International travelers and expatriates have long known that currency exchange rates are not reliable indicators of purchasing power. For example, a traveler to France or Germany will notice that the dollar equivalent in Euros cannot buy as much as at home. Conversely, the traveler to China will note that the dollar equivalent in Yuan will buy more. read more »
American politics is consumed by a bitter, at times violent, debate about the overall role of government and specific governmental programs.
Pundits often frame this divide in terms of geography (red states versus blue states), ethnicity (Hispanics and blacks versus whites), class (rich versus poor), or age and gender. Those factors matter, but seeing polarization only in terms of group versus group misses an important paradox about Americans: Most of us have both deep conservative instincts and liberal instincts. read more »
Throughout the high income world, in this age of cities, many urban centers continue to shrink. This is particularly true in municipalities that have been unable either to expand their boundaries or to combine with another jurisdiction, subsequently running out of new developable land. read more »
Economists, planners and the media often focus on the extremes of real estate — the high-end properties or the foreclosed deserts, particularly in the suburban fringe. Yet to a large extent, they ignore what is arguably the most critical issue: affordability. read more »
The first decade of the new millennium was particularly hard on the US economy. First, there was the recession that followed the attacks of 9/11. That was followed by the housing bust and the resulting Great Financial Crisis, which was the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression. read more »
Undoubtedly, America is a middle class nation. But are there problems in the middle? It would certainly seem so: reduced employment, income and wealth (more worryingly, reduced employment, income- and wealth-building opportunities); reduced prospects for generational advancement (kids are supposed to do better than their parents, right?); general feelings of stagnation, “on the wrong track,” pessimism, frustration and anger.
Are these cyclical or structural changes? What are the causes, and what are the cures? read more »
Earlier this month President Obama signed the reauthorization of the COMPETES Act, which provides federal funding for science initiatives aimed at enhancing economic competitiveness. In addition to shoring up agencies like the National Science Foundation, the bill called on the Department of Commerce to create a new program charged with supporting the development of research parks and regional innovation clusters. Unheard of before World War II, these entities today represent the cutting edge in what insiders call TBED: technology-based economic development. read more »
When Chinese President Hu Jintao comes to Washington this week, there aren't likely to be many surprises: Hu and Barack Obama will probably keep their conversation to a fairly regulated script, focusing on trade and North Korea and offering the expected viewpoints on both. But seen from a different angle, everything in that conversation could be predicted, not from current events but from longstanding tribal patterns. read more »
In many ways, these are the best of times for rural America. Rising commodity prices for food, fiber and energy have revived the economy in much of the nation’s heartland. But still, many rural communities still are losing population, particularly among the young, and suffering unacceptably high rates of poverty. What accounts for this “best of times, worst of times” scenario? read more »
For more than a century, people have been moving by the millions to larger urban areas from smaller urban areas and rural areas. Within the last five years, the share of the world population living in rural areas has dropped below one-half for the first time. The migration to the larger urban areas has spread to lower income nations as the countryside seemingly empties into places like Chongqing, Jakarta and Delhi. read more »