all i want is a jobJobs policy in the US has evolved over the years as its focus has changed from job creation to job training to job placement. Placement however only works if there are jobs for the unemployed to be placed in.

With few jobs available in recent years due to the economic crisis, the weakness of the current focus has been exposed. What America needs, Mary Gatta argues in her new book, is a new jobs policy. ‘All I want is a Job!‘ should be ‘required reading for anyone interested in low wage work, labor markets, social welfare policy and economic development’ says Stephanie Luce reviewing the book for Gender & Society.

News of improvement in the January jobs report shows that that there is cause for some optimism. The job market appears to be stable, and jobs are being added. Even the rise in unemployment indicates that those who had previously given up looking for work have returned to the labor market. However, there is still cause for concern.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons.

by Philip Cohen

There is a lot to be said for the common critique of economists: They see society as the product of freely acting, rationally calculating individuals for whom monetary reward is the primary source of motivation. Free markets, to them, are the pure expression of social function and economic growth through their realization is the only outcome that matters.

But people do not simply act rationally to maximize their economic rewards, because they can have incomplete or inaccurate information, ideological biases, conflicting desires or collective interests. Exploitation, dishonesty, violence, ignorance and demagoguery set vast areas of social life apart outside the model. The multiplying exceptions overwhelm the rule bringing the model’s utility into question.

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Source: Money, by 401(K). CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

by Elizabeth Popp Berman and Daniel Hirschman

There’s a puzzle around economics. On the one hand, economists have the most policy influence of any group of social scientists. In the United States, for example, economics is the only social science that controls a major branch of government policy (through the Federal Reserve), or has an office in the White House (the Council of Economic Advisers). And though they don’t rank up there with lawyers, economists make a fairly strong showing among prime ministers and presidents, as well.

But as any economist will tell you, that doesn’t mean that policymakers commonly take their advice. There are lots of areas where economists broadly agree, but policymakers don’t seem to care. Economists have wide consensus on the need for carbon taxes, but that doesn’t make them an easier political sell. And on topics where there’s a wider range of economic opinions, like over minimum wages, it seems that every politician can find an economist to tell her exactly what she wants to hear.

So if policymakers don’t take economists’ advice, do they actually matter in public policy? Here, it’s useful to distinguish between two different types of influence: direct and indirect.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Philip Cohen

The economist Justin Wolfers, writing for the New York Times Upshot, reports that economists increasingly outnumber other social scientists in mentions in the both the Times and — even more — in the Congressional Record. About 1% of Times stories use the word “economist,” more than three-times as often as they write “sociologist.” Here’s his figure tracking Times references:


In the Congressional Record the economist-sociologist ratio is 20-to-1. I’ll show some other numbers, but first a little setup.

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The Institute of Medicine recently published Dying in America, a sweeping report arguing that the health care system does not match the needs of people as they near the end of life. The dying process, the report explained, is too medicalized and too costly. Such outcomes are predictable consequences of the “perverse financial incentives” embedded in Medicare and Medicaid’s fee-for-service reimbursement formulas.

As much as fee-for-service shapes hospital care, it shapes nursing home care even more profoundly. Nursing home care is expensive and insurance coverage is terribly inadequate. The average daily charge for a night in a nursing home is about $225 per day, or $7,000 monthly and $84,000 annually. Although Medicare is the insurance program for people over the age of 65, it does not cover long-term nursing home care. Medicaid covers those costs, but only after residents’ life savings have been depleted. People in nursing homes who outlive their savings default to Medicaid, which provides insurance coverage until the end of life.

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Credit: kPluto (Creative Commons: BY-NC-SA 2.0)

by Anthony Marcus, Chris Thomas, and Amber Horning

Many recent public policy discussions about prostitution, especially underage prostitution, invoke disturbing narratives of hyper-violent, predatory pimps luring and coercing young girls into sex slavery. However, three recent studies of underage sex workers and pimps/market facilitators in New York and New Jersey call into question these assumptions. First, these public narratives overestimate the role of pimps in street sex markets; second, they overemphasize the impact of the initial recruitment stage on subsequent practices; and third, they mask or simplify the difficult and complex choices and contingencies faced by minors who sell sex. The studies find that there is in fact no prototypical pimp and relationships are more flexible, dynamic, and particular to the individuals involved than has been previously imagined.

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