Roundtable With Public Advocate's Office Examines NYC's Long-Term Liabilities
Rising costs and budget reductions are forcing New York City leaders to grapple with the long-term financial impact of City retirees' pension and health care benefits. At present, about 20 percent, or $13 billion, of the City's annual budget pays those expenses. This portion arises from collective bargaining agreements, the ups and downs of the stock market, the dynamics and costs of health care, demographics, and other factors.
Weaving questions of public finance and public policy, a December 12 roundtable discussion at NYU Wagner on the City's long-term liabilities drew more than 100 guests, as leading experts explained the hard numbers and difficult choices associated with the public cost of health care for city and state employees, both active and retired, in the years ahead.
The discussion was the second of three roundtables on long-term liabilities cosponsored by The Fund for Public Advocacy; the Office of Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for the City of New York; as well as by NYU Wagner and the Wagner Economics and Finance Association.
"It's the 20 percent of the budget that we tend to talk about the least," noted De Blasio, who explained that the question of how long-term liabilities are handled is critical to sustaining the City's strengths as a major local employer and an indispensable provider of public services.
The event included a keynote address on Federal health care liabilities by Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and a panel discussion with Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission; Bruce McIver, president, the Voluntary League of Hospitals and Homes New York; Carol O'Cleireacain, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and New York Times columnist Michael Powell (moderator).
Reshma Saujani, executive director, Fund for Public Advocacy, and deputy advocate for special initiatives at the Office of the Public Advocate, delivered opening remarks, as did Neil Kleiman, special advisor to the NYU Wagner dean.
The series is being presented with the help of generous support from The New York Community Trust and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
GovLoop/NASPAA Scholarship Competition - Part II
NYU Wagner has not just one, but two finalists in the national Public Service Scholarship essay-writing competition sponsored by the GovLoop social network for government and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. He's Brian Footer, who is working toward an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy with a specialization in Financial Management.
Way to go, Brian!
Brian is one of 15 finalists. His essay was chosen from more than 170 submissions by judges from GovLoop and NASPAA. In the next and last phase of the competition, the three winning pieces on how to prioritize federal sending in fiscally constrained times will be picked by the GovLoop network of more than 50,000 members in an online vote, and will be eligible for a scholarship award of as much as $2,500.
"If the U.S. government had only $100 million left in the budget," Brian's thoughtful and well crafted submission begins, "I would begin devising a grant program to direct money to local governments in the pursuit of assisting the most fragile and disenfranchised populations. I believe government's inherent social value is establishing services essential to provide basic human needs. This, however, is not a mandate for government to deliver services. Rather, government should be a coordinator of parties and resources, and no one understands the unique demands of each geographic community better than local government."
The piece goes on to explain how the locally guided grant process would work.
Brian's own career as a passionate public servant is more than 10 years in the making.
He moved to New York City to work on Christine C. Quinn's successful campaign for re-election as City Council Speaker, and later served as the Speaker's Scheduler. Prior to arriving in the city, he lived in Washington, D.C., and worked on Capitol Hill, for the Democratic Governors Association as a fund raiser, and for the US Tax Court as a Clerk.
He is now a Legislative Policy Analyst to the New York City Council's Committee on Aging and Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Brian volunteers his time at the Abzyme Research Foundation, helping to advocate for development of abzyme technology in hopes of producing the world's first effective HIV vaccine and improved treatments. After two years of effort and dedication toward developing a small-donor program, Brian is a member of the Board of Directors.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Prelaw from Ohio University.
Economist's Paper Calls for New Research Agenda on Emigration
An article that Michael A. Clemen researched as a Visiting Scholar at NYU Wagner and the Department of Economics is generating a great deal of discussion. "Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?" focuses on the vast economic losses that result from tightly binding limitations on emigration imposed by destination countries such as the United States (where, for example, the 2010 Diversity Visa Lottery attracted 13.6 million applications for 50,000 visas, mainly from people in developing countries). When it comes to the many policies that restrict emigration, the few estimates of the economic losses to the receiving countries "should make economists' jaws hit their desks," writes Clemens, a Senior Fellow with the Center for Global Development, Washington, D.C., adding "there appears to be trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk." Yet economists and researchers tend not to focus on what is perhaps "the greagest single class of distortions in the global economy," he notes. Clemens explores why that is so, and goes on to propose a new research agenda.
FAI Researching How Low-Income Americans Use Financial Products [Video]
The Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has launched an important new study to better understand the financial lives of low-income Americans.
FAI, in partnership with Bankable Frontier Associates and The Center for Financial Services Innovation, will track families in four geographic regions in the U.S. over 16 months and collect highly detailed data on household financial activity. The study promises a timely and independent look at how low-income Americans are managing their financial lives. The $3 million project is supported by a grant from the Citi Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
FAI's managing director discusses the launch of the U.S.-centered financial diaries project in this video. The managing director is Jonathan Morduch, professor of public policy and economics at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.
The "Financial Diaries" methodology employed to conduct this research has been successfully applied in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. The results of that FAI research were detailed in a groundbreaking book Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton University Press, 2009). Instrumental in broadening conceptions of global poverty, the book revealed that poor households lead surprisingly active and sophisticated financial lives, driven by the need to cope with irregular and unpredictable incomes but few reliable tools to absorb economic shocks.
