Summer Vacation is Feeding the Achievement Gap

Jun 27, 2014Sarah Pfeifer VandekerckhoveCandace Richardson

Learning loss during summer vacation is far worse for students of lower socioeconomic status, making low-cost and free educational summer programming essential.

Learning loss during summer vacation is far worse for students of lower socioeconomic status, making low-cost and free educational summer programming essential.

New York City public schools begin summer break today. For many students, summer is a time to rest, travel and play, and a recent study even demonstrates the critical role of play in a student’s future academic and financial success. But extensive research shows that these few months away from the structured activities of school are particularly detrimental to the academic achievement of students of low SES (socioeconomic status) families. Without access and exposure to educational enrichment opportunities during the summer months, these students face substantial setbacks in their academic development.

Of course, all students experience some learning loss during the summer months. Research on the “summer slide” phenomenon shows that nearly all students perform worse on standardized tests taken at the end of summer vacation than the same test taken at the end of the previous school year and lose two months of math skills over the summer months.

For low SES students, however, summer slide does even greater damage to their academic achievement year over year, increasing the achievement gap as well as the likelihood that such students will drop out of high school or not attend college. Summer slide occurring during elementary school alone contributes to at least half of the SES achievement gap by the time students reach 9th grade.  In fact, low SES high school students are eight times less likely to attend a four-year college, compared with their high SES peers.

While only about 20% of students from low-income families participate in summer learning programs, high-income families can afford to expose their children to a variety of enrichment activities, including summer camp. In February, TimeOut published a list of upcoming academic summer camps in New York City that offer exciting sessions on robots, chemistry, reading, and math along with many educational field trips to museums and zoos, with the average cost of these camps totaling $2,176 per month.  For the seventy-eight percent of New York City’s 1.1 million students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch ($43,568 annually for a family of four) that’s nearly 60 percent of their family’s monthly income, meaning these academic summer camps are out of the question for the families whose kids need them the most.

Cost is only one of many barriers to summer program participation for low SES families. Accessibility plays a big role. For instance, the New York City Department of Education’s Summer Quest, a free, five-week enrichment program to combat summer slide, is only available at 22 of the city’s 1700 public schools. And while NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have strongly encouraged participation in summer enrichment programs, only about 55,000 low SES students will receive free programming this summer.

Despite the efforts to engage students in summer enrichment programs, New York City still has a long way to go.

About one-third of the achievement gap can be attributed to a child’s SES before they even enter kindergarten. Combatting the 31.4% child poverty rate in New York City through expansion of Home Visiting programs can go along way in getting students off on the right foot. This is just one of many policy solutions that arose at the Roosevelt Institute’s recent conference, Inequality Begins at Birth.

Of the 55,000 New York City students receiving free summer programming, De Blasio anticipates that 34,000 of those will be middle-schoolers. Increasing the engagement of elementary school children will mitigate substantial growth in the achievement gap, as early academic setbacks compound over time. The DOE can start by expanding NYC Summer Quest and other programs to target younger students, and over time the focus should be on engaging even more of the 850,000+ low SES students in New York City public schools.

Sarah Pfeifer Vandekerckhove is the Roosevelt Institute's Director of Operations.

Candace Richardson is a Policy Intern for the Four Freedoms Center.

Chart from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

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Daily Digest - June 27: NLRB Ruling is Politics as Usual

Jun 27, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Myth of America’s Golden Age (POLITICO Magazine)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Myth of America’s Golden Age (POLITICO Magazine)

Growing up in Gary, Indiana gave Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz early insight into inequality, which is a result of politics and not an economic inevitability, he says.

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Hollie Russon Gilman reports that when 12-25 year olds were given responsibility for $1 million of Boston's budget, they funded parks, the arts, and educational technology.

To Get a Fair Share, Sharing-Economy Workers Must Unionize (AJAM)

Susie Cagle talks to Uber driver Ramzi Reguii about his work to organize his fellow drivers. They've already rallied together to prevent Uber from requiring some drivers to buy new cars.

