Friday, July 31, 2009

Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave?

The flow of immigrants from Mexico to the United States has declined sharply since mid-decade, but there is no evidence of an increase during this period in the number of Mexican-born migrants returning home from the U.S., according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of government data from both countries.

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences has released a new report analyzing Black-White achievement gaps at both the national and state levels, using NAEP scores as a common yardstick. The study examines data from all main NAEP mathematics and reading assessments through 2007, supplemented by data from long-term trend NAEP results through 2004. Readers will find context for understanding these gaps, as the report examines both the changes in the performance of Black and White students and the changes in the Black-White achievement gap over time.

Mathematics and reading scores on NAEP have increased since the first time the assessment was administered. These score increases have been observed among both Black and White students. However, statistically significant score differences between the two groups have also been observed.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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| Link to online summary

Hegemony, Ideology & Oppositional Consciousness: Undocumented Youth and the Personal-Political Struggle for Educational Justice

Social movement practitioners have grappled for years with the role that ideology and consciousness play in bringing about social change. This article asks how lived experiences of institutional exclusion shape the political consciousness of undocumented Latino students. Through my ethnographic study of undocumented youth activists working on a mainstream legislative campaign, I posit that not only is oppositional consciousness a spectrum, as previous theorists have claimed, but it is also, in a Gramscian sense, forged out of the dialectic between ideas that are both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic. It is not the case that counter-hegemonic ideas win over, even temporarily, leading to oppositional consciousness. Rather, oppositional consciousness is forged through the constant negotiation between the two. This article draws on 18 months of fieldwork and is a critical inquiry into the possibilities and limitations of ideas and ideology in building social change.

Source: Institute for the Study of Social Change. ISSC Fellows Working Papers. U.C. Berkeley [via eScholarship repository

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Federal Report on the President's Surveillance Program

On July 10, 2009, the inspectors general from five federal agencies -- the Justice Department, the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- released an unclassified report investigating the origins and operations of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program.

Source: NY Times

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| Link to NY Times article

The 'Real' Uninsured

Former Sen. Fred Thompson said on "Meet the Press" that "the 45 million ... figure of uninsured is probably about twice the real number of people who can't afford insurance or don't have access to it really." He's not the only one saying that the number is inflated. We find that many of the numbers cited are accurate, but may need to be seen in context to get a true picture.


Link to online report

2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

From Press Release:
2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report : a national study that explores changes in homelessness nationwide. HUD's assessment concludes that while overall homelessness in America held fairly steady from 2007 to 2008, the number of homeless families, particularly those living in suburban and rural areas, increased.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Download full pdf of 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report
| Link to press release

Iran's Economic Conditions: U.S. Policy Issues

From summary :
The Islamic Republic of Iran, a resource-rich and labor-rich country in the Middle East, is a central focus of U.S. national security policy. The United States asserts that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and that Irans uranium enrichment activities are for the development of nuclear weapons. To the extent that U.S. sanctions and other efforts to change Iranian state policy target aspects of Irans economy as a means of influence, it is important to evaluate Irans economic structure, strengths, and vulnerabilities. Since 2000, Iran has enjoyed broad-based economic growth. However, strong economic performance has been hindered by high levels of inflation and unemployment and low levels of foreign investment. Some contend that President Ahmadinejads expansionary monetary and fiscal policies have worsened unemployment, inflation, and poverty in Iran. Irans economic growth is expected to slow in 2009. Iran has long been subject to U.S. economic sanctions, and more recently, to United Nations sanctions, over its uranium enrichment program and purported support for terror activities. Such sanctions are believed by some analysts to contribute to Irans growing international trade and financial isolation. Irans economy is highly dependent on the production and export of crude oil to finance government spending, and consequently is vulnerable to fluctuations in international oil prices. Although Iran has vast petroleum reserves, the country lacks adequate refining capacity and imports gasoline to meet domestic energy needs. Iran is seeking foreign investment to develop its petroleum sector.

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Indonesia: Domestic Politics, Strategic Dynamics, and American Interests

Indonesia is the worlds fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim nation. It is also a moderate Muslim state that is strategically positioned astride key sea lanes that link East Asia with the energy resources of the Middle East. Indonesia is seen by many as a valuable partner in the struggle against radical Islamist militants in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is continuing to democratize and develop its civil society and rule of law under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), who many view as reform-minded. However, a legacy of abuse of human rights by the military that stems from the three-decade reign of former President Suharto, who stepped down in 1998, remains unresolved. The parliamentary elections of 2009 further consolidated Indonesian democracy and marked a continued preference by Indonesian voters for secular-nationalist parties rather than Islamic or Islamist political parties. President Yudhoyonos Democrat party made significant gains due to the voters approval of the president. Observers predict that President Yudhoyono will win the presidential election scheduled for July 2009. U.S. foreign policy concerns have focused on building relations with Indonesia to more effectively counter the rise of militant Islamist extremists, as well as to develop relations with a geopolitically important state. The United States has sought to promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Indonesia in addition to American trade and investment interests there.

