Category Archives: american community survey

Census Bureau Public Employment Data: Public School Employment and Payroll in March 2016 and March 2006

In the wake of the Great Recession, the number of people working in public education fell relative to the overall population in much of the country, and inflation-adjusted teacher pay fell in many parts of it.  There was only a partial reversal from March 2014 to March 2016, and it was mostly in places where school staffing and pay were already relatively high.

Several factors contributed to the trend.   First, in some states were the tax burden was already low relative to the personal income of state residents, it was reduced further by anti-tax ideologues.  The result was reductions in public services for the non-elderly across the board, including, in the end, elementary and secondary education. Second, with the large Baby Boom Echo (aka millennial) generation exiting school, and smaller generations entering school, the actual need for school workers fell.   But in some places with high and rising taxes the demand for school jobs increased, as other high-compensation alternatives for politically influential college graduates diminished.   Third, the cost of retired public employees soared, as a result of past taxpayer underfunding in low-tax right-wing states.  And as a result of retroactive pension increases scored by powerful public employee unions in (if by “right-wing” people mean having public policy favor the otherwise advantaged at the expense of those with less power) the other type of right-wing, high-tax states, those generally self-described a “progressive.”  A review of the data follows.

Continue reading


Proposed: A Federal Department of Science, Statistics, and Public Information

In the wake of 9/11, when about 3,000 civilians were killed on U.S. soil despite $billions spent on defense, a series of failures was revealed.   Various agencies had the information to identify and stop the attack, but failed to cooperate. Despite a huge military posted all over the world, there were only two military airplanes defending the entire East Coast of the United States, only one of which was armed. And the non-military agencies tasked with defending the U.S., such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Agency, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, were distributed among a variety of federal departments, with little emphasis on any of them and no coordination between them. To remedy this 22 agencies were removed from other Departments and integrated into a new Department of Homeland Security.

Today, we face the equivalent of 9/11 in every part of the country every year. Life expectancy is falling, due to the cumulative disadvantage foisted on later born generations by those who came before, an opioid epidemic, and rising suicide. Life expectancy is set to fall for the third consecutive year for the first time in 100 years.

But this crisis has been building for two decades, its scope not understood until a couple of economists, with expertise not in vital statistics but rather in value added taxes, brought it to public attention.

The belated realization of what is happening is a failure for this country’s policy wonks and journalists every bit as large as 9/11 was for our intelligence agencies and military. And a similar response is required.

Continue reading

Quick Takes on American Community Survey Economic Characteristics Data for 2006 and 2016: NYC Vs. The U.S.

Rather than repeating a detailed analysis of American Community Survey data, after doing one last year, I’m just making some quick observations on data for New York City and the U.S. for 2006 and 2016, two economically similar years.   The prior post was on data from table DP02, “selected social characteristics.”

This one is on DP03, “selected economic characteristics.” (DP04 is “selected housing characteristics”). I’ll just quickly run through the tables in the spreadsheet and tell you what I see. You can a download the DP03 spreadsheet for NYC and the U.S. in 2006 and 2016, once again, here…


and follow along and note what the data shows on the series of tables from top to bottom. Perhaps you’ll catch something I didn’t.

Continue reading

Quick Takes on American Community Survey Social Characteristics Data for 2006 and 2016: NYC Vs. The U.S.

Last year I wrote a long post, with many charts, and some follow-ups based on American Community survey released at the time.

I compared the 2015 data with 2005, a similar economic year. I don’t want to repeat myself and am under some time pressure this fall, so I’m not going to do that again this year. Charts and pretty tables set up to print are a lot of work.

But I did download some of the data for New York City and the U.S. for 2006 and 2016, also economically similar years, to see what it looks like, and I might as well provide it to those interested. What follows is links to two spreadsheets, one from table DP02, “selected social characteristics,” and one from file DP03, “selected economic characteristics.” (DP04 is selected housing characteristics). I’ll just quickly run through the tables in the two spreadsheets and tell you what I see.

