Blog postings by CEPR staff and updates on the latest briefings and activities at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan has a post today at the New York Times Economix blog where he seems to argue that the current push for statutory paid sick days in the United States is ignoring the role of economic incentives. According to Mulligan, workers in countries with generous paid sick day policies stay home because of "incentives, and not the flu".

I don't think Mulligan has been following the U.S. debate on paid sick days very closely. The U.S. debate is very serious about incentives. The current system --which does not require employers to provide paid sick days and leaves upwards of 50 million workers without paid sick days-- gives strong incentives to workers to go to work sick, lowering productivity and potentially spreading illness.

Of course, offering paid sick days also gives workers incentives to take time off when they are not sick. But, there is nothing in Mulligan's post that says where we should set the optimal level. He doesn't even make a case that the most generous systems in Europe are too generous, just that they lead to more sickness absences in some cases. For all we know, after we factor in the cost of contagious diseases, the most generous European systems might still be too stingy.

To make his point about the effect of incentives, Mulligan features the following graph from a recent IMF paper:

Casey Mulligan graph on sickness absences

Mulligan, however, has made very selective use of the original IMF graph:

IMF graph on sickness absences
In the original, Denmark, Germany, and seven other countries with more generous statutory paid sick days policies all have lower sickness absence rates than the United States. A really interesting question is: how is it that these countries are able to provide both guaranteed paid sick days and lower sickness absence rates? (And why didn't Mulligan include these countries in his graph?)

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In honor of our 10th Anniversary, CEPR hosted a two-hour live webcast. CEPR Co-Directors Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot were on hand to answer questions from viewers, and Jane Hamsher of firedoglake was the special guest moderator.
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CEPR Co-Director, Mark Weisbrot has written numerous columns, analyzing the aftermath of the coup in Honduras, and in which he questions the Obama Administration's commitment to restoring democracy in Honduras. Add a comment
As the IMF and World Bank prepare to meet this weekend, CEPR's released a paper that shows that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is still prescribing inappropriate policies that could unnecessarily worsen economic downturns in a number of countries. Add a comment
CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker was on the Diane Rehm Show, with Jared Bernstein (Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser for Vice President Biden and Executive Director of the Vice President's Middle Class Task Force), Deborah Solomon (reporter for The Wall Street Journal) and, Vincent Reinhart (resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute). Add a comment

A new report from CEPR shows that unionization significantly boosts the wages of service-sector workers. The report, which was written by CEPR Senior Economist, John Schmitt shows that unionization significantly boosts the wages of service-sector workers. Specifically, the report finds that unionization raises the wages of the average service-sector worker by 10.1 percent, which translates to about $2.00 per hour.  This report is the latest in a series of reports produced by John Schmitt on the advantages of unionization for lower-wage workers and other groups.

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If you value the information you receive from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to our spring fundraising campaign. We depend on the generosity of individuals like you to support our work. Thank You. Add a comment

CEPR Co-Director, Dean Baker appeared on GRIT TV with Laura Flanders to discuss the G-20 summit, together with Ann Lee, professor of economics at New York University and visiting professor at Peking University in Beijing, and Greg Denier, Communications Director of Change to Win.

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CEPR Senior Research Associate, Ha-Joon Chang was on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, where he discussed his book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. Ha-Joon Chang, is an economist at the University of Cambridge specializing in developmental economics. In 2005, he was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. He is also the author of Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective. The interview begins around the 15:00 minute mark.

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CEPR Co-Director, Dean Baker debates blogger Megan McArdle of

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Sean Hannity asserted that the economic stimulus bill would amount to spending at least $217,000 for every job created, echoing a false calculation from a press release issued by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee and repeated by numerous media figures. In fact, by calculating the per-job cost by dividing the estimated total cost of the stimulus package by the estimated number of jobs created and thus suggesting that the sole purpose of that package is to create jobs these media figures ignored other tangible benefits stemming from the package, such as infrastructure improvements and education, health, and public safety investments.

See the full article by Media Matters for America.
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One of the little-noticed but most important international responses to the current world recession is the reassertion of power by the International Monetary Fund, which ten years ago was the most powerful financial institution in the world. The IMF answers mainly to the U.S. Treasury Department, although it is ostensibly a 185-country member organization.

The Treasury Department is using the IMF the same way it did ten years ago, during the last major financial crisis, in East Asia. Treasury is trying to re-establish the IMF’s former pre-eminent position as gatekeeper to any rescue funds. This would enable the IMF/Treasury to choose which developing countries get loans and what conditions are attached to the lending.

The IMF played a disastrous role in the Asian crisis, which is one of the reasons that its portfolio shrank to almost nothing over the last decade, and any country that could, avoided them like the plague. Now they are back, unreformed and unreconstructed. Despite the G20 meeting’s lip service to making some developing countries partners in international financial reform, the idea of giving them any more representation in the IMF’s decision-making is decidedly off the agenda. China, the world’s second-largest economy with 1.3 billion people, has just 3.6 percent of the vote in the IMF; the United States has 16.5 percent. But since Europe and Japan virtually always side with the United States, the developing countries are effectively without a voice.

