Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recession? ... Depression? ... What is Going On? (Part 7)

Recession Graduates Grind Away With Low Pay as U.S. Mends
By Steve Matthews and Jeanna Smialek
July 23, 2014
Nickole Gambrill is still paying the price for graduating college at the wrong time.
She and other students who earned diplomas in the aftermath of the deepest U.S. recession since the 1930s are experiencing an earnings hangover that could last a lifetime, even as the labor market heals.
Gambrill accepted the first paralegal job she could get after finishing classes at Towson University in Maryland in December 2010, when the unemployment rate was 9.4 percent.
"I’ve been here for three years, but I still consider myself entry-level," said the 27-year-old from Baltimore, who makes about $44,000 annually. "Your raises and income are based off of your original salary. If it were a better economy, I would have started off at a higher salary."
Many of the estimated 3.37 million graduates earning baccalaureate degrees in those two years accepted positions they were overqualified for out of desperation. Those entering the workforce in the shadow of the recession were 2.2 percent of an approximately 154 million-member labor force competing for fewer jobs and now may have eroded skills and sparse resumes. As the labor market improves, new graduates may outshine them.
College students during their graduation ceremony on May 17, 2013 in College Park, Maryland.
"If you come out now, it really is a much better world, you’ll have much better success," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in Washington, who said those who got diplomas closer to the recession will experience lasting disadvantages. "The employer looks at the one who just graduated and the one that’s five steps back, and they think the new one is better."
Recent Graduates
Recent college graduates "were and continue to be hit hard," during and after the recession, two researchers for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco wrote in a study dated July 21. They experienced low wage growth across almost all occupations compared with other full-time workers. While the pattern is consistent with the period after the 2001 slump, "earnings growth following the most recent recession has been held down longer than in the past, which reflects the depth and severity of the recession," they said.
That reality is haunting a segment of millennials, the 82 million people born between 1981 and about 2000. Full-time 25-to 34-year-old workers saw income erode to a median of $38,000 in 2012 from $38,760 in 2007, based on National Center for Education Statistics data. Salaries for bachelor’s degree-or-higher grads fell to $49,950 from $52,990 in 2007.
Many of these recession grads are stuck -- either unemployed, working part-time or in jobs that don’t require the education they have -- and lack skills or opportunities to switch to higher-earning positions or bargain for more pay.
Joblessness Down
Joblessness for 25 to 34-year-olds is down from 10.6 percent in October 2009. Yet at 6.5 percent in June, it’s still higher than total unemployment, which fell to a six-year low of 6.1 percent, and the age group’s 4.9 percent level when the 18-month recession started in December 2007.
Pay penalties from entering a difficult labor market are long-lasting, research from prior contractions shows. Earnings shortfalls have persisted for 15 years, University of Maryland at College Park researcher Shu Lin Wee reported in a December paper. That’s because early years are critical to lifetime income growth, with half of gains between 18 and 46 occurring by age 30 as workers switch jobs and climb corporate career ladders.
The effects of graduating during a stock-market shock for Stanford Business School graduates have lasted about 20 years, Paul Oyer, an economist at the California university reported in a 2008 paper. For the 2007-2009 recession, "the hit will be significant on average," he said.
‘Long-Term Scarring’  
"The evidence indicates long-term scarring, not just short-term effects that go away as soon as the recession ends," said Jesse Rothstein, a former Labor Department chief economist now at the University of California at Berkeley.
Ben Henderson has experienced the cost firsthand. After graduating from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in business in May 2009, he searched for months, only to land work as a substitute teacher paying $9.53 an hour with no benefits near Tampa, Florida.
Five years later, after moving from one part-time job to another while also pursuing coaching positions, Henderson, 27, earns $11.81 an hour as an assistant testing coordinator for an area high school. His checkered work history is a barrier from better-paying work.
"The running joke is they won’t hire you if you don’t have experience and you can’t get experience if they won’t hire you," he said. "Obviously, this is not the plan you made."
Gambrill, though she has found steady work, has reached a similar conclusion.
Experience Required
"People want you to have a certain amount of education, a certain amount of experience, but you really aren’t paid what you’re worth," she said. What’s more, "once you have experience in a certain industry, it’s really hard to change your career."
Tough economics have caused young people to delay big purchases. Just 36.2 percent of households under age 35 owned a home as of the first quarter, down from 41.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008, Census data show.
Graduates who start on the wrong foot have fewer "training and promotion opportunities, resulting in a lasting disadvantage," said Joseph Altonji, who co-wrote the Yale paper. Those who are unemployed or take jobs that don’t match their education can suffer skills depreciation, he added.
