Daily Digest - December 19: How Michigan Can Put Its Best Minds to Work

Dec 19, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Bill Helps Solve Michigan's Brain Drain (Lansing State Journal)

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Bill Helps Solve Michigan's Brain Drain (Lansing State Journal)

Sonja Karnovsky and Adam Watkins, co-Presidents of the University of Michigan chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, argue that a bill that would create a tax credit to reduce student loan costs for graduates who stay in-state, which is based on a Campus Network proposal, would also improve the state's economy.

Street Protests Can Foil Congress (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that anyone seeking to reform today's Congress should look at the response to the filibusters of the Civil Rights era. Social movement politics pushed through filibuster reform in 1975, and similar pressures could help end today's dysfunction.

Not So Fast: New Budget Deal Leaves a Lot to Deal With (MoJo)

Patrick Caldwell points out that the Ryan-Murray budget is only a broad framework, and Congress still needs to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to set spending levels on a program-by-program basis. With $46 billion to cut, that's not going to be an easy process.

Looking for a Job? Congress Doesn’t Seem to Care (The Root)

Charles D. Ellison points out that while Congress continues to focus on the Affordable Care Act and the budget deficit, polling data shows that the majority of Americans would rather see their representatives shift their attention to jobs. Sadly, Congress seems to have missed these polls.

The Taper is Here, and the Stock Market Seems to Love It (Quartz)

Matt Phillips reports that the Federal Reserve has begun to taper its bond-buying program, and the S&P 500 shot up in response to the news. But the Fed isn't done pushing for low inflation, so Phillips argues that the central bank will remain a major market presence.

The Fed Tapered Perfectly—Here's What It Needs To Do Next (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien explains how the Fed has managed to keep markets from reacting badly to tapering, as they did when the very suggestion was made back in May. He adds that with inflation still below target and unemployment still too high, expanded monetary policy will still be needed.

Charting a Mismatch in Housing Spending (Off the Charts)

Will Fischer looks at federal housing spending, which disproportionately subsidizes wealthier households and favors homeownership over renting. Since low-income renters are far more likely to need support, he says Congress should put more resources into rental assistance.

UAW Wants to Eliminate Two-Tier Wage System: Official (Reuters)

Ben Klayman reports on the United Auto Workers' new push to eliminate dramatically lower pay for entry-level hires compared to veteran workers. A UAW vice president says that to do away with this system, they'll need to organize non-union plants in the South.

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Think Global, Act Hyper-Local: Campus Network Rates Colleges on Economic and Social Impact in Their Communities

Dec 9, 2013Alan Smith

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network is launching a new project next month to analyze how anchor institutions such as colleges and universities affect their local economies, and help those institutions make changes for the better.

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network is launching a new project next month to analyze how anchor institutions such as colleges and universities affect their local economies, and help those institutions make changes for the better.

With the social contract failing many Americans, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network has undertaken a new project to explore ways to reverse it. The things we, as Millennials, have long been told are core parts of the American bargain – public education, safe working environments, affordable healthcare, the basic ability to provide for one’s family – are becoming harder to achieve in the 21st century.

To address this daunting trend, students in our campus chapters are undertaking an experiment, which we call “Rethinking Communities.” It is based on the assumption that localities – cities, towns, and even neighborhoods – will drive the economies and politics of the future. This approach reflects the innovative thinking that has been a hallmark of the Campus Network for the past decade. The Campus Network has long looked to local action in many places as a means of influencing the direction of the nation. We see an intentional community-building endeavor as a start to counter issues raised by globalization, increased inequality, outsourcing of jobs, and changes in technological capabilities.

We reject a binary vision of the government and economy that holds that either government exists solely to support markets, or that government responds to societal challenges through regulation and policy change. The Millennial generation has had ample evidence that this dichotomy misses something: the Great Recession undercut the idea that markets are reliable adjudicators of the public good, and the recent government shutdown made amply evident that Washington cannot respond effectively to many of the immediate problems we face.

This is why the Campus Network will look to bring a different social pressure to bear: that of community governance, which draws on the strengths of local structures to fill the gaps left by the market and the federal systems. While the concept of trusting local groups to rule on local issues is not a new one, the possibilities of a truly networked system of community governance opens up huge new potential. Just as the Internet has driven down costs and other factors in manufacturing and production, we aim to explore possibilities for a new labor movement, new locally supported economies, and new ways of patching together shared identity and support from many small collaborating groups instead of a single top-down organizing force.

