By Emily Badger
The decision to move is an intensely personal and revealing one. We move homes because we lost a job or found a new one, because a new child was born or an older one finally left for college. We move because we have to, following a foreclosure, or because we can afford to, in search of a nicer place.
So many of life’s milestones — good or bad, qualifying for a first mortgage, surviving a hurricane — are accompanied by a moving van. In the aggregate, this means that we can add up all of the reasons why Americans move in a given year and glean something about what’s going on in their lives, and even, by extension, the economy.
Take the the 35.9 million people who moved between 2012 and 2013, according to the Census Bureau — either just down the block, into a new county or much farther away. Data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey reveals that, among their householders, 8.4 percent moved last year in search of cheaper housing. According to the data, 1.8 percent moved because of a foreclosure or eviction. Asked to pick the one reason that most contributed to their decision to move, 1.6 percent said they moved to look for work or because they lost a job.
Yesterday’s productivity report for 2014q1 was predictably negative—we already knew that real GDP fell in the quarter while employment grew apace—but I don’t read much into the noisy quarterly changes.
But then there’s this: year-over-year, productivity growth was up 1% last year and has averaged 0.8% since 2011. The figure below plots the yearly changes, which are themselves pretty noisy. What’s more instructive is the smooth trend through the numbers.
The trend suggests that the pace of productivity growth has decelerated since the first half of the 2000s and this begs an important question. There’s considerable speculation that the pace at which machines are displacing workers has accelerated. I keep hearing about “the end of work” based on the assumption that the pace of labor-saving technology—robots, AI—has accelerated.
Today General Motors announced that it has fired 15 employees and disciplined five others in the wake of an internal investigation into the company’s handling of defective ignition switches, which lead to at least 13 fatalities.
“What GM did was break the law … They failed to meet their public safety obligations,” scolded Sec of Transportation Anthony Foxx a few weeks ago after imposing the largest possible penalty on the giant automaker.
Attorney General Eric Holder was even more adamant recently when he announced the guilty plea of giant bank Credit Suisse to criminal charges for aiding rich Americans avoid paying taxes. “This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach, is above the law.”
In this preview, Joseph E. Stiglitz says corporate abuse of our tax system has helped make America unequal and undemocratic. But the Nobel Prize-winning economist has a plan to change that.
In America right now inequality is too great, unemployment too high, public investments too meager, corporations too greedy and the tax code too biased toward the very rich.
But the Nobel Laureate economist Joseph E. Stiglitz says it doesn’t have to be this way. He has a new plan for overhauling America’s current tax system, which he says contributes to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries.