Shane's Feed
Aug 19, 2014
via Counterparties

The high cost of Ebola

West Africa’s Ebola crisis is not just about the death toll — it’s also an economic disaster in the making. The UN’s World Food Programme declared Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to be at the highest level of food emergencies last week. The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that “hunger is spreading fast as farmers die leaving crops rotting in fields. Truckers scared of the highly infectious disease halt deliveries. Shops close and major airlines have shut down routes, isolating large swathes of the countries.” A million people live in the Mano River region, the epicenter of the disease.

The spread of the disease is also, in part, an economic issue. Steven Hoffman and Julia Belluz at Vox write that annual healthcare spending in West Africa comes out to less than $100 per person, compared to $8,000 per person in the U.S. Ebola is spread through body fluid contact, and is thus relatively easy to avoid with the right precautionary measures. However, “aid workers on the ground… report that they don’t have access to the basics to protect themselves and their patients,” say Hoffman and Belluz.

Aug 18, 2014
via Data Dive

Poor and poorer

Like a lot of U.S. suburban areas around the country, Ferguson, Missouri is getting poorer. Underlying the weeks-long protests against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager happening in the small suburban city north of St. Louis this month is a rapid demographic shift. Today, the Brookings Institution takes a look at how the poverty rate has changed in just the last decade:


Just how much poorer has Ferguson gotten? “The city’s unemployment rate rose from less than 5 percent in 2000 to over 13 percent in 2010-12. For those residents who were employed, inflation-adjusted average earnings fell by one-third,” writes Elizabeth Kneebone (who, it should be noted, has literally written the book on this trend). And Ferguson is not alone. In the first decade of the 21st century, poverty rates grew in suburban areas around the country, and already poor areas saw poverty become more concentrated.

Aug 15, 2014
via Counterparties

Reprogramming the robo-schedulers

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Flexible work hours aren’t always a good thing. Jodi Kantor made a splash with her New York Times story about Jannette Navaro, a Starbucks employee (er, “partner”) who has constant upheaval in her life thanks to her erratic work schedule. Starbucks is one of many companies that uses software to efficiently allocate employees around its stores. “This kind of work is ‘flexible’ only for the company. It means schedules and salaries vary to the point where it’s difficult for workers to make long-term plans,” writes Max Nisen. It can mean things like the “clopen,” when employees are scheduled to close the store late at night and open it again early the next morning.

Starbucks reacted quickly. Just hours after the story went live, the company announced it would be revising its policies. According to the Times, Starbucks executive Cliff Burrows emailed baristas across the country to tell them the company will curb “clopening,” allow employees who live more than an hour from their store to have the option to switch locations, and “scheduling software will be revised to allow more input from managers.” He also reiterated that schedules should be posted at least a week in advance.

Aug 14, 2014
via Data Dive

The diversity of American police forces

Does the local police force reflect the racial makeup of your community? According to an interactive chart created by the Washington Post today — following this week’s protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in the largely black community of Ferguson, Missouri — the answer is probably not.

The Post analyzed Census Bureau data, finding that that the vast majority of cities have a police presence that is a lot whiter than their population.

Aug 13, 2014
via Counterparties

Rough rides

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Uber has a message for its competitors: get off our lawn. The car service startup’s largest competitor, Lyft, launched in New York in July, after a battle with regulators over the legality of its operations in the city. Just three weeks later, Lyft has accused its competitor of playing dirty — it claims Uber employees requested and then canceled more than 5,000 rides to keep Lyft drivers tied up. “It’s the taxi app version of ding-dong ditch,” writes Erica Fink.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In January, a smaller Uber competitor, Gett (run by Israeli start-up GetTaxi), reported a similar type of attack. In that instance, “since they had the drivers’ phone numbers as part of the ride transaction, [Uber employees] then texted the drivers, urging them to instead drive for Uber,” according to Cnet. Last week, Kevin Roose wrote about Uber’s new carpooling service announcement, which was conveniently unveiled a day before Lyft had planned to release a similar new feature. “By moving up its announcement to preempt Lyft’s, Uber had both stolen its competitor’s thunder in admirable dog-eat-dog fashion and introduced what it hopes will become the digital-age equivalent of the carpool,” says Roose.