Our objective at the Campus Network is to take advantage of our physical presence in communities nationwide, and find optimal ways to rethink local economies. With the goal of reforming anchor institutions that are the backbone of these communities (anchor institutions are places like hospitals or colleges and universities), here’s what we’ll be doing in the coming year with chapters throughout our 115-chapter network:

Using the set of metrics developed by the Democracy Collaborative, an organization based at the University of Maryland that advocates for economic justice and increased access to democracy, that were expanded and refined by Campus Network’s membership, students at multiple chapters, including University of Tennessee, Goucher College, and the University of Michigan, will assess their own college or university. These metrics, which are akin to a report card (think LEEDS standards), have been built to define how well an institution facilitates local economic development, community building and education, health, safety and environment. By using the same set of metrics across the board, we will both grow our understanding of a how a specific institution can improve in its role as a local anchor, and contribute to a larger understanding of how anchor institutions compare to each other.

Based on these metrics, groups will write proposals that improve a specific weakness. Redirecting a portion of a University’s purchasing to focus on locally owned businesses, facilitating the creation of financially secure households, or working to improve the health of community residents are all projects that play to the social role of colleges and universities. While we work to implement these local fixes, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network will collectively create a method to grade anchor institutions across the country on how they alleviate or exacerbate economic inequality. Might this comparative process put real pressure on universities – and eventually, hospitals, airports, or even sports teams – to do a better job in responding to the needs and values of the communities where they’re based? That is what we hope to examine.

We can’t be sure if we can scale the Rethinking Communities project to our national problems, in order to rebuild the robust social contract that America has with its citizens. But through the bold and persistent experimentation of the Campus Network, we aim to see how far we can go to create new self-sustaining economies that resist the economic pressures of the larger world. And in that innovative spirit, we hearken back to the values of Franklin Roosevelt that undergird all of our work: a system that is more balanced, more sustainable, and more able to support the common good.

Alan Smith is the Associate Director of Networked Initiatives at the Roosevelt Institute.

Photo via Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network

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Daily Digest - December 5: Pensions and Wages and Unions, Oh My!

Dec 5, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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An Agenda to Save the Euro (Project Syndicate)

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An Agenda to Save the Euro (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz lays out a plan to reform the political structure of the eurozone. Eliminating austerity policies, among other changes, could save the Euro and the European project of unity.

Life in a Mobile Nation (NYT)

The New York Times draws on former Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz's recent series on where Millennials are building their lives for a Room for Debate discussion. The responses consider whether a city can be ideal for all stages of a life.

A Government Ban on 23andMe's Genetic Testing Ignores Reality (The Guardian)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alumnus Rahul Rekhi says the FDA is trying to regulate 21st century technology with 20th century policy. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing could have plenty of potential, but an outright ban closes that option for research.

Study: States that Reject Medicaid Expansion Lose Money (USA Today)

Kelly Kennedy reports on a new study from the Commonwealth Fund laying out the state-by-state financial losses from refusing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. That money would have gone to local health care providers, growing the states' economies.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn's white paper, "The Title X Factor," says that states refusing Medicaid expansion is one of the reasons Title X family planning funds remain so important.

Pension Theft: Class War Goes to the Next Stage (Truthout)

Dean Baker decries the new sport of pension theft, a game that has just opened in Detroit and Illinois which he fears will spread further. Pensions are written into contracts, but apparently those contracts don't matter when they affect average workers.

Fast Food Strikes Hit 100 Cities Thursday (The Nation)

Allison Kilkenny speaks to fast food workers who plan to join strikes today as the call for higher wages spreads. The first fast food strikes were just over a year ago in New York City, and they have spread across the country; today's actions are expected to be the largest yet.

It’s Not Just Fast-Food Workers Who are Underpaid (Reuters)

Helaine Olen points out that while so-called "fast casual" dining might look nicer, with higher food quality and prices to match, that doesn't mean workers are paid any more than in fast food. It's important to keep that in mind with today's fast food strikes.

Don't Blame Robots For Declining Wages -- Blame Dissolving Unions (TPM)

Tali Kristal says that technology has only done so much to bring down wages. Her research shows the largest declines in share of income going to workers occurring in sectors where unions are disappearing, which does give us a possible path for wages to go back up.

