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Ever wonder where to find the Trump Tower? Then take this “Trump Walking Tour” with me, and learn even more

Meet at the southwest corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, under the large statue across from the Hilton Hotel, the tour guide will be holding a “Social Justice Tours” sign.

That is what The Municipal Arts Society of New York website counsels, and indeed, Dan is there … Social Justice Tours being the non-profit he started three years ago, that is taking off quite nicely, nicely enough—thank you very much—to have its website hacked by someone with a Russian IP address. You might have a little trouble reaching them at socialjusticetours.com for at least the next week or so, until the volunteer IT guy gets things fixed.

But this much I could get from my web search “Social Justice Tours engages New Yorkers in critical dialogue by exposing injustice & highlighting inequality in an effort to encourage thought & inspire action.” So who better than to run a Jane’s Walk—the grassroots celebration of the famous urban activist Jane Jacobs—called Trump Walking Tour.

Sounds like the walking tour for me. Last week a tourist on 5th Avenue gingerly approached me in halting English to ask for directions to”Tower Trump?”, so maybe I should know a bit more about Trump’s New York than just simple directions when standing a half a block away from the famed (sometimes inflamed) building.

This is a tour about Trump history, not Trump presidency. Dan assures us that he has read four books about Donald Trump. We are going to stick to the facts about the man himself. But we also recognize that other agents—whether the shady underworld, the commercial banks, the criminal justice system, or failures of public policy—facilitated his rise: he is not just an individual.

His story shows us how the real estate industry has shaped New York into a billionaire’s city, in many ways trampling over the commoners, but not without observing some lessons about the importance of organizing and collectively fighting back against bullies and bulldozers.

This is a social justice tour after all.

“I have yet to have a Trump supporter on my tour.” The crowd of 16 New Yorkers cheers this opening line with approval, one proudly proclaiming “I’m a Never Trumper.” And we’re off.

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Thinking about minimum wages, and thinking about them like an economist

There is a movement afoot, and there is an election in the offing. Always a great dance to watch, no matter what the issue.

The latest show is taking place in Ontario, where “$15 & Fairness” is the rallying call for raising the minimum wage, and has found a willing partner in the province’s Premier who will go to the polls in the spring, but in the meantime has legislated significant increases in the minimum price for an hour of work. The same dance plays out in the United States, and in many cities and states a minimum wage of $15 per hour is becoming a reality.

The big question in Ontario is exactly that raised by The New York Times during the 2015 primaries when Bernie Sanders was battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination: “As the campaign for a $15 minimum wage has gained strength this year, even supporters of large minimum-wage increases have wondered how high the wage floor can rise before it reduces employment and hurts the economy.”

Something to think about, but how would you think about it if you were an economist? Here are four rules of the road that might come in handy regardless of which dance you might be watching next time.

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The Caledon Institute of Social Policy is Canadian social policy

To understand the development of Canadian social policy during the last 25 years, you must appreciate the role of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, which closed it doors on November 30th, 2017.

The Maytree Foundation hosted a conference celebrating the Institute’s accomplishments, and paying tribute to the vision and energy of its principles: Michael Mendelson, Sherri Torjman, and its founder Ken Battle (whose engagement in social policy advocacy began under the pseudonym Grattan Gray).

The Institute’s publications are archived on the Maytree Foundation site. Maytree also published a tribute volume:  25 years of informing the debate: A tribute to the Caledon Institute of Social Policy .

The volume includes a timeline of major milestones in the impact Caledon had on social policy, and over 30 tributes from colleagues, social policy analysts, and public servants, including three Canadian Prime Ministers. Collectively they make interesting, informative, and very touching reading.

Here is my contribution, included in the volume, which you can download in its entirety.

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The Canada Child Benefit is an important innovation in cash benefits to families with children

The Canada Child Benefit offers a policy option that the United States should consider in pursuing a goal to reduce child poverty by half.

The commitment to address child poverty has waxed and waned in Canada since an all-party resolution was passed in the House of Commons in late 1989 committing the federal government to “seek to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.”

Poverty and social policy are now high on the agenda of the current federal government, which intends—over the course of the next six months—to articulate a poverty reduction strategy, but which has already taken a major step toward this goal by introducing the “Canada Child Benefit” in its first budget. This program came into effect in July 2016, and represents a major revamping of cash support to families with children.