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The Crisis of Student Loans is Real, No Matter What Pundits Tell You (The Guardian)

David Dayen says the Brookings student debt report fails by focusing on the average income of college graduates overall, which ignores how badly the job market has harmed recent graduates.

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Daily Digest - June 26: People Awaken to Find Wall Street is a Crooked Road

Jun 26, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Wall Street and Washington Want You to Believe the Stock Market isn't Rigged. Guess What? It Still Is (The Guardian)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Wall Street and Washington Want You to Believe the Stock Market isn't Rigged. Guess What? It Still Is (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore says investment in the stock market isn't down due to low investor confidence, but because more people are realizing the system isn't equal for all investors.

A Cure for Bloated CEO pay (Fortune)

Dean Baker proposes a "Director's Roulette" provision, which would withhold directors' compensation if a CEO pay package they approve had been voted down by a shareholder Say-on-Pay vote.

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The White House rejected the proposed gas tax, needed to save the Highway Trust Fund that pays for infrastructure, but Jared Bernstein says an imperfect fix would have been better than nothing.

How the Government Subsidizes Wealth Inequality (CAP)

Harry Stein proposes that the U.S. government could reduce wealth inequality simply by changing tax policy for capital gains, since current subsidies give $2 trillion to the wealthy over 10 years.

How Connecticut’s Smart New Pension Plan Can Prevent Poverty in Retirement (The Nation)

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Ikea Plans to Increase Minimum Hourly Pay (NYT)

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Daily Digest - June 25: Konczal Rebuts Brookings' Findings on Student Debt

Jun 25, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Devastating, Lifelong Consequences of Student Debt (TNR)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Devastating, Lifelong Consequences of Student Debt (TNR)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal points out that the student debt crisis isn't about monthly payments, as the Brookings Institution suggests, but the life choices necessitated by debt.

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David Rolf, president of SEIU 775NW, suggests that organizing labor movements like startup incubators would help to develop new projects to improve working conditions.

Why Government Pension Funds Became Addicted to Risk (NYT)

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Danielle Kurtzleben speaks to a vice president at Gap about the company's attempt to retain skilled and educated staff by setting a higher minimum wage company-wide.

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Congrats, America. You Have Less Economic Opportunity Than You Did in 1970 (WaPo)

A new study quantifies varies kinds of opportunity over 40 years and finds that decreasing opportunity overall in the past decade is mostly due to the economy. Jim Tankersley and Jeff Guo report.

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Daily Digest - June 24: What We Talk About When We Talk About Poverty

Jun 24, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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21st Century Democrats: Konczal on GOP Misunderstanding Charity (America's Democrats.org)

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21st Century Democrats: Konczal on GOP Misunderstanding Charity (America's Democrats.org)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal discusses his article on "The Voluntarism Fantasy," the false idea that private charity could provide for the needs of the poorest Americans.

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Sharon Lerner says the fight over paid sick leave is characteristic of larger fights over the nature of democracy, and whether the desires of the common people are being accounted for.

Washington is Making Inequality Worse (MSNBC)

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Massachusetts Nannies and Housekeepers Now Protected From Long Days, Abuse, Sexual Harassment (The Nation)

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Corporate Close-Up: Should CEO Compensation Determine Corporate Income Tax Rates? (Bloomberg BNA)

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States Undo Food Stamp Felon Bans (HuffPo)

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Mankiw, Piketty, and Wealth Taxes (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein argues that economist Greg Mankiw fails to prove that allowing the wealthy to keep more of their wealth will be better for everyone else.

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Daily Digest - June 23: Weak Labor, Low Wages Feed Unstable Housing Market

Jun 23, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Housing Market Falters Amid Rising Prices, Lower-Paying Jobs (Bloomberg)

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Housing Market Falters Amid Rising Prices, Lower-Paying Jobs (Bloomberg)

Kathleen M. Howley reports on new, weaker forecasts for the housing market, and blames slow labor growth, which is primarily in low-wage jobs, and stagnant wages.

