It is quite natural for households to take on debt as children enter college. After all, college is typically very expensive and many families lack the liquidity necessary to pay tuitions that on occasion can easily exceed $50,000 per annum. But lenders and educational experts are increasingly observing households taking on loans to pay for kindergarten through the 12th grade. Much of the demand for pre-college loans comes from high-income families. Roughly 20 percent of families that applied for their children’s kindergarten through 12th grade private school education had incomes of $150,000 or more according to 2010-2011 data. These represent the latest data available from the National Association of Independent Schools. The rise in private school loans coincides with rising tuition. The average cost of private school is nearly $22,000 per year, up 4 percent from a year ago and up 26 percent from 2006-2007. Some families choose not to take loans and simply fall out of the market. Total private school enrollment nationally is projected at 5.3 million this year, down 11 percent from 2007 according to the U.S. Department of Education.
There are many of us that dream of a clean energy future. But for now, rising global demand for oil and natural gas along with higher gas prices are prompting an enormous jobs boom in fossil fuels industry. Oil and gas extraction alone created 150,000 jobs in the U.S. last year, about 9 percent of all new jobs created in 2011, according to a new study from the World Economic Forum. Virtually all segments of the oil and gas industry have experienced job growth since the recession ended. Pipeline employment is up 4 percent since June 2009. Oil and gas extraction has experienced job growth of 18 percent. Employment in support activities for mining, like surveyors for drilling sites, has surged 41 percent. Over the same period, total employment increased just 2 percent.
A recent Brookings Institution study found that clean economy jobs have been growing at a rate of 3.4 percent per year in recent years but that growth is associated with a smaller base. A study by Pew Charitable Trusts determined that about 770,000 people worked in green energy industries in 2007. That compares with more than 9 million jobs for oil and gas and there are additional jobs in other sectors like coal.
According to the Wall Street Journal, employers and business groups are working to stop an Obama administration effort that would require federal contractors to hire a minimum number of people with disabilities. Those that do not meet the minimum threshold could be penalized.
Under the Labor Department plan, most firms that contract or subcontract with the federal government would be asked to have people with disabilities comprise 7 percent of their workforce. While the Department says that this would not be an explicit requirement, companies that fail to achieve the target could be barred from securing future contracts until they prove that they are trying to hit the target. The proposal could impact hiring at approximately 200,000 companies that generate $700 billion a year in contracts with the federal government. The Labor Department states that the effort is necessary because nearly 80 percent of working age people with functional disabilities are out of the labor force entirely compared with about 30 percent of people without disabilities. The Department settled on a 7 percent target it estimates that roughly that 6 percent of the civilian workforce has at least one disability and another group is discouraged from seeking work because of one or more.
Many of us are taught that if we simply study hard in school and demonstrate desire and commitment at work, we can make it economically. That’s probably true, but certain factors matter than probably shouldn’t. One of those of factors is the sound of one’s name. In a series of studies conducted over the past two years, a trio of researchers from New York University and the University of Melbourne analyzed whether people with simpler surnames are perceived as more likeable. In the first study, 35 Australian undergraduates were presented with 50 names and asked to rate how much they liked each one. Names like Sherman, Jenkins and Benson were rated more highly than Colquhuon and Vougiouklakis. The majority of easy to pronounce names are Anglo-Celtic in origin, but several non-Anglo names like Pappas and Masaku also ranked high in likability. In another study, researchers compiled names of 50 real-life attorneys from 10 law firms. Attorneys with simpler surnames were more likely to hold a higher position in their firm — the implication being that simpler surnames may be associated with gaining interviews, being hired and being promoted.
Consumer spending patterns have shifted significantly since the recession that began in late 2007 disrupted the trajectory of U.S. household finances. According to Moody’s economy.com, households have regained only about half of the wealth they lost during the downturn and the recent market correction hasn’t helped. Wages and salaries are at roughly the same level as three years ago, but that’s before one adjusts for inflation.