Permanent Effects
As of 2012, about 44 percent of recent grads worked in roles that don’t usually require a bachelor’s degree, up 10 percentage points from 2001, Federal Reserve Bank of New YorkHYPERLINK "" researchers reported in January. They warned that such underemployment may cause "permanent negative effects on wages."
Some graduates fare especially badly. Sixty percent or more of liberal arts and communications majors were unemployed or underemployed in 2009-2011. By contrast, three-quarters of engineering, education and health-care students held jobs matching their skills.
Just 33 percent of leisure and hospitality graduates found work requiring their degree in that period -- the least of any group in the New York Fed report.
There’s a cultural tendency to blame young people who get a poor start in the workforce, said Heather Boushey, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, an inequality-focused research group. "You’re seeing some of that around the millennials: ‘They’re so difficult in the workforce. They only want jobs where they can find fulfillment,’ when really they just want jobs," she said.
‘Lifetime Impacts’
Graduating in the aftermath of a recession "does have these lifetime impacts," she said. Compounding the situation is the level of student debt. College loans "combined with underemployment and high unemployment among today’s graduates is a fairly toxic combination."
Dana Katz, 27, is watching peers from Pennsylvania State University’s School of Hospitality Management in State College pay the price for graduating with the Class of 2009.
"I have a lot of friends, countless kids who I graduated with, who should have been put into a better place out of school because they were really promising, but there was nothing available," said Katz, who works at Kimpton Hotels in Washington as an assistant director of finance. "Kids got put into a bad place to start, and it’s been reflected in their career path."
Job-market healing is under way, so the Class of 2014 may fare better than their predecessors. Today’s graduates "are entering into a stronger labor market, full stop," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
Opportunities look brighter for Abigail Estevez, 22, and her classmates. She graduated from Penn State in December 2013 and landed a spot in the management-training program at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, turning down other offers. Many of her friends are in similar jobs.
"Right now, the market is fairly strong," Estevez said. "I definitely think I’m in a good place."
To contact the reporters on this story: Steve Matthews in Atlanta at; Jeanna Smialek in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at; Carlos Torres at Gail DeGeorge, Melinda Grenier

California DIY, shipping container tiny home and a cargo trailer bedroom  
Home Sweet Home in Freight Shipping Containers
Micro-units are advertised under different euphemisms, one-bedroom unit, junior one-bedroom apartment, compact living space, efficiency units

July 23, 2014
While the world is sizzling and percolating in conflicts and wars, and U.S. is roiling in manufactured crisis after crisis, real or imagined emergencies, overwhelmed by the constant invasion of illegal immigrants, The Washington Post writes on the front page, "Thinking inside the box on D.C. housing costs," living in repurposed dinged freight shipping containers. Two days before, Deborah K. Dietsch featured "Thinking big in a small way." (Michael Laris, July 21, 2014)
It is understandable how a damaged shipping container may be an appealing substitute for shelter to a broke student, a homeless person, or a third world shanty-town dweller, but Americans have plenty of housing space and resources to shelter its citizens.
We are so well-off that we even house generously people who break our laws every day when crossing our no-longer-enforced border. Why force Americans into tight and ridiculous spaces when we have so much land? Environmentalists are afraid that we are destroying the planet with our very existence. If they crowd all humanity into as tight and dense urban areas as possible, animals can roam free and land can be rewilded and reclaimed for the creatures we displaced with our civilization, roads, and undeserved mobility.
These tiny spaces are expensive but they give the occupants a false sense of saving money and the planet by not using a car, walking or biking everywhere, just like the zoning environmentalists have been pushing for a while now, high density, and high rise living, five minutes from work, school, shopping, and play while the metro is nearby. Absolute heaven if you want to live like a rat in an 8-by-40-foot box! Who would not enjoy living in "lovingly repurposed steel husks" that have been previously "sloshing across oceans on mammoth container ships?"
A demolished student house will be the location in D.C. of 18 shipping containers to make "eye catching" rentals. Citing Ayn Rand’s novel, "The Fountainhead," the owners are compared to the rebellious architect in the novel who fights against "evil" conformists.
After container doors are replaced by windows and mirrored wardrobe in each container/bedroom, the residents no longer feel confined and claustrophobic. Cut steel panels will make room for the kitchen and living room when the containers are joined. The containers cost $2,000 but the rent price is not divulged. The project is slated to be completed by August.
The builders dream to "float hundreds of sea container apartments on a barge in the Potomac and creating a homeless village on the river to serve Georgetown." The zoning officials are skeptical, they must see if "code will allow them." But zoning codes can be changed to accommodate the environmentalist agenda.