"Improving access to reliable, flexible financial products and services is an important step to help poor and low-income households better manage their economic lives," says Professor Morduch. "The Financial Diaries research has proven to be an effective means of gathering important information to inform the design of these kinds of financial tools."
"The findings in Portfolios of the Poor provided an eye-opening look at the financial lives of the poor in other countries, and we're excited to use this lens in the U.S. context," says Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer at the Citi Foundation. "This research can fill an important gap in the current data on how low-income families in our own backyards are making ends meet and help reduce the barriers to financial well-being that these families currently face."
In the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that some 17 million adults live in households without any bank accounts. Another 43 million have accounts but are "underbanked," relying on non-bank services such as pay-day lenders and pawn shops. Yet, there is little concrete data about the needs, preferences and use of financial services by low-income families.
"Remarkably, more than 30 million low-income families across the U.S. lack access to traditional banking and financial systems," says Frank DeGiovanni, director of financial assets at the Ford Foundation. "This landmark study will help us to better understand their financial lives, greatly improving the ability the financial industry of nonprofits, and policymakers to meet their needs and increase the quality, affordability, and accessibility of financial services."
To conduct this groundbreaking research, the U.S. Financial Diaries team will spend one-and-a-half years with 300 families, distributed across 4 research sites-in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West. Researchers will meet with families every two weeks to collect highly detailed data on household cash flows.
This methodology of regularly observing household finances over long periods of time allows researchers to identify often-overlooked strategies of financial management, such as the use of informal borrowing and lending with neighbors and family members. The study is designed to capture spending and savings habits that often remain hidden in large surveys. The findings will be published in a series of reports beginning in mid-2012.
Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children
The MacArthur Foundation has announced support for a multi-disciplinary, cross-university set of researchers, including three from NYU Wagner, to study the enormous instability in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, and the impact of this instability on children.
According to the researchers, "policymakers know surprisingly little about how such instability affects children, and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses." The project approved for Foundation support aims to fill these gaps and provide better guidance to federal, state, and local housing and education officials, community organizations, and elected officials about the benefits of housing stability.
The three Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service professors working on the project are:
• Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning, and faculty co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the School of Law.
• Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics, and director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She also teaches at NYU Steinhardt.
• Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics, and associate director of Institute for Education and Social Policy, who also teaches at Steinhardt.
The trio's co-PI's include:
Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law, New York University, and faculty director of the Furman Center, and the principal investigator on this project; David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.
The co-investigators note that, to date, some research has examined how residential moves affect children's educational outcomes, but the research has been limited by concerns that effects attributed to moves cannot be separated from those of unobserved characteristics of the families that move and of the neighborhoods to which they move.
Further, existing research does not adequately distinguish between types of housing moves: those that the family plans versus those that are more involuntary; those that involve only a change in housing versus those that take the child to a new neighborhood or school; or those that place the child in better neighborhoods or schools versus those that do not.
Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records in four major markets that are suffering from unusual housing instability-New York City, and the counties of San Diego and Fresno in California and Pinellas County in Florida - Professors Ellen, Schwartz, Stiefel and their co-investigators will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students' educational outcomes.
In addition, they we will assess whether any effect that housing instability has on children differs by the child's race or the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the child lives or to which the child moves, and if so, what explains those differences.
The research grant was announced as part of a group of nine new MacArthur Foundation grants totaling $5.6 million for explorations of the role that housing plays in the long-term health and well-being of children, families, and communities.
Former UK Prime Minister on the Promise of Globalization
Ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks about globalization, Dec. 14, 2010.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown participated in an engaging public discussion cosponsored by NYU Wagner on Dec. 14, 2010, describing what he sees as hopeful economic possibilities presented by globalization. Brown spoke before an audience composed largely of students, and was interviewed on the stage at Vanderbilt Hall by Robert M. Shrum, the renowned U.S. political consultant and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Introduced by NYU President John Sexton as the University's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence and "one of the great citizens of the world," Brown in turn hailed what he called NYU's "path-breaking" initiative as the first global network university.
During the discussion with Shrum and a question-and-answer session with the audience, the former prime minister focused on the prospects for growth in European, U.S., and African exports and employment that China's rapidly expanding economy may generate in the years ahead. In light of the 2008 financial meltdown, Brown also spoke of a pressing need for consistent rules and standards for responsible behavior by markets and governments worldwide. He also discussed his role in recognizing the necessity for his government and that of the U.S. to recapitalize tottering European banks as the meltdown was happening.
"We had capitalism without capital - the banks did not have enough capital," Brown said. Through his efforts and those of other world leaders, "we avoided what could have been a Great Depression." He stepped down as prime minister in May, 2010, after his Labour Party lost control of Parliament.
A current Member of Parliament, Brown was in New York to publicize his new book, "Beyond The Crash." Asked by an audience member about the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables, Brown said while American policy was predominantly shown to be honest, "there are certain parts that you'd question, certain parts nobody will like." He said he had suffered personal "embarrassments" from the release but then noted, "You've just got to accept that."
Afterward, the former prime minister signed copies of his new book, chatted with students about their programs of study, and posed for photographs. An article on the event published in the next day's New York Times described the reaction of one NYU Wagner student, who has lived in London. Patrizia Mancini commented: "I have to say that he seems like a different person. He's way more relaxed. As a politician, he would seem fake when he smiled, but now he seems so natural."