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April 23, 2015

Google Trends reveals a lot about what Americans are thinking about over time. I decided to see how search engine queries for some financial products has evolved in recent years.

September 5, 2014

Here are a few takeaways from the newly released Survey of Consumer Finances. The SCF is a tri-ennial report on the finances of American families. The the most recent results are derived from the survey conducted by the University of Chicago in 2013. 

July 1, 2014

From last to first, here is a ranking of the penetration of the formal financial system into the populations of the countries in the Round of 16. This data is from the World Bank's Findex. One caveat is that data on Swiss accounts is not available. 

April 14, 2010

Early analyses of Census 2010 participation rates are promising for North Carolina.

You can go to the Census 2010 page to see how many of your neighbors have returned their forms. The return rate is very important, as budgets for the next ten years will be weighted by the results of this count. Right now, approximately 67 percent of households have already replied.

North Carolinians should be paying close attention to their results. As of April 14th, 69 percent of households in the state have sent their forms back in.  That is already higher than the 66 percent of households that replied in 2000.  The fact that North Carolina is trending slightly above the national average is good news.  Still, a higher rate of return would mean a lot for our state. North Carolina is one of the states on the edge of gaining an additional seat in Congress. In 2000, Utah mounted and then lost a challenge to wrest a Congressional seat from North Carolina.  This time, North Carolina is seen as competing with New Jersey. That is promising, as New Jersey is responding at just 67 percent to date. Some say that Texas could gain as many as four new seats. That promise looks to be endangered by their participation, though. Only 62 percent of households have responded.

There are some significant variations in regional response rates. The counties between Chatham (75 percent) and Buncombe are all recording rates above 70 percent. In Davie County, 75 percent of households have replied.  That is good news.  By contrast, the Sand Hills are lagging.  Only Moore County is above 70 percent. Robeson (61 percent), Hoke (63 percent),

April 6, 2010

The 2010 Census may provoke a new term in the lexicon of demographers and advocates: "white plurality." In more and more places, the 2010 Census will show that white residents do not make up the majority of the population. More places will be majority-minority.

Four states were considered majority-minority in 2009: Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas.  About one in ten American counties is already majority-minority. One city - Washington, DC, is majority-black.

What this means to a person reflects a lot about who they are. For people at the ends of the spectrum, from Tea Partiers at one side to identity-politicians on the other, the conclusions are obvious. For the rest of us, it is a confirmation of how things are changing and a reminder about re-establishing the frame of reference for how we think about our country and our communities

February 18, 2010

News out today shows that our schools are more income-segregated than ever before.  This national trend is only a broader reflection of the same forces that have fostered Wake County, North Carolina's recent decision to favor "neighborhood schools."

North Carolina is one of the states with the lowest share of elite schools.  By the measure that drove this study, there were less than 3 percent of students on free-or-reduced lunch in only six schools in North Carolina.  Perhaps that is factored by our states ongoing battle to reverse its high share of poor families, but it also reflects well on decision-making that has avoided narrow zoning to separate elites from the rest of the community.

The location of affordable housing is driven by land-use planning.  My review of some of the schools where elite private-public schools (PPS) have been created suggests that they are most often in white suburbs with very high incomes. Those districts exist even when a larger MSA is well-off.  Certainly, Boston and San Francisco harbor plenty of wealth.  That is why it is so bad that so many of their schools act as filters of opportunity.

The study did not release specific data for any MSA in North Carolina. I'll offer a more narrow example for Alameda County, California. The largest city in Alameda County is Oakland. Oakland is poor and heavily minority. Its schools are well-known for their efforts to deal with the challenges of poverty.  While Oakland struggles, the community of Piedmont has developed its own "private" school system.  Fewer than 3 percent of its young people live in poverty, compared to more than 28 percent in Oakland.  Median household income in Piedmont is $134,000.  In Oakland, it is just a shade over $40,000.

Without a systematic effort to shape the housing stock in Piedmont, that outcome could not occur.  Only nine percent of households in Piedmont rent, and most rents are greater than $1,500 per month.  There are only 69 multifamily units in the entire city!

Is Wake County near that situation? Certainly there is no Piedmont within its borders.  Yet, it seems all too likely that the County has enough Piedmont-style school zones to bring about some of those same results. I counted 25 census tracts in Wake (in 2000, summary file 3) where less than 3 percent of the residents aged 5 to 17 lived in poverty. In those tracts, there were only 241 school-age children in 2000, compared to more than 10,500 living above the poverty line.  Back in 2000, Wake had about 111,000 school-age students.  Roughly 9.7 percent of them lived in a census tract with fewer than 3 percent of school-age children in poverty. Race is worth mentioning, too: those low-poverty districts have, on average, less than one-third of their share of African-American residents compared to the County as a whole.

Granted, school districts are much larger than census tracts.  Still, elementary schools can sometimes draw from a handful of census tracts.  Some of those tracts overlap. The possibility seems very real that Wake would quickly fall into a new regime where there were a handful of elite schools for the very wealthy.

Affordable Housing is a Determinant of Income Segregation

The Thomas Fordham Institute has published a report entitled America's Private Public Schools that tracks where public decision-making has led to public schools with few or no poor students. Their indictment is compounded by the perspective of its authors.  Fordham is a conservative research group. Their concern is coincidental to the outcries of groups like the NAACP or Wake parents with a compassionate interest in diversity. Their prescription for this problem is more charter schools, rather than reform through traditional public school systems.

Fordham concluded that New Jersey was the worst offender for income-segregation. That is interesting, as New Jersey was the site for the seminal affordable housing case.  In Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Township, the NAACP argued that zoning rules conspired to keep affordable housing outside of the municipal boundaries of Mt. Laurel township, thereby excluding low-and-moderate (LMI) residents from obtaining housing in that community. The decision created a new standard for  implementing the goals of affordable housing. Eight years

November 12, 2009


Citibank announced this morning that it will charge customers a $7.50 bank fee for any month when the balance on their Access or EZ checking account falls below $1,500.

Of course, what is even more upsetting is that Citibank is hardly an outlier.  If anything, they are just the latest bank to follow a new trend.  NBC reports that 54 percent of banks have raised fees on their checking accounts in the last year.  Bank of America, for example, just raised the monthly fee on its checking accounts by $3. Bank of America's no frills MyAccess checking is touted as a service fee-free account with no minimum balance.  If you make your way to the third page of disclosures, though, you will see that it has an $8.95 monthly maintenance fee if you don't keep $1,500 in the account without direct deposit.  So, it is true - no service fee.  Perhaps the fact

June 5, 2009

Guess what country has the nation's best economy?  Did you guess North Dakota?  Well, then you might be right.  Sure, it is hard to exactly define best, or to pick a measure that captures the entirety of "good."

January 20, 2009

The country is celebrating its new leadership today, but the storm clouds are gathering and the horizon looks grim.  Yes, the Dow dropped almost five percent today and the nasdaq was off even more.

January 5, 2009

The Atlantic Monthly says that the United States will have an oversupply of around 22 million single-family homes by 2030.  The estimate comes from conclusions made by various demographers and planners.

If our supply of housing stock were to remain constant, then this prediction says that two in five single family homes will be empty.  It is a statement that suggests a catastrophic impact upon the urban landscape.

One possibility suggested by this prediction is an end to suburbia.  James Kunstler has already imagined what this might look like in his book, The Long Emergency, but that conclusion is driven by a shortage of a different sort.  In that case, it is a lack of fossil fuels.  Here, the oversupply stems from another force - demography.  Perhaps it is all the more troubling that the scenarios are not mutually