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A new poll shows a major shift in how Americans perceive the causes of poverty since 1995, writes Seth Freed Wessler. Nearly half of respondents today blame structural causes.

The Economic Argument for Raising Women's Pay (Political Research Associates)

Mariya Strauss assesses the economic benefits of pay equity, which include increased economic growth and tax revenues, as well as a reduced need for public assistance programs.

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As the predictions of Obamacare skeptics are steadily debunked, Jonathan Chait says conservatives are forced to admit they just don't like transfer programs to help the poor.

The Big Lobotomy (Washington Monthly)

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Finally! Big Investors Declare War on Big Banks (The Fiscal Times)

David Dayen reports on a new front in the post-financial crisis legal battle:  a group of investors sues the trustee banks that assembled mortgage bonds for abandoning quality standards.

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Daily Digest - June 20: The Upside to Government Data Collection

Jun 20, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Chicago Is Your Big (Friendly) Brother (Bloomberg View)

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Chicago Is Your Big (Friendly) Brother (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains Chicago's new plan to collect and make public data that could improve local quality of life, like precise pollution levels.

Does He Pass the Test? (NYRB)

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Massachusetts Passes The Highest State Minimum Wage In The Country (ThinkProgress)

The Massachusetts legislature has passed a law raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, and the governor is expected to sign the bill soon, Bryce Covert reports.

Detroit Pension Fund Urges 'Yes' Vote on Bankruptcy Plan (Reuters)

Karen Pierog writes that the police and firefighters' fund is urging members to approve this grand bargain, which reduces cost-of-living increases, for fear of larger cuts.

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What the History of the World Wars Can Tell Us About the Deeper Struggles at Work in Iraq

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow David Woolner reflects on previous U.S. efforts to  spread democracy.

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What the History of the World Wars Can Tell Us About the Deeper Struggles at Work in Iraq

Jun 19, 2014David B. Woolner

Spreading democracy abroad requires more than military power, as history has shown from the two World Wars.

The very philosophy of the Axis powers is based on a profound contempt for the human race. If, in the formation of our future policy, we were guided by the same cynical contempt, then we should be surrendering to the philosophy of our enemies, and our victory would turn to defeat.

Spreading democracy abroad requires more than military power, as history has shown from the two World Wars.

The very philosophy of the Axis powers is based on a profound contempt for the human race. If, in the formation of our future policy, we were guided by the same cynical contempt, then we should be surrendering to the philosophy of our enemies, and our victory would turn to defeat.

The issue of this war is the basic issue between those who believe in mankind and those who do not—the ancient issue between those who put their faith in the people and those who put their faith in dictators and tyrants. There have always been those who did not believe in the people, who attempted to block their forward movement across history, to force them back to servility and suffering and silence.—Franklin D. Roosevelt 1943

As Franklin Roosevelt realized all too well, victory in the Second World War required much more than military power; it also involved the defeat of the extremist ideology of fascism that brought death and destruction to millions. Viewed from this perspective, the six-year struggle between 1939 and 1945 was as much a battle of ideas as it was a military conflict, and throughout the long years of fighting, FDR put as much effort into winning the peace as he did into winning the war.

Moreover, this determination did not just occur overnight. It came from a deep understanding of history and long years of experience, including the experience of having lived through America’s first major engagement as a global power—our entrance into the First World War, a move which President Wilson claimed was driven by America’s desire “to make the world safe for democracy.”  

The tragic events unfolding in Iraq today are not all that dissimilar to what took place in the 1930s and 40s. Once again we face an extremist ideology that is bent on conquest and has little respect for human life. Once again we face an adversary that rejects the core set of values that stand at the root of Western civilization, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

To counter this threat, senior American policy-makers often speak—as former Vice President Dick Cheney did yesterday in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal—of the need to defend and secure America’s “freedom,” in part through the promotion of “freedom” abroad.

