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Affluent cities gained at expense of Trump’s ‘forgotten’ America study

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The economic divide between affluent U.S. cities and suburbs and the ailing, often rural, areas where blue collar and middle-tier service jobs are the norm grew wider after the onset of the Great Recession, a Washington-based think tank said on Monday.

The crisis and ensuing rebound saw a “reshuffling” of jobs, entrepreneurial energy, and human capital from worse-off areas towards those that have increasingly captured the benefits of growth, the Economic Innovation Group concluded after comparing demographic data for the 2007-2011 and 2012-2016 periods.

The findings show “a big blindspot” in strong national data, including a 3.7 percent unemployment rate that is near a 50-year low, said John Lettieri, co-founder and president of the bipartisan Economic Innovation Group think tank.

“The distribution of new jobs, new businesses, the distribution of the best human capital – it is a geographical concentration,” Lettieri said. “National growth alone is not doing it for Americans in terms of their local realities.”

The time frame of the study, capturing the impact of the 2007-2009 recession and the bulk of an ongoing recovery, gives insight into some of the forces that fueled President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, with areas outside the booming coastal cities struggling to hang on to old-line industries in the information age.

Trump has brandished himself as a defender of the “forgotten” Americans that he says have been left behind by the forces of globalization, vowing to bring back manufacturing jobs that have moved offshore.

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In that objective, he is fighting longstanding trends, that are rooted in decades of urbanization, as well as the more recent power of knowledge-based companies, colleges and other institutions to attract investment and talent.

The influence of those trends seemed amplified by the crisis, according to the EIG study, which used zip code-based data on seven indicators of economic health including education, poverty, job growth, and the change in the number of businesses.

Across most indicators, the spread between the top fifth of zip codes and the bottom fifth had grown larger, with relatively more adults in distressed areas out of work, in poverty, and experiencing slower income growth.

Whereas the top fifth of zip codes had generated 3.6 million new jobs more than were present in 2007, the bottom fifth had 1.4 million fewer.

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After the U.S. economy shed 350,000 businesses between 2007 and 2011, business starts in the next five years clustered in already thriving areas. The top quintile of zip codes added 180,000 new firms, more than the other 80 percent of zip codes combined.

The most well-off areas added roughly 10 million more people between the periods studied, with about a quarter of the U.S. population, or 86 million, living in areas of “extraordinary prosperity and dynamism.” By contrast, the population in “distressed” areas decreased by 3 million, to around 50 million, the study found.

“The returns to initial community advantage are increasing, as growth chases growth and recovery is slower to diffuse across the map than in the past,” said EIG, which has been a big proponent of “place-based” policies to encourage investment and development in left-behind areas, and remove barriers to give prospective workers more ability to relocate.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

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When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

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Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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2020 Election

Here are 5 reasons why 2020’s down-ballot races could reshape America’s future

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The political press always tends to focus mostly on the marquee race for the White House but that's especially true this cycle, as Donald Trump runs for a second term. He demands attention and his antics enrage his opponents and delight his supporters in equal measure.

But national reporters risk missing the big picture by centering so much of their reporting at the top when many of the most important political battles in 2020 will take place further down the ballot.

Trump is catnip for reporters and their editors, but the dearth of coverage of downballot races didn't begin with his election. As the news media in general faces structural changes—with print circulation declining and much of their work moving into digital spaces that are more difficult to monetize--publishers have cut back on reporters assigned to the state and local government beat. Nevertheless, Trump has arguably worsened the trend by getting so much airtime— one estimate suggested that over the past four years, Trump has taken up, on average, 15 percent of the entire daily news cycle on the three leading cable networks, nearly three times what Obama did.

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