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Daily Digest - December 4: Youth Unemployment Is Leading to Tragedy

Dec 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

CFPB To Supervise Largest Student Loan Servicers (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has finalized a rule giving it oversight over the companies that collect payments on federal student loans. This should hopefully ensure more borrower-friendly practices.

Detroit Is Bankrupt: What Now? (Pacific Standard)

Anna Clark lists the three most important things to be aware of now that the courts have approved Detroit's bankruptcy filing. She notes that this case will have a major impact on other cities, which look to Detroit as an example of the possibilities in their future.

Fighting Corruption Polls Off the Charts (MSNBC)

Zachary Roth reports on a new poll from represent.us which shows that the vast majority of Americans support tougher campaign finance laws. Unfortunately, incumbents seem uninterested in changing the rules that helped to get them elected.

  • Roosevelt Take: Jeff Raines, Chair of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Student Board of Advisors, explains how a current Supreme Court case could further weaken campaign finance law.

Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom (The New Yorker)

George Packer ties low retail sales during the extended Black Friday weekend to the fights for a higher minimum wage. Executives should recognize the practical truth that workers need to be able to afford to shop too.

Tax Breaks for CEOs Pay for Million-Dollar Salaries (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic explains the performance pay loophole that allows corporations to deduct millions in executive compensation from their federal income taxes. She draws a parallel between the results of that policy and the low wages of average fast food workers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alum Lydia Austin wrote a white paper calling on Congress to close the performance pay loophole. Read it here.

Low Bank Wages Costing the Public Millions, Report Says (WaPo)

Danielle Douglas writes that new data from the University of California at Berkeley's Labor Center shows that bank employees are relying heavily on public assistance, to the tune of $900 million a year. The banking industry reported $141.3 billion in profits last year.

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North Carolina Students Push Past Bad News For Good Policy Proposals

Nov 26, 2013Wilson Parker

Members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network in North Carolina refuse to be discouraged by the state’s bad news, and propose policy changes that would make a difference for their state.

Members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network in North Carolina refuse to be discouraged by the state’s bad news, and propose policy changes that would make a difference for their state.

North Carolina has been in the news quite a lot recently, and for almost uniformly bad reasons. North Carolinians have watched as their legislature passed one of the nation’s “most wide-ranging” voter ID laws, enacted the “harshest” cuts to unemployment insurance during the recession in the entire country, banned the use of modern science to project sea level rise,  attached a restrictive set of requirements on abortion providers to a motorcycle safety bill in order to ramrod it through, and made a host of other questionable decisions about our state and its future.

But I’m happy to say that students in North Carolina aren’t discouraged. I’ve watched my peers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) – from diverse perspectives – engage with the issues our state is facing. At the UNC chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network – and at our sister chapters across the state – we’re trying to do our part.  Last year, we published a journal focused on policy issues in North Carolina. The journal was a big success, covering a wide array of policy topics and getting more than 15,000 hits online.

We just finished our second volume and we hope it will be an even bigger success. Like our first edition, it contains a variety of forward-thinking ideas for our state and its future. Here are some quick takeaways:

North Carolina should expand access to Dual Enrollment

North Carolina currently offers high school students the option of taking courses at nearby community colleges and receiving credit towards both their high school diplomas and a college degree. These programs give North Carolinian students skills they can use in the workforce, additional preparation for their college educations, and – by reducing the number of semesters they need to receive a diploma – make it easier for students to complete their college educations. They are especially helpful to low-income students who seek to minimize the financial burden of education after high school.

In our journal, Kate Matthews argues persuasively that North Carolina should expand this program to enhance the effectiveness and equity of its high school programs. Furthermore, because these programs “utiliz[e] available resources rather than funding new initiatives,” expanding them is a highly cost-effective way for the state to improve education in North Carolina.

North Carolina shouldn’t give rapists parental rights

“In 31 states, including North Carolina, a rapist can assert the same custody and visitation rights that other biological parents enjoy.” This may be the journal’s most frightening sentence. But Molly Williams’s article does more than raise awareness about this serious problem: it also offers a solution. Williams suggests that North Carolina should adopt legislation modeled after bills in other states which give courts the option of terminating parental rights if a child was conceived as a result of incest or rape.

