Month: June 2011

  • When a fair chance isn’t an equal chance

    Even without knowing him personally, it should be obvious from the title of his book on school choice, ‘How Not To Be A Hypocrite’, that Adam Swift is an interesting guy.  This is the sort of moral philosophy that tries to reach out from academia and give us a practical guide for the difficult choices […]

  • Democracy and Rules are Like Peas in a Pod

    Check out the Breakthrough Journal, an exciting new venue for progressive politics. In the first issue, Dalton Conley has an essay that argues progressive social policy should focus more on the relative, rather than the absolute, dimensions of poverty. He points out that economic segregation in several domains – including where we live and pay […]

  • Labor Unions and the Moral Economy

    Bruce Western and Jake Rosenfeld have a really excellent working paper that revisits the debate about the effect of declining unionization since the 1970s on wage inequality. Unions were a staple in many “smokestack” industries in the 1950s and 1960s, but they began to fall off in the 1980s due to a combination of political […]

  • Regulation, Taxes, and Freedom

    A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the Human Development Project, a project sponsored by the Social Science Research Council to develop indicators of individual wellbeing across U.S. states and demographic groups. The basic idea is to use available measures of education, health and mortality, and income to compare how much people […]

  • The rise and fall of a killer chart

    No single graph has captured the political imagination quite like Leon Feinstein’s killer chart.  In one go, it showed that talent was no substitute for parental advantage even at early ages – and has since been endlessly used to justify early interventions, most recently in Nick Clegg’s Social Mobility Strategy, with Feinstein himself elevated to […]

  • Who Learns in the Summer?

    When you’re a kid, nothing beats the delirious excitement of summer vacation. After the final school bell rings in mid June, or thereabout, millions of American schoolchildren trade the books and stuffy classrooms for lounging around the house and the swimming pool eating popsicles. All that glorious idleness might lead one to conclude that learning […]

  • Justifying unfairness

    So why do people stand for it? One of the longstanding questions in social research is why so many people accept the hand they have been dealt, rather than challenging the way society is organised. I was reminded of this several times in the past few days, partly when a UK Government Minister was (unconvingingly) […]

  • Living longer, yet less able to work

    Last week Brendan described the results of a new NBER report that argued there was a contradiction between (i) declining mortality rates in the US/UK, and (ii) higher levels of disability benefits for people who are too sick to work. The implication of the NBER report is that these levels of disability claims aren’t ‘real’, […]

  • We’re Living Longer, Why Aren’t We Working More?

    All welfare states – generous and restrictive –grapple with the question of how to design disability benefits. When benefits are large relative to market wages, and the criteria for disability are fairly loose, individuals with moderate health impairments that could work productively in the labor market have a much greater incentive to go on to […]