In recent years, the best and most dynamic example of this modern-day attempt “to make the world safe for democracy” can be seen in the 2003 invasion of Iraq—a war of choice which was launched under the false assumption that the “Iraqi people” would respond to “freedom” in a manner similar to what happened in Japan and Germany after the Second World War. Hence, American strategy in this exercise in regime change was based on the idea that the people of Iraq would embrace democracy and Western values—forgetting of course that Iraq—unlike Germany or westernized Japan in 1945—was most emphatically not part of the West and that most of the Iraqi people had very little experience or interest in building a modern pluralistic state.

All of this points to a fundamental flaw that existed—and still exists—in the thinking of those like Vice President Cheney who base America’s security on the promotion of what some recent analysts have termed “hard Wilsonianism”—the idea that the in the post Cold War world the United States can use its overwhelming military superiority to enforce a liberal international order.

It is true that what is happening in Iraq and Syria is a major international crisis. It is also true—as Vice President Cheney and others have argued—that America’s withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011 has helped precipitate this crisis. What is largely missing from the current debate over Iraq and Syria—as well as the equally dangerous crisis in Ukraine—is the overwhelming need for American policy-makers and the American public to pay greater attention to the religious and ideological forces at work in these crises and the one tool perhaps more than any other that can help us avoid these sorts of catastrophes in the future: the study of history.

A rudimentary understanding of Iraq’s history, for example, would have made clear that Iraq was carved out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in a secret treaty between the British and the French at the height of the First World War, and that modern Iraq is really three nations, one Sunni, one Shia and one Kurdish, held together in its initial years by the British Empire and for the rest of the 20th century by the brutal hand of dictators like Saddam Hussein.

In his criticism of the decision to withdraw all of America’s combat forces from Iraq, Vice President Cheney accused President Obama of being “willfully blind to the impact of his policies.” The recent history of Iraq indicates that President Bush and his advisors are equally guilty of this sin, if not more so. A deeper understanding of Iraqi as well as American history would have indicated to them that “wishful thinking about our adversaries,” as Vice President Cheney put it, is indeed “folly,” the sort of folly that led us to launch the 2003 invasion with far too few troops, based on the fatal assumption that U.S. forces would be universally welcomed in this deeply divided, semi-artificial state. Viewed from this perspective, the Bush administration’s decision to not only take out Saddam Hussein but also destroy—with a minimum of American force—Iraq’s bureaucracy and army borders on criminal negligence. For as we now know, the latter two moves, especially disbanding the Iraqi Army, were a grave mistake, releasing tens of thousands of armed men—mostly Sunni armed men, who were convinced they had little or no future in a Shia-dominated Iraq—into the general population. The result was near civil war and the need for a major surge of American troops, all of which made a mockery of President Bush’s claim on May 1, 2003 that “major combat operations in Iraq” had ended.

Even if one believes that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was necessary, a closer reading of history might have led to a much more responsible and well-thought-out strategy: one that took cognizance of the deep ethnic and religious divisions within Iraq; understood—as General MacArthur and President Truman did when they ordered the Japanese Army to keep order in Japan until American occupation troops arrived—that the uncontrolled disbanding of a nation’s armed forces is a recipe for disaster; and recognized—as FDR did—that the development of Western-style democracy involves much more than the highly over-used and over-rated concept of “freedom” or the right to vote. It also requires tolerance, a respect for the rule of law, and a willingness to build the necessary institutions that make up a modern democratic state.

In a little-known comment near the end of the tumultuous 1920s—the decade which brought us a brutal civil war in Russia and a great deal of nationalist upheaval in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine—British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin reflected that what was really required in the wake of the First World War was not so much the determination “to make the world safe for democracy,” as President Wilson argued, but rather the determination “to make democracy safe for the world.”