Continue reading

Puerto Rico Needs a Debt for Equity Swap

If anyone doubts that Puerto Ricans are Americans, just look at the state of island’s economy before Hurricane Maria. You had a bunch of rich people holding bonds exempt from income taxes, and a bunch of public employee pensioners who got their pensions retroactively enriched while traditional pensions were eliminated for those hired after 2000, all expecting to get paid by the poorer generations to follow them. You had an economy based on imports, debts and consumption that would collapse without bailouts from the federal government – at the expense of someone else, someday. You had the executive/financial class, the political/union class, and other members of a better off Generation Greed all seeking to suck money out of younger, poorer generations of serfs. (And those serfs fleeing the island in large numbers.) The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its government-owned utility finally went bankrupt. Puerto Rico is like the United States, only more so. I wrote a post titled “The Puerto Rico Disaster” three years ago.

And then the hurricane hit.

Puerto Rico has no money, no economic base, and very few assets of any that have value in the short run. If the public employee pensioners and debt holders expect all they have promised themselves, where do they expect it to come from? Confiscating people’s FEMA rations and Social Security checks? How can people expect to suck out more from those who are so much poorer, or others who never benefitted in the past? But the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is going to end up with a whole lot of abandoned land, urban, rural, seaside, etc, because people will be forced to leave and there will be no income to pay property taxes. That, and a tropical climate in a part of the United States with links to New York, could have value someday. Value someday, perhaps, if they cooperate for the mutual benefit of themselves and the island as a whole, is all that Puerto Rico’s creditors deserve. I propose a debt for equity swap, with that land turned over to three of four new publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) that would compete to earn money by redeveloping the island. Those who wanted to invest in Puerto Rico for the long-term could buy in. Those who did not could sell, and take what they get.

Continue reading

Median Household Income: It Takes Five Minutes to See Beyond the Happy Horseshit

American Community Survey data was released for 2016 yesterday, and the news was reportedly good.

The incomes of middle-class Americans rose last year to the highest level ever recorded by the Census Bureau, as poverty declined and the scars of the past decade’s Great Recession seemed to finally fade. Median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year and the second consecutive year of healthy gains, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

While it is not a surprise that income is rising in an economic upturn, the claim is that this is more than a cyclical increase in income – even though wages are not rising.

The income increase extended to almost every demographic group, Census Bureau officials said. The figure the agency reported Tuesday was the highest on record. The agency reports that in 1999, median household income, adjusted for inflation, was $58,655.

Really? I immediately went to American Factfinder

And downloaded median household income for 2016 and 2006, a year at a similar point in the economic cycle. Adjusting the latter into 2016 dollars for an inflation-adjusted comparison. Downloaded it by age of householder. And found almost exactly what I expected.

Continue reading

Brooklyn’s Business Boom: Retail and Other Consumer-Driven Sectors

In the previous post, which should be read first, I chronicled the location of and trends in Brooklyn’s office-based businesses. This post is about consumer-driven businesses. How hard is it to know the future? Consider the 1958 report from consulting firm Voorhees Walker Smith & Smith, Zoning New York City, which formed the basis of New York City’s current zoning resolution, passed in 1961.

Page 11. The growth of the supermarket has plainly reduced the role of the neighborhood food store. The efficiency of the large supermarket is such that a given volume of sales can be handled with sharply lower frontage requirements and, even allowing for parking areas, with appreciably lower land requirements…Simultaneously with the growth of the supermarket has appeared the integrated shopping center, ranging in scale from neighborhood units of ten stores to gigantic complexes with department stores and chain store branches. Since the main attribute of the shopping center is one-stop shopping for the automobile customer, the radius of retail trade areas has dramatically increased.

It is now a commonplace that both the downtown shopping district and the local string street have been adversely affected by these innovations in retail trade (resulting in) the excessive amount of retail frontage in the numerous strip developments of the city. A survey of frontages in sixteen shopping districts in widely scattered parts of the city indicated an average retail vacancy rate of nine percent, with an additional six percent of store frontage occupied by non-retail uses.

It is now 59 years later, and as a result of additional innovations in retail trade, the entire economic structure described by Voorhees Walker Smith & Smith is collapsing in suburban and Sunbelt America, as the strip districts of Brooklyn boom.

Continue reading