Aug 12, 2014
via Data Dive

Lots of available jobs, still no higher wages

Job openings in the US economy are at a 13-year high. The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. It shows there were  4.67 million job openings in the month of June, up just a tad from the 4.6 million openings reported in May — it’s now the highest the job openings figure has been since February 2001.

St. Louis Fed

The separations rate is unchanged at 3.3 percent. Within that category, quits and discharge rates were also unchanged, at 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Bill McBride at Calculated Risk charts the updated data, breaking out quits and layoffs in addition to hires and job openings:

Aug 11, 2014
via Counterparties

Anat Admati’s new fame

Bankers are afraid of Anat Admati. Binyamin Appelbaum published a profile of the Stanford professor in the New York Times over the weekend. Her ideas are “wildly impractical, bad for the American economy and not to be taken seriously,” according to the institutions she critiques. But people who are taking her seriously include President Barack Obama, the Senate Banking Committee, and Stanley Fischer, the vice chair of the Fed.

Last year, Admati published a book with Martin Hellwig called “The Bankers’ New Clothes.” In it, they argued that capital requirements for big banks are at least an order of magnitude too low. The tl;dr, which Ben Walsh wrote about when the book came out, is “banks should fund themselves with more equity and less debt.” She has said that capital requirements for banks should be 30 percent (instead of 3-5 percent). However, in the profile, she says there’s no science to that. “We have too much belief that we can be precise… I don’t mean 20 percent. I don’t mean 30 percent. I mean add a digit. I mean a lot more,” she says.

Aug 8, 2014
via Data Dive

Ebola is now an international health emergency

The World Health Organization has officially declared the Ebola epidemic in West Africa an international health emergency. The death toll has reached almost 1,000 in four countries (932 at last count). Yesterday, the U.S. ordered the families of diplomats to leave Liberia due to the danger of the virus.

Reuters reports that Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO, told reporters, “the declaration … will galvanize the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone.”

Aug 7, 2014
via Counterparties

Draghing on

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The EU mess slogs on. The European Central Bank met today and left interest rates unchanged, as the economic situation in Europe (well, France and Italy) looks to be worsening. ECB president Mario Draghi said during the press conference today, “the recovery remains weak, fragile and uneven.” The big news from the euro zone earlier this week, of course, was that Italy has unexpectedly fallen into a triple-dip recession. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that Germany’s economy is also weakening, and certainly isn’t strong enough to make up for its southern neighbors.

Inflation in Europe is almost non-existent — it was just 0.4 percent in July, far below the central bank’s 2 percent target, though core inflation, less food and energy, is at a somewhat higher 0.8 percent. “Policy makers seems to be in denial that falling prices are a threat,” writes Mark Gilbert. Draghi today blamed low inflation on energy prices, and said he expects it to rise in the next year or two.

Aug 7, 2014
via Equals

The importance of men leaning out

Earlier this week, Max Schireson, the CEO of New York-based tech company MongoDB, wrote a post about stepping down from the top position at the company. He’s quitting, he says, to spend more time with his family. “Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me,” he writes.

In some ways, this move isn’t terribly novel: just one guy writing briefly about his decision to become a (not-quite-so) stay-at-home dad. And perhaps there’s a bigger backstory that no one is talking about. But in this case, that’s neither here nor there. Culturally, it’s an incredibly important step. Gender equality is a balance. Sure, there’s room for a small amount of economic growth, but broadly, leadership positions are nearly zero-sum. Sure, women can slave away, clawing their way to the top, but the gender imbalances aren’t going to change broadly unless men let them in. In some instances this means hiring and promoting women, but in others it means leaning out of their careers a bit.