Weekend reading: Announcing Equitable Growth’s 2021 research grants edition

This is a post we publish each Friday with links to articles that touch on economic inequality and growth. The first section is a round-up of what Equitable Growth published this week and the second is relevant and interesting articles we’re highlighting from elsewhere. We won’t be the first to share these articles, but we hope by taking a look back at the whole week, we can put them in context.

Equitable Growth round-up

Earlier this week, Equitable Growth announced a record $1,392,795 in research grants for scholars examining the various channels through which inequality impacts economic growth and stability. The 62 researchers, including faculty members, postdoctoral students, and Ph.D. candidates at U.S. colleges and universities, make up the largest-ever cohort of Equitable Growth annual academic and doctoral grantees. Equitable Growth grants fall into four overarching categories, and this year’s awards emphasize our commitment to funding cutting-edge research that addresses pressing policy concerns, including studying the roots and effects of systemic racism, mitigating the impact of climate change, and making child care more accessible in the United States. The findings from these projects will likely inform the policy debate in the months and years to come. Learn more about all the research we funded through the 2021 grant cycle.

This Labor Day, Equitable Growth’s Kate Bahn and Carmen Sanchez Cumming look at the impact of unions on interracial solidarity. Unions promote labor standards enforcement, increase wages for all workers (unionized or not), and reduce inequality. And a new paper finds that union also temper racial resentment and boost support for public policies that benefit Black workers, families, and communities more broadly. Bahn and Sanchez Cumming detail the research paper’s findings that White union member attitudes become more favorable toward policies such as affirmative action or programs designed to improve social and economic circumstances of Black communities, compared to White nonunion members. They also explain how unions influence political views and attitudes toward race, and the complicated history of unions and racism.

There are many inequities in access to adequate transportation in the United States, constraining the economy, harming the well-being of individuals, and perpetuating racial disparities. In order to properly measure and track the prevalence of transportation insecurity—a term coined by Alix Gould-Werth, Alexandra Murphy, and Jamie Griffin of the University of Michigan to describe the condition of being unable to regularly move from place to place in a safe or timely manner—the co-authors developed a Transportation Security Index. This index also can help measure the racial inequities in transportation insecurity, allowing policymakers and government agencies to target and deliver services more efficiently to ameliorate these inequities. In a column, Gould-Werth and Murphy explain how the index is calculated and why it is more accurate than most current tools used to measure transportation equity.

Congress is currently debating how to proceed with President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, two infrastructure packages designed to bolster U.S. physical and social infrastructure. David Mitchell dives into comparisons between President Biden’s plans and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda from the 1930s. Mitchell details the shortcomings of the New Deal—namely its carve-outs that denied benefits for domestic service workers, who were mostly women and people of color—and reviews how President Biden is attempting to right these wrongs, as well as center climate change mitigation, in his 2021 agenda.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on employment and the U.S. labor force in August today, revealing a telling slowdown in the job market recovery as COVID-19 infections rise. Carmen Sanchez Cumming, Kate Bahn, and Kathryn Zickuhr detail the implications, particularly for public school teachers. While public education employment has been strong in recent months, many school districts face a teacher shortage as educators are struggling against coronavirus outbreaks, shifting public health guidelines, and contentious debates over mask mandates for school children. These newer challenges, the co-authors explain, have arisen in addition to longstanding issues in the sector such as low pay, lack of administrative support, and high stress at work—all of which have widespread consequences and costs, which are higher for women and people of color.

Links from around the web

Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire at the beginning of next week. But, writes NPR’s Scott Horsley, this doesn’t mean the millions of U.S. workers who have accessed this vital income support will immediately return to work. The data from states that ended the extended Unemployment Insurance program early show that cutting off these benefits did not lead to a surge in employment. And with the delta variant of the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the recovery, allowing this program to expire will likely increase poverty rates and reduce spending across the economy. Horsley interviews two workers who will experience cuts about how they expect the change in policy to affect their well-being.

The staggeringly high levels of wealth inequality in the United States have disproportionately negative effects on children of color, and in particular on Black and Hispanic children, reports The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington. In fact, he continues, new research shows that Black families with children have access to barely 1 cent for every dollar their White counterparts have. These findings have implications for the recently expanded Child Tax Credit, which would go a long way to lifting many U.S. children out of poverty but which is temporary and will expire at the end of this year. Pilkington then details how racial wealth inequality perpetuates a cycle in which the divides in wealth and income between White households and households of color increasingly grow wider and are passed on to future generations.

U.S. workers are increasingly taking gig economy jobs, with 1 in 3 employees accepting positions that don’t come with employer-provided benefits such as health care or paid time off. Recode’s Rani Molla dives into the implications of this finding, particularly as relates to inequality. Gig work tends to exacerbate unequal outcomes because it shifts the risks from employers to employees and can lead to financial instability for workers, alongside higher levels of stress. Gig economy employees also tend to not have workplace protections such as minimum wages or overtime pay, or access to income support programs or paid parental leave. Even so, Molla writes, growth in gig employment has outpaced growth in wage employment and has risen particularly high since the coronavirus pandemic began, probably because workers compensate for or buffer income shocks as a result of being laid off or working fewer hours. Molla goes into further detail about why workers are turning to gig work now, as well as how these workers can be better protected.

Friday figure

U.S. unemployment rate by race, 2019–2021

Figure is from Equitable Growth’s “August Jobs Report: Uncertainty and teacher shortages loom over the new school year” by Kate Bahn, Carmen Sanchez Cumming, and Kathryn Zickuhr.

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