California climate policy inequalities: Win-win, lose-lose, or somewhere in between?

In 2006, California approved AB 32, a sweeping law to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Fynnwin Prager, a researcher at the University of Southern California, examines the implications of AB 32 for economic inequality.

It is often said that policies have winners and losers. AB32 – California’s landmark cap-and-trade climate policy – has seen its fair share of both, and it is barely a year old. AB32 caps California greenhouse gas emissions – reducing down to 1990 levels by 2020 – and allows emissions rights to be traded between industries, so that the cheapest sources of reductions can be found. Earlier this month, a Sacramento Judge ruled in favor of AB32 in the latest – though surely not the last – legal challenge by pro-business groups. Since being initially passed in 2006 by Governor Schwarzenegger, AB32 has overcome further pro-business challenges at the ballot-box, and has dodged lawsuits from environmental justice groups during a long administrative review process. Continue reading

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A softening of attitudes?

BSA 30 coverYesterday, the latest British Social Attitudes report was released, and for once the story was about more positive attitudes around benefits. No more the headlines about ‘hardening’ attitudes; the headlines in the  BBC and Express talked about ‘softening attitudes’ (using the words of the official press release), or even that the ‘public’s rage against benefit claimants fades’. Given that I’ve spent the past year telling everyone that benefits attitudes are more positive than everyone thinks (like in this post that recently reappeared), this is something that you’d expect me to welcome.

But it’s not that simple. This is partly because I’m an academic, and my stock-in-trade is irritatingly disagreeing with the consensus (as my friends will tell you, this extends to pub conversations over pretty much anything…). But it’s also because if you get beyond a heartfelt desire to see change, the data are a bit ambiguous about what they show. In this post I look at the case for and against softening, and leave you to make up your own mind… Continue reading

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Should we get rid of corporation tax? (Part 1)

It’s famously difficult to get a group of economists to agree about anything. Lock a left and right wing economist in a room and ask them to come up with the best method of taxation, or the most effective way to grow the economy, and you’d die of old age before they ever reached a consensus.

There are, however, exceptions to the rule – and one of them is corporation tax. An area of taxation which you might think would have economists of the left and right in their default ‘at each other’s throats’ position, actually finds them in chummy agreement. As this episode of NPR’s Planet Money demonstrates (they quite literally sat a bunch of left and right wing economists in a room and tried to find something they agreed on); mainstream economic thinking basically says that taxing corporate incomes is silly, and that we should stop doing it.

Continue reading

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Securing the reproductive rights of learning disabled women

In this guest post, Godfred Boahen looks at an area of inequalities that we haven’t previously touched upon on the blog – reproductive rights, specifically in the case of disabled people. 

Royal Courts of JusticeIn February 2013 the Court of Protection (COP) in England ruled on whether a woman called K should be forcefully sterilised. K was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome and the case at COP was instigated by her mother who feared that K would become pregnant without contraception. At the time of the hearing K was not involved in sexual relations. The Judge Mr Justice Cobb decided that forced sterilisation would not be in K’s best interest, thereby highlighting how formal rights can effectively protect people with learning disability. 

In this post I want to introduce the legislation on which Mr Cobb based his decision, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), and reflect on its implications for the reproductive rights of women with learning disability. Continue reading

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Did Labour’s social policies fail or succeed 1997-2010?

It’s impossible to begin telling a story without knowing the ending. So after 13 years in office (1997-2010), it is only now possible to write the story of New Labour’s social policy record – what they aimed to do, what they spent, and what it achieved – and this is just what a team of my colleagues at CASE in LSE have done, led by Ruth Lupton (now at Manchester) and John Hills. I recommend everyone to check out their fantastic summary infographic (see also blogs from the CASE team at LSE Politics & Policy and Polly Toynbee), but over a couple of posts I wanted to pick out the stories that struck me within this gold mine of information. Continue reading

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Income Mobility and Geography: Important New Research

Some new research by Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, Nathaniel Hendren, and Patrick Kline finds that the likelihood of poor children moving up the income ladder in early adulthood varies dramatically by metro area in the United States. In places like Salt Lake City, Utah or Bakersfield, California, a child born in the bottom quintile has a roughly 12 percent chance of moving up to the top quintile by adulthood. In places like Memphis, Tennessee or Atlanta, Georgia, the chance is 4 percent or less.

By now, you may have seen some of the extensive media coverage of this research – which coincided with a major recent speech by President Obama on economic inequality. What you may not realize is how unique the data used for this study are. Continue reading

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Back of the envelope policy-making

Back of the envelope

This post was originally going to be about the pros and cons of two recent UK government policy announcements. The first proposes to force people to wait a week after losing their jobs before claiming JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance), and the second to get new immigrants to pay a £1000 levy on entering the country, in order to defray the cost of their potential use of the NHS.

There’s plenty to say about this – very little of it complementary. For example, much could be made of George Osborne’s laughably weak argument for the JSA delay. “Those first seven days should be spent looking for a job and not looking to sign on”, he says confidently, as if the two activities were completely mutually exclusive. If only there were some sort of place where unemployed people could receive financial support, and get help looking for jobs at the same time. Some kind of ‘Job Centre’ perhaps?

Continue reading

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Could ‘pre-distribution’ boost the wage share?

In a guest post, Stewart Lansley captures the key findings from his latest TUC pamphlet (with Howard Reed) on how to reverse the increasing share of national income going to profits rather than pay packets.

cartoon - chess There has been much discussion in the UK of the merits of tackling inequality by prioritizing ‘pre-distribution` – of attempting to achieve a more equal distribution of the cake before turning to ‘redistribution’ through the tax and benefit system. Central to the securing greater equality is what can be done about Britain’s low wage economy. Real wages have been on a downward slide since 2009, a fall which comes after a thirty year long squeeze on wages in favour of profits. The share going to wages is now 5.5 percentage points lower than it was in the late 1970s ( a fall from 59.2 per cent to 53.7 per cent ). This ‘wage gap’ is equivalent to around £85bn in today’s prices. As most of the jobs now being created are low paid, this gap is likely to grow.

So what practical measures could reverse this process, returning the wage share closer to the level of the 1950s and 1960s? Continue reading

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U.S. Health Disadvantage is Not Inevitable

Two major research studies in the last year compare health indicators in the United States with other major upper-income countries. Both exhaustively review government statistics and published articles. The first study, from the Institute of Medicine, draws on a panel of luminary demographers and epidemiologists to explore the causes of U.S. health disadvantage (editors Laudan Aron and Steven Woolf). The second study, from the Global Burden of Disease Group (led by Christopher Murray), applies complex modeling to assess the relative consequences of different diseases and their sequelae on premature death and disability. Continue reading

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Killer evidence for intergenerational welfare dependency?

A joint post by Lindsey Macmillan and Ben Baumberg looks at an important – but easily misinterpreted – new paper on ‘Family Welfare Cultures’.

Iain Duncan SmithWith the topic of intergenerational worklessness high on the political agenda, a clever recent Norwegian paper on the role of family welfare cultures in intergenerational welfare dependency has been attracting some interest.  If you listen to the government rhetoric on the topic, the ‘curse of intergenerational worklessness’ is bred directly through families passing on welfare seeking behaviour from one generation to the next. This conjures up images of the (effectively non-existent) ‘never working family’ with the parent taking the child to the job centre on their 18th birthday to show them how to sign on. On the face of it, this recent paper fits into this rhetoric – but the actual message of the paper is more complex than it looks. Continue reading

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