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Should children vote? I argue that there are reasonable ways to give children the vote in an interview with CBC radio

Sound booth at the CBC Studio in Ottawa

This is the view inside the sound booth at CBC Ottawa where I did a radio interview for the program “The 180″. (The cup of water is mine!)

I make the case for giving children the vote in a radio interview broadcast on the CBC program “The 180″. The show is hosted by Jim Brown, whose subtle style and empathy with both me and his listeners is really quite impressive. Here is a link to the eight minute interview.

Matthew Lazin-Ryder, a producer on the show, nicely summarizes the main points on the program web page, but if you want more background on the voting scheme I describe—which involves giving custodial parents an extra vote for every child under their guardianship, and which is called Demeny Voting—check out the following posts.

  1. How to give children the vote
  2. Citizenship as a privilege or as a right? Should children be given the vote
  3. Should children be given the vote? Watch this TEDx talk

In fact, Demeny voting has a Wikipedia page, and you can get references to some of the underlying sources there as well as from the first of the above posts, which also points out that Paul Demeny (after whom the scheme is named) did an interview with CBC Radio in 2011.

 

 

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How to think about “think” tanks

Kady O'Malley Tweet on Think Tanks 1

It is sometimes said that think tanks are good for democracy; indeed the more of them, the better. If there are more ideas in the public arena battling it out for your approval, then it’s more likely that the best idea will win, and that we will all have better public policies. But intuitively many of us have trouble believing this, have trouble knowing who is being truthful, and don’t know who to trust.

This battle of ideas, studies, and statistics has the potential to make many of us cynical about the whole process, and less trusting of all research and numbers. If a knowledgeable journalist like the Canadian Kady O’Malley expresses a certain exasperation that think-tank studies always back up “the think-tank’s existing position,” what hope is there for the rest of us? A flourishing of think tanks just let’s politicians off the hook, always allowing them to pluck an idea that suits their purposes, and making it easier to justify what they wanted to do anyways.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that think tanks produce studies confirming their (sometimes hidden) biases. After all this is something we all do. We need to arm ourselves with this self-awareness. If we do, then we can also be more aware of the things in a think tank’s make-up that can help in judging its credibility, and also how public policy discussion should be structured to help promote a sincere exchange of facts and ideas.

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“Inequality, Life Chances, and Public Policy,” watch the presentation I made at Millersville university

I was very pleased to speak at the 2014 International Policy Conference on the theme “Inequality: Defining our Time?” held at Millersville University on November 6th and 7th, 2014. I spoke on the very kind invitation of Professor Ken Smith and the Department of Economics at Millersville University.

My talk was called “Inequality, Life Chances, and Public Policy: How to Slide Down the Great Gatsby Curve,” and you can watch it here if you have an interest.

These are the associated slides: Inequality Life Chances and Public Policy how to Slide Down the Great Gatsby Curve for Millersville University International Policy Conference

The source for this presentation is an article I published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives called “Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility

The discussant, who begins speaking at about 47 minutes into the talk, is Professor Antonio Callari of Franklin and Marshall College. He offered some interesting remarks about how the theme of the talk relates to developments in Lancaster PA, where the conference was held.

[ One silly grammatical error that I wish I could take back occurs when I say “the more statistically significant among you,” when my intention was “the more statistically savvy among you.” ]

UNICEF gives Canada a passing grade, child poverty actually fell during the recession … or did it?

UNICEF Children of the Recession Innocenti Report Card 12 CoverLet’s see if we can make sense of this.

UNICEF has just given Canada a passing grade, mind you barely a pass, when it comes to the fight against child poverty. In a report released today it claims that 21% of Canadian children live in poverty, nothing to brag about, but at least this is lower than the 23% who were poor just before the recession started in 2008.

Interestingly, Statistics Canada also says child poverty is down, but that only 8.5% of kids are poor. However, at the same time it says child poverty is up, reaching almost 14%. And finally, if this is not confusing enough, it says that, yes, 14% of kids are poor, but this is down since 2008.

Up or down? One-in-five kids poor, or one-in-seven, or maybe even as few as only one-in-eleven?

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UNICEF reports that child poverty in the US was held in check during the Great Recession

UNICEF Children of the Recession Innocenti Report Card 12 CoverIt is an understatement to say that the US welfare reforms of the 1990s were intended to give a little spring to the social safety net.

The intention was much more radical, involving a major make-over of income support, and turning what was imagined as a net ensnarling many Americans behind a welfare wall, into a trampoline, a springboard that would incentivize work and allow them to ride a wave of prosperity to higher incomes that would lift their children out of poverty.

But this is hardly what is needed when times turn bad.

The only virtue of a trampoline when employment falls by more than 8 million, when the unemployment rate more than doubles, and when median incomes drop by over $10,000, is that it catches you on the way down.

American families needed a safety net during the Great Recession, and a report released by UNICEF on child poverty suggests, surprisingly enough, that is exactly what they got.

The rate of child poverty, in spite of all the macroeconomic turbulence of the last six years, has hardly budged. This is in large measure because of discretionary policy changes on the part of the Federal government that quickly turned the clock back to the welfare system of the 1980s.

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A FactBook about employment in Canada based upon Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey

Employment of young people in Canada

Every month Statistics Canada releases employment and other labour market indicators. They are much used, much discussed, and arguably much misinterpreted. Here is a short FactBook about employment, using information from January 2005 to August 2014, clarifying some of the definitions, offering some suggestions on how to use the numbers, and highlighting some of the recent trends.

Employment Factbook using Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada January 2005 to August 2014

There are three major messages:

  1. If you want to be “really” certain that a month to month change in employment is not just statistical noise, then it has to be pretty large, say larger than 57,000
  2. Employment has barely kept up with population growth during the last five years; for young people this is not even the case, there being no growth at all
  3. The fraction of the working age population employed has yet to return to pre-recession levels, and has been falling during the past year, which seems to be due to a fall in the employment rate of women

“Inequality and its discontents”: Introduction

[On September 22nd I had the honour of giving the 2014 Mabel Timlin Lecture—“Inequality and its Discontents”—at the University of Saskatchewan. This post is the introduction, and the full lecture will be published in the near future.]

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Two facts about “The prospects for this generation in an unequal world”

Keith Davey Forum Invitation Victoria University at the University of Toronto 2014

On Wednesday evening, September 17th, I was at the University of Toronto as one of the panelists participating in the Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs to discuss “The prospects for this generation in an unequal world”. You can watch the full event, which also involved Jeffrey Arnett and Rod Haddow, by clicking on this link.

Here are two facts that I think are important for understanding the economic prospects of the young, and the public policy concerns that arise

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Your summer reading list on inequality and opportunity

Before you finish packing for your vacation to the cottage, the beach, the backyard or the balcony, I thought you would appreciate some suggestions for your summer reading. (If you live in Australia, New Zealand, India, or anywhere else south of the equator, I hope you will read for the sheer pleasure, at work if you must!)

The first book on your holiday reading list is, without doubt, …

 

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I am honoured to have won the “Doug Purvis Memorial Prize” for my research on inequality and social mobility

It is a particular honour to have my paper, “Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility,” chosen for the 2014 Doug Purvis Memorial Prize. The prize is awarded annually by the Canadian Economics Association “to the authors of a highly significant, written contribution to Canadian economic policy.”

That is certainly honour enough, but I’m particularly grateful for another reason.

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