Franklin Roosevelt understood this. He recognized that it was the ideology of fascism—inspired in part by the frustrations of the First World War—that brought us the Second World War and all its concomitant horrors, including the Holocaust. As such, to win the military struggle—made so much easier today by the advent of technologies like the predator drone—was not enough. We also had to bring an end to the ideology of fascism, and to accomplish this we had to offer the people of the world not just “freedom” in the narrow sense of the word, but a much more expansive and all-inclusive concept, a definition of freedom that included, as FDR so eloquently put it, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. These four concepts together, along with the creation of such institutions as the United Nations and America’s willingness to embrace multilateralism, gave us the credibility to lead the world in the decades that followed. In this sense, FDR also learned from history, for having lived through the First World War and the failed peace that followed, he understood that our ultimate task was not so much to “make the world safe for democracy,” but rather “to make democracy safe for the world.” It is this lesson above all else that we need to embrace today if we are to entertain any hope of bringing an end to the crises in Iraq and Syria. 

David B. Woolner is a Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian for the Roosevelt Institute. 

 

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Daily Digest - June 19: Government Has the Power to End the Student Debt Crisis

Jun 19, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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College is Ruining Lives! How to Stop Student Debt’s Paralyzing Spiral (Salon)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our Monday through Friday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

College is Ruining Lives! How to Stop Student Debt’s Paralyzing Spiral (Salon)

David Dayen calls for free tuition at public colleges and universities, and for the federal government to stop using private student loan servicers that put profits ahead of borrowers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Loan servicers lose money when student loans are paid off ahead of schedule, but Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that shouldn't concern taxpayers.

The Fed of Magical Thinking: Why is Janet Yellen Ignoring the Rest of Us? (The Guardian)

The Federal Reserve uses a measure of inflation that doesn't include food or gas, which Heidi Moore says leaves the central bank out of step with ordinary Americans' concerns.

Cutting the Poor Out of Welfare (NYT)

Thomas Edsall blames recent increases in extreme poverty on ostensibly anti-poverty policy shifts that support married and working adults over all other people living in poverty.

Obama: US Must ‘Strengthen Unions’ (The Hill)

Justin Sink reports on the President's statements on unions at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, where he credited organized labor with building the country's middle class.

Increasing Wages is an Effective Poverty Reduction Tool (TalkPoverty)

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Does Innovation Always Lead to Gentrification? (Pacific Standard)

Kyle Chayka argues that innovation districts, filled with new and growing businesses, should be built to benefit an economically diverse population instead of just young workers.

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Daily Digest - June 18: Is High CEO Pay a Reward for Failure?

Jun 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Study: The Higher the Pay, the Worse the CEO (Vocativ)

Daniel Edward Rosen looks at a study from the University of Utah, which shows that companies that pay CEOs more than $20 million a year have average annual losses over $1 billion.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Study: The Higher the Pay, the Worse the CEO (Vocativ)

Daniel Edward Rosen looks at a study from the University of Utah, which shows that companies that pay CEOs more than $20 million a year have average annual losses over $1 billion.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Campus Network alumna Lydia Austin look at additional ways high CEO pay distorts the economy.

Chicago Aldermen Want a $15 Minimum Wage in Their City, Too (In These Times)

Progressives in Chicago are pushing their own minimum wage increase, reports Ethan Corey, and the popular measure would be implemented much more quickly than Seattle's.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong says increasing the minimum wage is a powerful step to promote democracy.

A Small Increase in Inflation Squeezes U.S. Workers (NYT)

Neil Irwin reports that average wages have fallen 0.1 percent in the past year when inflation is taken into account, so while the economy may be improving, workers are still struggling.

The Big Freeze on Hiring (WaPo)

Companies are taking longer than ever to fill open jobs, and Catherine Rampell suspects their reluctance is due to continued uncertainty about the health of the economy.

Domestic Workers, Domestic Cargo (The Baffler)

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Critics Warn Starbucks Employees to Read the Fine Print of New Tuition Plan (ThinkProgress)

Alan Pyke speaks to education experts, who critique the Starbucks program for restricting tuition assistance to a single online university, with no options for in-person classes.

U.S. Reaches $968 Million Mortgage Settlement With SunTrust (WSJ)

Alan Zibel and Andrew R. Johnson report on SunTrust's settlement, the latest attempt to penalize banks for abusive mortgage practices. $500 million is reserved to help underwater homeowners.

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