized in home values and why people without children in schools still support taxes for education (the answer is that it supports home value and community quality according to William Fischel’s “Home-Voter Hypothesis).  The conference papers also covered how newer policies like school choice and residential mobility programs affect individual outcomes in education and the labor market.  While there was some disagreement on the topic, choice and mobility might contribute to further inequality – but this could be just a short term effect.  There were also great papers on homeschooling, the role of segregation in educational outcomes, and how school choice affects municipal transportation costs.

I was encouraged to see urban economics, urban planning, education policy, and land policy being discussed in nuanced and innovative ways! I learned a lot at the conference and the work of the scholars at the Lincoln Conference has influenced by dissertation.


I am Honored to Have Been Named a Lincoln Institute Fellow @landpolicy

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has named me a C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellow.  I am honored that the Institute has found my work on bachelor’s degree attainment, talent attraction, and labor markets as a contributor to the study of land value, economic geography, and urban form.  As a fellow, I have had the opportunity to attend Lincoln Conferences and communicate with Lincoln Institute leadership.  Their comments on my work have been influential and helped refine it.  I am appreciative of the support and guidance!

National Skills Coalition Collecting and Telling the Stories of Workforce Development Funding Cuts @SkillsCoalition #workforcedev

Check out this map that shows how sequestration and budget cuts to workforce development have affected programs to help people prepare for jobs and work.  Practitioners of workforce development have contributed their experiences from across the country.  You can add to the map as well.

There Are More Low Wage Federal Contract Employees than Walmart and McDonalds Combined #workforcedev

The Washington Post published a piece this morning on federal contract employees and their wages.

Study: U.S. taxpayers employ more low-wage workers than Wal-Mart, McDonald’s combined

While the story title would suggest that these workers were directly employed by the federal government, this is not the case, but the federal government has significant control over their employment conditions since it is contracted work.  The workers largely work for contracting companies – some prominent ones like Lockheed Martin and others more inconspicuous like the food service companies at national parks.  These contract workers also do unnoticed work like night time cleaning at federal buildings.  Other workers, like home health aids, are supported through Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Many of these types of jobs have been sourced through contracts rather than direct federal government employment because it helps manage benefit, health care, retirement, and vacation day costs for the government, but it means that over 2 million workers have seen their pay and benefits erode.

The argument in favor of lower wages that contractors pay is that these arrangements are the fair market wage for these workers (the Post quotes the American Enterprise Institute here).  Also, in a era of tight budgets and high national debt, this would represent an increased cost.

Demos, whose report identified the contract employment problem, estimates that increasing wages to reasonable “living wage” standards would increase contract costs by 10% on average.  This is a significant increase, but at the same time, one executive action could reduce the number of workers in tenuous work and living conditions incredibly quickly.  For reference, 2 million workers represents almost 10 percent of adults living in poverty (about half of all people living in poverty are children, who are dependent on their parents and guardians).

The possibility of increasing these workers wages is incredibly appealing because it is under the direct control of the government and it could reach millions of workers quickly.  Raising wages for these workers could make a big difference and deserves further consideration.