Wake County Schools should take a page out of Forsyth County’s book

North Carolina’s Wake County Schools – like its legislature – have been getting the state in the news for the wrong reasons. Many commentators, including Stephen Colbert, have criticized the school district for eliminating its diversity plan.

Students at the Wake Forest chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network have a proposal that will help Wake County meet the needs of all its students. Forsyth County and Wake County have similar needs: both contain major North Carolina cities (Winston-Salem and Raleigh, respectively) and both serve diverse student populations. In order to provide its most ambitious students with a variety of curricular options, Forsyth County created a “Career Center” which offers a variety of Advanced Placement and technical courses. Students remain enrolled at their home high schools but travel to the Career Center for part of the day. Transportation is provided by the school district. Not only does the Career Center expand students’ curricular options; it makes those options available to all students in the district, no matter which high school they happen to attend. The Wake Forest chapter makes the case that Wake County should consider a similar program.

North Carolina should use a “foundation funding” approach rather than a “flat-grant” model to fund its schools

North Carolina’s current funding model for public schools pays for districts’ basic costs, but requires localities to pick up the rest of the bill and makes no allowance for economic differences between districts. Consequentially, Ioan Bolohan writes, “geographic socioeconomic differences lead to inequalities in the resources available to schools” which result in “inadequate funding and disparities in educational opportunities for students.”

Instead, Bolohan argues, North Carolina should adopt a foundation funding model that establishes a minimum tax rate across all school districts and provides state funding on an adjusted basis to make up for economic disparities. This approach, he writes, has improved outcomes and reduced inequality in states as diverse as Ohio, Massachusetts, and Texas. We can only hope North Carolina will be next.

Wilson Parker is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying Economics and Philosophy. He is Co-President of the UNC Chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and Editor-in-Chief of the North Carolina Undergraduate Journal of Public Affairs. 

Photo via Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Daily Digest - November 26: Rethinking Fairness And Pay It Forward College Plans

Nov 25, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Trouble with Pay It Forward, Pay It Back (The GC Advocate)

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The Trouble with Pay It Forward, Pay It Back (The GC Advocate)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues against the pay it forward model of higher education funding that Oregon will soon attempt. He would greatly prefer using government to drive down the cost of tuition at public schools - and hopefully private institutions would follow.

Statistics: The Real Lost Generation (Truthdig)

Alexander Reed Kelly takes a look at the data in Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick's recent column for Harper's Magazine on youth who are neither in school nor employed, or "opportunity youth." The numbers are scary, but government isn't taking any action.

  • Roosevelt Take: Read Jeff's column, "The Real Lost Generation," here.

H&M to Pay All Textile Workers Living Wage by 2018 (Epoch Times)

Catherine Yang reports on the clothing retailer's announcement, which they said will not impact prices. H&M's statement explicitly tied the size of the company to its responsibility to be a leader in pushing for living wages worldwide.

Bank Deal Ends Flawed Reviews of Foreclosures (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports on a settlement deal that is taking the place of real reviews of foreclosures. This solution is obviously faster and easier for the banks and the government, but it doesn't do much of anything for people who were harmed by the banks.

Aging Americans Have a New Companion: Higher Debt (Reuters)

Helaine Olen explains how social and economic changes have led to a major increase in the amount of debt held by Americans over 50. The trouble is, as Americans age, it's harder and harder to retain work to pay off that debt.

Here's Why Wall Street has a Hard Time Being Ethical (The Guardian)

In light of a new report which states that financial services professionals see ethical standards as an impediment to advancement in their workplaces, Chris Arnade explains how ethics and compliance standards were uphold during his Wall Street career.

New on Next New Deal

Abortion Restrictions Are Harming Women's Health and Human Rights in Texas

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn looks at a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which shows just how badly new laws are harming the women of the Rio Grande Valley.

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Daily Digest - November 25: Incivility Isn't One Person's Fault

Nov 25, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Incivility in America - The Millennials: Restoring Civility (Hannity)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist, Joelle Gamble, and Senior Fellow for Economic Development, Azi Hussain, appeared on Fox News, where they drove Sean Hannity crazy by refusing to blame politically incivility on President Obama.