The Canada Child Benefit represents an important improvement in the incomes of families with children, the government forecasting that by the end of its first full year of operation in 2017 the program would almost halve the number of children in poverty from the level prevailing in 2013. This innovation merits attention from policy makers in the United States and other countries.

I made a presentation to the “The Committee on Building an Agenda to Reduce the Number of Children in Poverty by Half in 10 Years” of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The program of the June 20th public information gathering included presentations from eight experts. I was the only participant from outside of the United States. Download the slides of my presentation: Presentation-Corak-National-Academy-Sciences-Engineering-Medicine-Child-Poverty.

It was based on a background report I prepared for the committee, which you can also download: Text-Corak-National-Academy-Sciences-Engineering-Medicine-Child-Poverty. The report details the nature of the program, compares it to the programs it replaced, and offers links to additional resources helpful in simulating the impact a similar design could have in other countries.

Poor children are twice as likely to grow up to be poor adults in some Canadian communities than in others

Intergenerational cycles of poverty vary across Canada, with low income children in some places facing a less than one-in-five chance of growing up to be poor adults, but in others the rate is more than double. The strong majority of children raised by lower income parents face a greater than one-in-four chance of growing up to be low income adults, and for many these odds were at least as high as one-in-three.

The chance that poverty will be passed on across the generations is 30 percent for the country as a whole, and the majority of children, 54 percent, live in 97 of a total of 266 municipalities where the chances of falling into an intergenerational cycle of low income are between 25 and 30 percent. A further 24 percent of poor live in a community where these chances are at least 0.30 but under 0.35.

There are 23 municipalities with a 40 percent or greater chance of an intergenerational cycle of low income. These communities are all small in population, and account for two percent of the total number of children.

There is a greater than 40% chance of intergenerational poverty In 23 Census Divisions

There are only seven of 266 communities in which the probability of a cycle of low income is less than 20 percent, representing only 1.6  percent of all children.

There is less than a 20% chance of intergenerational poverty in seven Census Divisions

The average parent income in these communities is below the national average. This raises the possibility that geographic mobility may be an important aspect of intergenerational mobility. The two Ontario communities listed in the above table are not areas in which there was significant economic growth, but the distances and costs associated with moving to nearby regions that were poles of growth—more specifically Toronto—were likely low.

 

[ The findings described in this post are drawn from my recently released research paper called “Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility.” You can learn more about this research, and download a copy of the paper and host of other information by reading the page devoted to this project at: MilesCorak.com/Equality-of-Opportunity . ]

I have a new job, and if you want to know more read this post

I have a new job! During the 2017 calendar year I am the “Economist in Residence” at Employment and Social Development Canada. I report to the Deputy Minister of this very large federal government department responsible for the major threads in Canada’s social safety net—insurance, investment, and income distribution that enhance capabilities and opportunities promoting the freedom Canadians have to lead the lives they value.

duclos-tweet-economist-in-residence

Jean-Yves Duclos is the Minister responsible, and his mandate letter is full of challenges, not least of which involves leading the development of a Canadian “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” and improving the Employment Insurance program to reflect the changing nature of work.

I report directly to the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, and my position is formally structured as an “interchange” with the University of Ottawa, where I will return in 2018. You can think of me as being on “loan” from my university to the public service.

The “Economist in Residence” is a new position in this department, but is modeled on a longstanding program at the Department of Finance called the “Clifford Clark Visiting Economist.” This program invites outside experts to visit the Department of Finance and work on relevant public policy issues that depend on department priorities, and also mesh with the visitor’s skills and interests. My appointment is an instance of another department doing something similar, at least for one year.

The Canadian public service is organized very differently than in the United States, where political appointments lead to a major churning of senior levels as each new government starts its mandate. This does not happen at all to the same degree in Canada, leading to greater continuity among senior management and a non-partisan basis for hiring and promotion. Some people see this as a great advantage, fostering a professional public service, but others also note some downsides, stressing the importance and value of renewal.

My job description asks me “to provide rigorous and objective advice on a range of key policy issues.” This is a refreshing opportunity, and it is exactly what I intend to do. Indeed, rigorous and objective advice is the tone I have tried to set on this blog, so if you are curious to know more about me—where I stand, how I think, what I’m interested in—feel free to read on!

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