Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre 

UPDATE (7/30/13): Regarding the CEPR findings discussed in #1, it was called to my attention (because Twitter is terrific for crowdsourcing obscure information) that regulations permit narrower “look-back” windows than 12 months for determining whether an employee is full-time (working 30+ hours a week). Specifically, “[E]mployers may adopt a transition measurement period that is shorter than 12 months but that is no less than 6 months long and that begins no later than July 1, 2013.” If employers are largely inclined toward this briefer window, it is less likely that we would observe meaningful trends to suggest (or dismiss) an ACA-driven increase in part-time employment until we have data from the second half of 2013.

A late-Friday news roundup is still a Friday news roundup. Or so I tell myself.

  1. If the ACA will force part-time hours, we should already be seeing it. We’re not. One of the arguments against Obamacare that gets trotted out frequently is that it’s a “jobs killer”—it will motivate employers to reduce hours below the 30/week threshold that constitutes full-time for the purposes of the employer mandate. In order to assess penalties for 2014, the feds were going to look at data for 2013 employee hours, meaning the move toward part time should already be happening, and we should be seeing more people just below that 30-hour threshold. If you look at the data, the number of workers reporting 26-29 hours a week has not grown significantly since 2012.
  2. Poverty beats crack, but no one wins. After more than two decades of research on babies exposed to crack cocaine in utero, the findings are out, and they may surprise you. The investigators concluded that prenatal exposure to cocaine wasn’t devastating to fetal development—but poverty may be. While only half of participants were in the “treatment” (exposed) group, all participants were low income. Both exposed and control subjects “performed about the same on tests, both groups lagged on developmental and intellectual measures compared to the norm.” Their results suggest that something about poverty impairs development to a much greater extent than crack.
  3. Sacramento cut public health funds—and the results aren’t pretty. In the last five years, Sacramento has closed five of six public health clinics and reduced their ranks of communicable disease investigators from 10 to one full-time employee and a second half-time worker. The result? In a city that already ranks among California’s highest rates of STDs, they’ve seen disease incidence climb: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are up 27, 8, and 128 (no, that’s not a typo) percent respectively. Left untreated, these diseases can have serious long-term consequences.
  4. Seize the data. Most “rate shock” scuffling to date has had writers flocking to online insurance vendors, but no more! The GAO made health wonks’ week (on both sides of the aisle) by releasing a report on current state-level individual market premiums. Expect to see the information used differently by proponents and opponents of Obamacare. The report offers each state’s lowest, median, and highest annual base premiums available to a 30-year old male nonsmoker, which range from $349/year in Nebraska to $24,324 (again, not a typo) in New York.
  5. Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 8.00.43 PMIt’s a walk-off! I’m a sucker for anything “GIS-lite”, widgets that allow me to input a location and spit out a colorful map (also, Zoolander quotes). The latest I’ve stumbled upon is “Walkscore”, a site that rates the walkability of neighborhoods across the nation. The suburb where I grew up scored an abysmal 25, while my current apartment’s in an Ann Arbor neighborhood that fares much better, at 74. Since Detroit’s been in the headlines lately, I figure I’d pull that map, too. It aptly captures the city’s density and urban planning problem—too much space and too few people is a recipe for a city that’s totally unfriendly to normal city behaviors like walking and biking. That little green sliver is the civic center/midtown/Wayne State University stretch (which isn’t especially residential).

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Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter at @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.

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2 thoughts on “Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

  1. Alex says:

    Re: “1. If the ACA will force part-time hours, we should already be seeing it. We’re not.”

    This is a pretty weak point, although the link you provide gives a stronger argument. The ACA is not the only thing that affects the number of people working <30 hours per week. Other things in the economy contribute to the variation over time. So no, a simple before-and-after comparison of the number of people who work those hours does not tell you that the ACA is not having that effect; any responsible academic would acknowledge that.

    • I appreciate your point. The purpose of these news roundups isn’t to provide a highly nuanced take on an issue, as we aim to do in full posts. With “Wonkbites”, we offer brief synopses and encourage people to click through to stories that pique there interest (as you did!).

      I was comfortable enough with the level of analysis provided by Jorgenson and Baker to state the weekly-hours findings as the authors presented them. I did consciously link to the original blog post, rather than the news feature I initially saw on the blog post, so readers could vet the work’s integrity for themselves.

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