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Incivility in America - The Millennials: Restoring Civility (Hannity)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist, Joelle Gamble, and Senior Fellow for Economic Development, Azi Hussain, appeared on Fox News, where they drove Sean Hannity crazy by refusing to blame politically incivility on President Obama.

Bubble in the Making? How the Stock Market Might Not Reflect the Current Economy (PBS NewsHour)

Paul Solman speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal about the disconnect between the soaring stock exchange and the weaker economy, seen in today's still-high unemployment rate. He argues that stocks would be even higher if more people had jobs.

A Sustainable Economic Path (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter and Joe Kasputys present a proposal for a reasonable and balanced way to deal with the national debt without crippling the economy through sequestration cuts. Reducing debt can't come at the expense of everything else.

Yes, the Government Should Spend More Each Year (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that as the economy grows each year, government spending should grow with it. The country's needs don't shrink with greater wealth, so the GOP's call to "spend one dollar less" doesn't work.

Could Teller Organizing Help Halt Bank Abuses? (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe reports on new workplace organizing attempts by bank tellers, who are protesting against outsourcing via video conferencing. Video tellers could save money for Bank of America, at the cost of local jobs at their branches.

JPMorgan Says It Broke No Law. So Why Pay The $13 Billion? (NPR)

Jim Zarroli explains how the bank can pay this fine to the Justice Department and still claim that it broke no laws. The public statement was so carefully worded that both sides can spin it into a victory, which means no clear explanation of wrongdoing.

New on Next New Deal

President Obama: Give Millennials a Seat at the Table on Climate Change

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment Melia Ungson argues climate change solutions need to begin locally, and should start involving tomorrow's leaders right now.

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President Obama: Give Millennials a Seat at the Table on Climate Change

Nov 22, 2013Melia Ungson

Solutions to climate change begin at the community level, and tomorrow's leaders must be involved in the planning process today.

Solutions to climate change begin at the community level, and tomorrow's leaders must be involved in the planning process today.

Over the past several months, climate change has finally inched toward the spotlight. President Obama issued a Climate Action Plan in June, and a few months later he directed the EPA to enforce carbon emission limits for power plants. As a recent UN report further solidified that human activity is the cause of climate change, Obama has taken another step toward ensuring that the United States sticks to its international commitments and that the country is prepared to mitigate and adapt to changes at home. Shortly after the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, on November 1, the President issued an executive order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.” This executive order paves the way for more prepared and resilient communities, but it is no substitute for young people, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, engaging in conversations to reenvision government’s role in addressing climate change.

In the executive order, Obama recognizes first the obligation to leave a healthy planet to future generations, and second that communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Added to the urgency is the fact that the communities most greatly impacted by climate change are often those that already contend with other problems, such as weak economies or regional health problems.

According to the White House, the executive order is meant to ensure that the federal government is equipped to effectively support “community-based preparedness and resilience efforts” through policies and investment priorities that advocate preparedness, protect infrastructure, support scientific research, and “protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.” More concretely, this means finding a way to modernize federal agencies and federal programs in order to encourage government at every level to consider climate risks and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies. 

To do this, the federal government is looking to the state and local levels. President Obama has created a task force made of governors, mayors, and tribal and local officials who have volunteered to participate. According to the White House, the task force will provide recommendations on how the federal government can remove “barriers to resilient investments, [modernize] Federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts, and [develop] the information and tools they need to prepare.”

Far from a government takeover, the executive order calls for the federal government to look to state and local officials to gain insight on how to improve federal programs and better understand how communities can boost preparedness and innovation. Ultimately, the failure to prioritize climate change on the federal level is and will continue to be played out on a local level. This means that the local officials of tomorrow, who are the young people of today, will be forced to contend with changes in their communities and will be responsible for navigating the state and federal programs designed to provide support. Nancy Sutley, head of a White House environmental council, explained that communities are “on the front lines of dealing with the impacts of climate change.” That makes this bottom-up approach critical while the federal, state, and local levels of government incorporate climate change risks into project planning.

This order is an important step in ensuring that government at every level will be better equipped to plan for and address climate change in the future. It will spur greater innovation by encouraging officials in DC and around the country to think creatively by promoting data-sharing and collaboration for informed and coordinated efforts, and by opening a space, through the task force, for officials to come together and provide feedback.

Furthermore, this action is important in building a more vibrant economy and government in the long run. The federal government will continue to be called on to foot the bill for disaster relief after major storms or droughts, to compensate for the effects of ailing infrastructure, and to support communities that are struggling to adapt to climate change. Given this potential for real burdens on the government budget, we cannot wait to act if we want to protect both our communities and our economy. We need to create our own climate insurance of sorts. The steps we take now toward preparation and mitigation could be less costly overall than waiting until the urgency is greater and options more limited.

White House staff understand this need. John P. Holdren, the President’s science advisor, noted how the executive order emphasizes the need to make current investments “produce a much more resilient society.” This future-oriented thinking is essential if we want to effectively address climate change and if we want to fulfill the moral obligation to leave future generations with a healthy planet and resilient communities. More immediately, when Millennials are in positions of power, we know that climate change will be high on the agenda, and therefore understand that it is our generation that will reap the rewards or manage the clean-up of whatever actions we take or do not take in the coming months and years.

Our generation needs to go one step beyond this executive order. This call for a bottom-up approach, for crowdsourcing ideas, feedback, and innovation should extend to Millennials around the country as well. We know we have a huge stake in preparing our communities for the future, and we cannot sit back and wait for our turn to take the reins. A clear next step to the executive order would be to engage youth representatives, students, and young professionals in a task force that would emphasize a forward-thinking approach. To get there, Millennials can take an active role in learning from local officials grappling with climate change impacts as they arise, so that we are more knowledgeable and prepared when the problems are squarely in our hands. Millennials can also take an active role in proposing and testing solutions that will start building stronger communities today. We must take on the responsibility to engage with local officials, harness our creativity and skills, and stay dedicated to a long-term vision. 

Melia Ungson is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment.

Hurricane Sandy image via Shutterstock.

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How Can We Help America's Opportunity Youth? Five Lessons Learned in New Orleans

Nov 20, 2013Nell Abernathy

Young people who aren't in school or working aren't beyond hope, but we need to invest more in the programs that will help them.

Young people who aren't in school or working aren't beyond hope, but we need to invest more in the programs that will help them.

The great recession has hit younger, less educated workers hardest, leaving 6.7 million young people between the ages of 16-24 out of work and out of school. These “Opportunity Youth” are more likely than their peers to experience unemployment, low wages, and poverty as adults, and more likely to end up incarcerated or in need of government assistance.

The Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative went to the heart of the crisis, New Orleans, where 23 percent of young people between the ages of 18-24 are out of work and out of school, compared to a national average of 16 percent.

We asked expert academics and practitioners how we, as a country, can tackle this pressing challenge.

Here’s what we learned:

I. Opportunity Youth remain hopeful and we should too.

The vast majority of Opportunity Youth remain motivated and optimistic. One of our panelists, Amy Barad, Director Strategic Initiatives at the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, summed it up well: “What makes me hopeful is the kids themselves, they really want to get and education, get a job and contribute to society. Based on responses to a national survey, nearly three-quarters of Opportunity Youth are very confident or hopeful that they will be able to achieve their goals. Over three-quarters of respondents believe that getting a good education and job is their own responsibility and depends on their own effort.”

According to a survey conducted on behalf of Civic Enterprises and America’s Promise Alliance, 77 percent of those surveyed believe that getting a good education and a good job is their own responsibility and whether they succeed depends on their own effort, and 73 percent of Opportunity Youth are confident or hopeful in their ability to achieve their life goals. Here are those results in chart form:

II. However, the obstacles to reconnection are enormous and costs of disconnection are huge.

Disconnected Youth are more likely to grow up in poverty than their peers and were hit hardest by the recent recession. They are unlikely to have role models with degrees, the qualifications they need, transportation options for travelling to a job, or access to good jobs in their neighborhoods.

“The challenge is what urban planners call a wicked problem. The factors affecting disconnected youth are numerous, messy, and inter-related," Lauren Bierbaum, Executive Director of the Partnership for Youth Development, said. The obstacles to addressing disconnection are structural and rooted in communities.

For more, see the graphs below from Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis's report One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas.

III. Some programs are successfully tackling these challenges, and the Opportunity Youth are eager to receive the help.

Two much-heralded programs designed to support these young people include Project U-Turn in Philadelphia, which recently won $499,000 in funding from the Aspen Institute as part of a plan to identify and replicate a national model, and YouthBuild, a nationwide Department of Labor program for high school dropouts.

Because the long-term societal costs of disconnected youth who don’t get help include lost taxes, more government transfers, higher prison budgets, and more, upfront investment in these programs is much cheaper than doing nothing.

And kids really want this help. “I’m excited to see the youth that are out there and that really want these programs,” Cherie LaCour-Duckworth, from the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, told us. “They are screaming for them. But funding has been cut drastically.”

Through Project U-Turn, the City of Philadelphia launched a collaborative effort to provide at-risk youth with needed services and raised the city’s high school graduation rates from 52 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2012. The following graph provided by Project U-Turn demonstrates the program's success so far:

According to a 2010 survey, 50 percent of YouthBuild participants received a high school degree or GED at the end of the program and 60 percent either went on to college or found full-time living wage jobs. Here is a chart illustrating the progam's impact:

Taxpayers are going to pay one way or another, either for fixing the problem upfront or for the costs of negligence later. The following charts from Civic Enterprises' reports on its National Roadmap for Opportunity Youth and The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth show this clearly:

According to the Civic Enterprises Survey, the kids are eager and ready for this help:

IV. But here is the rub: despite the long-term societal and fiscal benefits, we are under-investing in these intervention programs.

Most programs successfully serving disconnected youth are over-subscribed, and due to austerity measures, funding is further reduced. Youth opportunity grants authorized through the Workforce Investment Act reached 90,000 young people and reduced the overall number of out-of-work, out-of-school teens. But the program has not been funded since 2005, and sequestration has reduced overall workforce training funds by an additional $1.5 billion.

AmeriCorps-funded programs, which offer young people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to serve in communities across the country, have been found to improve graduation and employment rates. The 2009 Serve America Act passed by Congress committed to increasing the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017. The Act has not been implemented, however, and 85 percent of the more than 500,000 applicants were turned down in 2012. 

Here's a pair of charts highlighting this problem, from the National Skills Coalition and Service Nation

V. So what now?

“The only way we’re going to be able to have an impact is if government at all levels tackles these issues,” Jerome Jupiter, from the Youth Empowerment Project, told us in New Orleans, “This is no one person’s issue. We need all hands on deck – key stakeholders at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as institutions such as higher education all must work collaboratively to address youth unemployment.” 

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.


Banner image via Shutterstock.com

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Daily Digest - November 20: Why Aren't We Working On Youth Unemployment?

Nov 20, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Real Lost Generation (Harper's)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

The Real Lost Generation (Harper's)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick considers the youth employment crisis. This problem has a ripple effect on the whole economy, but Washington isn't talking about it at all.

Rep. Sandy Levin on Why Congress Should Talk to More Unemployed Workers (WaPo)

Brad Plumer speaks to the Representative about the looming deadline to continue funding for extended unemployment benefits. The benefits wouldn't be phased out this time - it would be an immediate cut off at the end of the year.

San Francisco Workers Can Now Request Flexible Work Schedules—But Not Predictable Ones (RH Reality Check)

Sheila Bapat says that while San Francisco is still ahead of the curve on progressive work policy, it missed something important in a recent new ordinance. Guaranteeing flexible schedules is great, but many workers really need predictable schedules week-to-week.

Poor, with Savings (TAP)

Monica Potts writes about an innovative program in New York City that is helping the poor to save money. Most tax incentives for saving target middle- and upper-income families, but tax deferrals on 401(k)s don't do much for families struggling to get by.

Micro-Apartments: More Trouble Than They’re Worth? (Remapping Debate)

David Noriega considers how micro-apartments being built in New York City fit into housing policy as a whole. He suggests that these tiny studios are unlikely to serve as a real solution to the lack of affordable housing.

JP Morgan's $13bn Settlement – the Record-Setting Penalty Explained (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore explains the details of the JPMorgan Chase settlement with the Justice Department for its part in the mortgage crisis. About $4 billion of that settlement is going to help homeowners - but it will be hard to measure the impact of that money.

New on Next New Deal

Do Negative Rates Call For a Permanent Expansion of the Government?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes about an exchange between Ben Bernanke and Larry Summers at an International Monetary Fund event last week. Summers admitted that there may be a need for more permanent government stimulus.

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