While the IMF wants the rich countries to adopt large stimulus packages and lower interest rates to counter the world recession, it is requiring its borrowers — so far Iceland, Hungary, Ukraine, and Pakistan — to do the opposite. Perhaps even worse, some countries will need to adopt capital controls, to prevent damage from money fleeing the country; the IMF will use its muscle to prevent that. Washington and the U.K. are trying to get the countries with surplus reserves — mostly China and the Gulf states – to pitch in to the IMF. So far, only Japan is willing to do so. Hopefully, the developing countries that have excess international reserves and want to help those who need them will find other ways to channel the money.

Original published on the Hill Blog.

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With all the election news about increased turnout from people ages 18-29, television hosts seem giddily intrigued by the political habits of “young people,” as if we were some exotic and alien demographic of the American electorate.

The truth is, we Millennials (is that what they’re calling us?) are Americans like everyone else – just younger. We may not have lived through history, but we know the story. We may not have a family right now, but we will someday.

As citizens, we’ve taken advantage of all the new opportunities afforded us in the 21st century. We’ve graduated from high school and college at higher rates than in recent memory. We’ve contributed to the increased productivity from labor in the last decade. We were the first generation to grow up with computers, and we still give our parents a computer lesson every now and then. In short, we’ve been pretty good citizens.

And yet, we’ve been the hardest hit by the wage stagnation in our economy over the last three decades. After adjusting for inflation, the wage of the typical 18-29 year-old worker was about 10 percent lower in 2007 than it had been in 1979. Despite being more tech-savvy and better educated, we’re getting paid less.

A lot of this is outside of our control, influenced by political decisions in Washington and massive fluctuations in the economy. But there is one surefire way that young people can improve their living standard – unions.

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) analyzes data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and finds that unionized young workers (age 18-29) earned, on average, 12.4 percent more than their non-union peers. The trend was the same even in the lowest-wage occupations. The average non-union young worker made $8.74 per hour, while the average unionized young worker made $10.62 per hour. Unionized workers were also more likely to have good benefits, like employer-provided health care and pension plans.

You can find the full report here.

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As world leaders gather in Washington this weekend for a summit to address the global economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund is being touted as a "financial firefighter." However, the IMF's track record of the last 30 years casts serious doubts on that institution's ability to contain the financial meltdown. Rather than dousing flames, the IMF's prescriptions have often poured gasoline on economic fires in emerging nations, crippling long-term development. Should the IMF be designated as the lender of last resort, it must overhaul the structural adjustment policies that prevent many nations from providing basic services for their people. CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot joined Robert Weissman, Director of Essential Action, in a call with reporters that was moderated by Joanne Carter, Executive Director, RESULTS Educational Fund. To listen to a recording of the call, dial 719-457-0820, and enter passcode 4097561. A transcript is available on the RESULTS site. Add a comment
CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker attended a panel discussion on the economics of inequality on September 30 at the Institute for Policy Studies. Dean spoke about the 'financial crisis' and argued that a tightening of credit is normal in the context of a recession and that a bailout is uneccessary. His weekly columns on the economy can be found here. Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute and Barbara Ehrenreich of the Institute for Policy Studies also spoke. The discussion was moderated by Chuck Collins, the Director of the Inequality and the Common Good Project at IPS.
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Senior economist, John Schmitt and Research Assistant Hye-Jin Rho recently released a paper titled "The Reagan Question: Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Eight Years Ago?" The report is interactive and readers are encouraged to leave comments to which the authors respond. Add a comment
Dean Baker's Beat the Press column was listed in the Top 50 Economic Blogs (17th to be specific) by the Palgrave Econolog.  Congratulations Dean on reaching a wide audience! Add a comment
The Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute co-hosted a forum entitled "Corporate and High Income Tax Cuts and the Economy: The Economics, History, and Public Debate of Supply-Side Policies," which consisted of two panels.  In the first panel, "The Economics of Supply-Side," economists Lawrence Summers, Gene Sperling, and Jeffrey Frankel discussed the resounding denunciation of Supply-Side Economics (such as Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans in an attempt to stimulate the economy) by the majority of professionals in the field, both from its theoretical perspective and from evidence over the past 60 years.  In the second panel, "The History and the Public's View," Jonathan Chait gave a synopsis of his new book, "The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics." Anna Greenberg, a leading polling expert, discussed American opinions on various tax issues, pointing out that most think the wealthy and corporations pay too little in taxes, but many are also in favor of tax cuts in order to stimulate the economy. Add a comment
CEPR Co-Director, Dean Baker and journalist Bob Herbert, sat down with Bill Moyers to discuss the economic challenges facing the government and the American people. Video and audio clips of the interview can be found here.
Dean Baker and Bob Herbert on Bill Moyers Journal











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We're delighted to announce that CEPR is this month's featured partner on the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) homepage. ISN provides an extensive network of free research materials for international relations scholars, as well as up-to-date current event analysis, conference listings and interactive educational content.
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CEPR's Director of International Programs, Deborah James, is in Geneva where she will take part in meetings and events with trade ministers and civil society organizations related to the World Trade Organization "mini-ministerial" which begins July 21. CEPR expects the negotiations to face significant challenges due to the recent spike in food prices, and the limited gains projected for developing countries.
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