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Romney's Image Improves; Palin Well Regarded by Republican Base

From Overview:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has seen his favorability ratings improve and now enjoys a positive balance of opinion among the general public: 40% rate him favorably, 28% unfavorably. This marks a reversal of opinion from February 2008, during the latter stages of the GOP primary campaign, when just 30% viewed him favorably and 44% expressed an unfavorable opinion.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 10-14 among 1,502 adults reached on landlines and cell phones, finds that impressions of Sarah Palin have not changed much since the presidential campaign. Palin continues to be a divisive figure among the general public, with about as many saying they have an unfavorable impression (44%) as a favorable view (45%) of the Alaska governor.

Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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The Luiseño Girls' Ceremony


ONE of the most striking characteristics of Luiseno culture is the integration of philosophy, theology, customs, material items, and environment. The Luiseno world is linked through concepts which are inclusive, expansive, and harmonious. The high degree of integration is difficult to express or explain simply, but can be demonstrated through example. In this paper, the ceremony to celebrate the maturation of girls (referred to as the girls' ceremony) is described, annotated, and compared to the Luiseno cosmogony or creation story in order to reveal the Luiseiio worldview. During the weqennic and yuninnic the girls participated in a ritualized reenactment of the creation and ordering of the world. Their place and purpose in life were revealed, and they then hopefully experienced a continuity between their lives, their ancestors, and the past which extended to the beginning of time.

Source: Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology

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Migrant Civic Engagement


The spring, 2006 wave of immigrant rights mobilizations represents a watershed in the history of civic engagement in the US. Never before had so many foreign born literally “come out” for the right to be included in the US. Indeed, in many cities, never before had so many taken to the streets for any cause. Practitioners involved in the policy debate, scholars who measure immigrant political opinion, as well as migrant leaders themselves were all caught off guard. This raises questions about the social foundations of the marches – what kinds of social and civic practices, networks and organizations made them possible? To provide at least part of the answer, this chapter introduces the concepts of “civic binationality” and “migrant civil society,” which provide frameworks for understanding the already-existing patterns of migrant organization that came together at this unusual historical turning point. “Civic binationality” refers to practices that are engaged both with US civic life and with migrants’ communities and countries of origin. The related concept of “migrant civil society” refers to migrant-led membership organizations and public institutions (which may not be engaged with communities of origin). The goal of this latter concept is to underscore the significance of migrant capacity for self-representation. The recognition of practices of migrant civic binationality, grounded in an emerging migrant civil society, helps us to understand the patterns of civic engagement and repertoires of action that inform migrant participation in US society. The point of departure here is that, at least for many adult migrants, their initiation into civic life either takes place in their country of origin, or is oriented toward their country of origin. As many analysts of civic engagement have long noted, the best predictor of civic involvement of any kind is past involvement –even if in a completely different arena. 1Apparently, some people are more likely to be joiners than others – across cultures. From this perspective, the kind of civic engagement witnessed on a mass scale in the spring of 2006 was in part grounded in longstanding, often low profile practices of migrant civic binationality. At the same time, the 2006 marches constitute a powerful indicator that millions of immigrants have also been fully transplanted into the US public sphere, followed by subsequent increases in naturalization and voter turnout among “new Americans”in 2008.

Source: Center for Global, International and Regional Studies. U.C. Santa Cruz [via eScholarship Repository]

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| Link to online abstract

Spatial Heterogeneity and Minimum Wages: Employment Estimates for Teens Using Cross-State Commuting Zones

Conventional approaches to estimating the effect of minimum wages on teen employment insufficiently account for heterogeneous employment patterns and selectivity of states with higher minimum wages. We overcome this problem by using policy discontinuities at state borders. Our estimates from cross-state labor markets (commuting zones) using data from the Census and the American Community Survey show that the measured negative impacts on teen employment in traditional estimates are driven by insufficient controls for spatial heterogeneity. We also replicate our key results using the Current Population Survey and show that the negative employment impact in traditional specifications is driven by pre-existing trends. Finally, by using a version of randomization inference, we devise a new test for heterogeneous effects of minimum wages across different local labor markets. We do not find evidence of such heterogeneous treatment effects using this new approach.

Source: Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Working Paper Series U.C. Berkeley [via eScholarship Repository]

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| Link to online abstract

Friday, July 10, 2009

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009 is a compendium of indicators illustrating both the promises and the difficulties confronting our Nation's young people. The report presents 40 key indicators on important aspects of children's lives. These indicators are drawn from our most reliable statistics, easily understood by broad audiences, objectively based on substantial research, balanced so that no single area of children's lives dominates the report, measured regularly so that they can be updated to show trends over time, and representative of large segments of the population rather than one particular group.