Correspondingly, consumers have shifted away from stores that primarily sell discretionary goods in favor of those supplying necessities and lower-priced items. Vehicle sales have suffered the most profound decline in retail spending since 2007. In 2007, consumers spent about 21 percent of their money at dealerships. So far this year, dealers have captured only about 17 percent of spending. Because gasoline prices have risen 27 percent since 2007, gas stations have experienced some of the largest share gains.
Consumers are also spending a greater share of their income on food and healthcare. Jewelry sales have been among the economic casualties. Though stabilizing more recently, jewelry sales volumes declined 23 percent over the course of 2008 and have yet to fully recover as a share of total spending.
Even before Standard and Poor’s decided to downgrade U.S. debt from triple A to double A-plus, the U.S. economy had been in rough shape. Financial markets have been in correction, job growth has slowed over the past three months relative to earlier months, manufacturing activity has been slipping and more economists are forecasting another recession. Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, one of the nation’s most prominent economists, believes the chance of another recession is about 50-50. Some economists believe that the U.S. economy is already in recession, meaning that U.S. economic activity is presently shrinking and will continue to do so for several months to come. If the U.S. economy is not in recession, it is very much on the razor’s edge. What makes matters worse is that we have yet to recover from the prior recession, which is said to have begun in December 2007 and ended in June of 2009.
Although the U.S. economy expanded at a 3.8 percent annual rate from the fall of 2009 through the summer of 2010, it has averaged only about 1.6 percent growth since then. Some economists calculate that the U.S. economy is presently more than 15 percent below full output, by far the worst number since the Great Depression.
Many states recently finalized their budgets for fiscal year 2012 and the cuts made to public college funding have already begun to impact students and their families. According to Smart Money, since March, at least 19 states have slashed money for public colleges. Certain states like Illinois and Georgia have also cut grants awarded to students just a few months ago.
Even prior to the most recent state budgets, tuition and fees for public colleges and universities have been rising rapidly, though public schools are still far less expensive than private ones on average. According to the College Board, tuition and fees for in-state students average $7,600 last academic year compared with $27,300 at private colleges. But the affordability proposition is on the wane. For instance, last month Texas and New Hampshire announced tuition hikes of 6 to 10 percent at certain public universities. This month, California’s four-year colleges are seeking to increase tuition by up to 12 percent on top of an 8 to 10 percent increase announced earlier this year. At the same time, financial aid packages are disappearing. In June, New Hampshire, despite boasting one of the nation’s better economies, ended all state grants.
It is often said that poverty breeds violence. After all, when people find that their basic needs are unmet, they may turn to stealing or worse to procure sufficient resources. But this year’s World Development Report concludes that the opposite is also true – violence breeds poverty. The authors of the report argue that while there are many causes of poverty, violence is becoming the primary one. Peaceful nations around the world are presently escaping poverty.
Take the African nations of Burundi and Burkina Faso as examples. Up until 1990, these nations were characterized by similar rates of growth and income. But in late 1993, civil war erupted in Burundi after a presidential assassination. Roughly 300,000 people died over the next dozen years, most of them civilians. Peaceful Burkina Faso is now two and a half times richer than Burundi. People in nations that suffer habitual violence are more than twice as likely to be malnourished, three times as likely to miss primary school and almost twice as likely to die in infancy compared with others in developing countries. The implications of this World Bank analysis are far-ranging, including the idea that preventing violence should be given much higher priority than it is now.
Unemployment rate data for Maryland and the other states arrived today. The data are not pretty, as least as they relate to Maryland. Though unemployment remains unchanged at 6.8% in May, employment growth dynamics have become quite negative recently with Maryland suffering the dubious distinction of losing more jobs in percentage terms according to the house hold survey than any state in our union. According to the BLS, Maryland has lost 0.8% of its jobs over the past year. New Mexico was second worse at 0.7%.