Daily News & Commentary — August 28, 2017
The New York Times opinion page profiles unemployment “in black and white,” examining the factors driving the phenomenon in which the overall unemployment rate for black Americans (7.4%) is almost twice the overall unemployment rate for white Americans (3.8%). The article identifies disparities produced by monetary policy as one culprit: “The Fed has historically favored inflation fighting over boosting employment, a policy bias that generally leads it to raise interest rates before the job market is as strong as possible, as measured by low unemployment and rising pay for all groups of workers.” Discrimination in hiring and pay are also identified, as are the high cost of child care (which particularly burdens single mothers), poor public transportation, and mass incarceration.
At The Atlantic, Olga Khazan poses a fascinating question: “is any job really better than no job?” The answer—not quite. While the ill effects of unemployment on physical and mental health are well-documented (Khazan notes studies demonstrating the high rates of depression and anxiety among the jobless, as well as a study of Pennsylvania men in the wake of the 1980s recession which found that a year after being laid off the men’s risk of dying doubled), new research suggests that some jobs “exacerbate chronic stress,” and by extension, poor health outcomes. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that the set of unemployed participants who obtained “poorer-quality jobs” showed more indication of poor kidney function than those who remained unemployed, and saw no improvement in mental health indicators. Khazan notes that the U.K. study may not generalize perfectly to the U.S. because the social-welfare system is more robust in the U.K., perhaps minimizing the ill health effects of unemployment.
In Uber news, Dara Khosrowshahi has been named the CEO of the scandal-ridden company. Mr. Khosrowshahi previously served as CEO of Expedia, a post he took up in 2005. Former CEO Travis Kalanick, who stepped down in June, remains on the board. If and how Mr. Khosrowshahi will turn things around at Uber (which faces sexual harassment accusations, a DOJ investigation, and a lawsuit by Google in a self-driving car dispute) remains to be seen.
More Uber news: a federal judge in Seattle threw out Uber drivers’ challenge to Seattle’s unionization law last week. The city ordinance, which we have previously covered (here, here, and here), would allow drivers for ride-hailing services to unionize. The drivers who brought the challenge argued that the ordinance is preempted by the NLRA, and that it violates their First Amendment right to free speech as it deprives them of the ability to negotiate with Uber directly. The judge rejected each argument, finding first that the NLRA applies only to employees and Uber drivers are independent contractors; and second, that the ordinance “does not promote or prohibit the dissemination of any particular idea or bargaining position”, and thus does not infringe on the free speech rights of the drivers.