Source: Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Download full pdf report | Link to online summary and ability to download report in sections

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why does the US dominate university league tables?

According to Academic Ranking of World Universities, the world’s top 500 universities are owned by only 38 countries, with the US alone having 157 of them. This paper investigates the socioeconomic determinants of the wide performance gap between countries and whether the US’s dominance in the league table is largely due to its economic power or something else. It is found that a large amount of cross country variation in university performance can be explained by just four socioeconomic factors: income, population size, R&D spending, and the national language. It is also found that conditional on the resources that it has, the US is actually underperforming by about 4 to 10 percent.

Source: University of Queensland, School of Economics Discussion Papers (AU)

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Ready to Assemble: Grading State Higher Education Accountability Systems

States need strong higher education systems, now more than ever. In the tumultuous, highly competitive 21st century economy, citizens and workers need knowledge, skills, and credentials in order to prosper. Yet many colleges and universities are falling short. To give all students the best possible postsecondary education, states must create smart, effective higher education accountability systems, modeled from the best practices of their peers, and set bold, concrete goals for achievement.

In 2008 and 2009, Education Sector conducted a comprehensive analysis of higher education accountability systems in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. We analyzed thousands of documents, Web sites, policies, and laws attempting to answer two questions:

1. What information do states collect on their higher education institutions?
2. How do they use that information to affect institutional improvement?

Source: Education Sector

Link to online report with available scorecards for each state

How Does Retirement Affect Health?

This paper investigates the effects of retirement on various health outcomes. Data stem from the first three waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). With this informative data, non-parametric matching methods can be applied to identify causal effects. It is found that retirement significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. In particular, it raises the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease and being diagnosed with cancer. Estimates also indicate that retirement has quite diverse effects for different individuals.

Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

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Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality

From online Summary:

Getting old isn't nearly as bad as people think it will be. Nor is it quite as good.

On aspects of everyday life ranging from mental acuity to physical dexterity to sexual activity to financial security, a new Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey on aging among a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults finds a sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves.

Source : Pew Research Center : Social and demographic trends

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Pew Survey : Coverage of Jackson's Death Seen As Excessive

From the online summary

Blacks Track News of Icon's Death Much More Closely than Whites

The public closely tracked the sudden death of pop superstar Michael Jackson last week, though nearly two-in-three Americans say news organizations gave too much coverage to the story. At the same time, half say the media struck the right balance between reporting on Jackson’s musical legacy and the problems in his personal life.

Source: Pew Research Center for people and the press

Download complete report | Download topline questionnaire | Link to online summary

Immigration Policies and Issues on Health- Related Grounds for Exclusion


Under current law, foreign nationals not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa and submit to an inspection to be admitted. They must first meet a set of criteria specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that determine whether they are eligible for admission. Moreover, they must also not be deemed inadmissible according to specified grounds in the INA. One of the reasons why a foreign national might be deemed inadmissible is on health-related grounds. The diseases that trigger inadmissibility in the INA are those communicable diseases of public health significance as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The recent outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 virus (commonly called Swine Flu) has generated attention in Congress and the media, particularly with its relationship to foreign travel. With Mexico reportedly being the likely source country of this strain of influenza, and its spread to a number of areas across the United States, questions have been raised on travel restrictions to the United States, particularly in regard to foreign nationals. Potential issues for Congress are three-fold: (1) are current health-related grounds for exclusion sufficient to ensure public safety in regards to contagious diseases; (2) would increased restrictions on foreign travel (even temporarily) inflict more economic harm than benefit; and (3) are the resources provided for frontline agencies charged with screening foreign travelers sufficient to identify potentially infected travelers? From an immigration standpoint, infectious disease outbreaks place the greatest procedural and resource pressures on Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CBP is charged with screening admissions of all travelers at land, sea, and air ports of entry (POE), and CBP Officers screened approximately 409 million individuals in FY2008 for admissions into the United States. CBP works in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor travelers and attempt to contain any diseases that may be spread by travelers coming from abroad. CDC, in conjunction with CBP, operates 20 quarantine stations and has health officials on call for all ports of entry. DHS has established its role in case of a pandemic outbreak through a memorandum of understanding with other agencies and in The National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. Various federal statutes and legal questions may arise should a response to an influenza pandemic require limiting the use of transportation-related infrastructure, which includes, but is not limited to airports, seaports, and land ports of entry. Constitutional concerns, especially those related to the right to travel may also be implicated by decisions impacting transportation-related infrastructure. In recent years health-related grounds for exclusion has also been a congressional concern for other contagious diseases. In addition to the H1N1 outbreak, these diseases have included tuberculosis (TB).

Source: Congressional Research Service

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Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs

From Summary:
A phenomenon that has become more and more important over the last decade, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising has grown from about $800 million in 1996 to over $4.7 billion in 2007. Its supporters point to more informed consumers who then visit their doctors and become more involved in their own treatment, leading to better and earlier diagnosis of undertreated illnesses. The critics believe that industrys presentation of the balance of drug benefit and risk information may encourage the inappropriate use of advertised products and lead to higher than necessary spending. In addition to concerns with accuracy and balance, health professionals point out that DTC ads rarely mention alternative treatments, such as other or generic medications or non-drug interventions. In 1962, Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certain authorities to regulate prescription drug advertising. Except in extreme circumstances, the law does not allow FDA to require pre-release review of ads. Regulations written at a time when most ads were printed in medical journals for a physician audience require that all drug ads disclose all of a drugs known risks. However, as drug makers considered moving into broadcast advertising and wanted to get their messages to consumers, they noted, without explicit guidance from FDA, the difficulty in including all risks in the format of a 30-second commercial. FDA issued guidance in 1999 stipulating that broadcast ads had to include the advertised products most important risks in the audio portion of the advertisement and should give sources where more complete risk information about a drug would be available. FDA reviews ads once they are launched, and its enforcement options are notice-of-violation and warning letters, criminal prosecution (through the Department of Justice), civil monetary penalties, product seizures, and withdrawal of approval for sale. Despite these activities, Members of Congress and the public ask what FDA could do differently in light of the safety problems involving some heavily advertised medications. Congress could consider a variety of options to allay concerns about DTC drug advertising.

Source: Congressional Research Service

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The Housing Problem and the Economic Crisis: A Review and Evaluation of Policy Prescriptions


The US economy is in the throes of the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. What commenced as a crisis in the US housing and mortgage markets has contaminated other sectors and spread globally. Hitherto, most policy efforts and resources have been devoted to propping up the banking and financial sector. It is clear that in order to restore economic growth and confidence internationally, policies must be designed and implemented to stabilize the housing market. With this objective in mind, our paper analyzes and evaluates a wide and comprehensive spectrum of policy proposals that have been put forward to deal with the critical issue of housing foreclosures and the need to stabilize the housing and housing finance sector. We also describe the genesis and evolution of the crisis, as well as present our own cross-state analysis of the determinants of subprime mortgages and foreclosures.

We examine initial responses of various Government agencies and public-private partnerships, the recent Obama administration programs and proposals, as well as wide-ranging and diverse proposals from prominent academics, policy think-tanks and housing experts. Proposed plans include solutions involving auxiliary loans, shared appreciation mortgages, standards for renegotiated principal, across-the-board rate adjustments, creation of new Government institutions and legal reform. We analyze the potential effectiveness of these proposals applying our benchmark criteria of i) non-recurrence and future mitigation of moral hazard, ii) bang for the buck, iii) fairness and distributive aspects, iv) judicious mix of short-term and long term solutions, and v) regulatory implications. In conclusion, we propose some essential elements of a fair, effective and viable plan to fix the residential finance system and the housing market.

Source: Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics. U.C. Berkeley

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Where Are the Voices? Moving Beyond HIV in the Lives of Female Sex Workers


Tijuana promises different things to different people. Throughout Mexico people in difficult circumstances dream of moving to the US-Mexico border in search of better economic opportunities and the chance to be closer to the American dream. Men of means from the United States and other countries flock to Tijuana in search of new and exciting sexual adventures. At the crossroads, we find women working in the sex industry in order to give their families a better life and at the same time servicing men seeking sex.

UCLA Center for the Study of Women. CSW Update Newsletter.

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Trashy Robots: Desire and Disposability in Patricia Yaeger’s “Luminous Trash: Throwaway Robots in Blade Runner, the Terminators, A.I., and Wall•E”


What does it mean for humans to desire human-like relationships with robots? What kind of sovereignty do we want to have over our trash? These two seemingly unrelated questions melded together exquisitely during Patricia Yaeger’s talk “Luminous Trash: Throwaway Robots in Blade Runner, the Terminators, A.I. and Wall•E.” Yaeger directed her audiences’ eyes towards robots as trash, and in doing so, linked together present and future possibilities for re-thinking automated relationships, technological power, and wasteful consumption. Yaeger, the Henry Simmons Frieze Collegiate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, spoke to an overflowing room about our fascination with robots and trash, both of whom—or of which, depending on your comfort level with anthropomorphizing non-human subjects—highlight tensions between our desires and their limits.

Source: UCLA Center for the Study of Women.

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