Renting micro-dwellings in the 144-unit building called Harper for $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom, 400 square foot apartment and a parking space enticed many. Because it is so small, residents would want to go out, to get rid of claustrophobia. "This location couldn’t be more perfect for the socializing lifestyle," says Leah Wald. Renting the average 375 square foot hotel room by the day can cost you about the same and the maid is free.
The micro-units are advertised under different euphemisms, one-bedroom unit, junior one-bedroom apartment, compact living space, efficiency units, but the square footage is anywhere from 350-400 square feet. A 600 square ft. studio rents for $3,350 a month.
The nine-story, 218-unit called the Drake, will open in September. Lots of glass and amenities such as oak floors, stainless steel kitchens, and Bosch appliances are supposed to compensate for the lack of space.
The Wharf apartments which are slated to open in 2017 will have 501 micro-units, 171 will be 325-354 sq. ft., highlighting a Murphy bed, with a "built-in shelf for storage when the bed is stored vertically against the wall." The kitchen on wheels can be used as table or as a desk. "The units are designed like the inside of a boat." It seems perfect for anybody who hates cleaning and does not mind living in a glamorized jail cell.
More micro-dwelling units are going up in D.C., Latham Hotel (2016), Patterson Mansion (2016), Blagden Alley building (2016), and WeWork apartments in Crystal City (2015).
The 200 square ft. aPodments in Sammamish, Washington rent for $600-900 per month. There are no elevators and no parking spaces. Resident Judi Green, who rents a 10 by 10 ft. loft cubicle, must climb six flights of stairs, and "shares the kitchen with seven other tenants on the second floor." The micro-housing units increase the population density of the area greatly.
In countries like Japan, where land is very scarce and expensive, tiny dwellings are popular. It is not the case in the United States where land is plentiful. Unfortunately, millions of acres of our land have been locked to human habitation and set aside for conservation.
Across the country, Sustainable Urbanism, Sustainable Development, Equitable Communities are government plans to change the counties’ desired low density character and scale to high-density crime-ridden slums. Social engineering is being imposed on entire neighborhoods.
Alley pods are placed between townhouses and in suburbs micro-residential units are built between single family homes, destroying their property values. These people have worked their entire lives to buy a single family home.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will dismantle local zoning and force people to move into certain areas in order to achieve what they consider "racial, economic, and ethnic diversity." Multiple illegal immigrant families purchase or rent one single home creating a third world nightmare for the single family neighbors who must live next door.
"Nationalizing neighborhoods" on a grand scale is done for "our own good and to achieve utopia." By obliterating zoning regulations, we will have neighborhoods by government fiat quota. (Rush Limbaugh monologue, September 12, 2013)
Rush Limbaugh pointed out that "HUD’s power grab is based on the mistaken belief that zoning and discrimination are the same, zoning is disguised discrimination." Introducing 200 square ft. pods between single family homes is "social justice."
The progressives’ social engineering projects implemented around the world are not aimed at just destroying national sovereignty, language, and cultural identity. They are now engaged in a massive replacement of rural areas and "suburban sprawl" with high density, high rise urban dwellings in the name of green environmentalism, saving the planet from the destruction of manufactured man-made global warming/climate change.
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Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, (Romanian Conservative) is a freelance writer (Canada Free Press, Romanian Conservative,, author, radio commentator (Silvio Canto Jr. Blogtalk Radio, Butler on Business, The Liberty Express, Free Market Radio, and Republic Broadcasting Network), and speaker. Her book, "Echoes of Communism, is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Short essays describe health care, education, poverty, religion, social engineering, and confiscation of property. A second book, "Liberty on Life Support," is also available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. A third book, "U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy," is a best seller at under Globalism, Politics, and Environmental Policy.
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Carved out of shipping containers, these LEGO-like, stackable apartments offer all the amenities of home. Or more, since they are bigger, and brighter, than the typical Manhattan studio. It’s the FEMA trailer of the future, built with the Dwell reader in mind. — New York Observer

Container City, designed by Nicholas Lacey, overlooks the Trinity Buoy Wharf in London and provides 37 studio apartments for area artists. The project was completed in 2 phases, using 50 shipping containers, and boasts an intriguing, Lego-like design.
How poverty influences a child's brain development
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 25 2013
At first impression, the two groups of children were hard to tell apart: just regular kindergarten kids from different neighbourhoods in Kamloops, B.C. Yet, when they visited a mobile lab as part of population study he collaborated on, Clyde Hertzman remembers how their young brains revealed a striking contrast.
Both groups were asked to focus their attention on a series of sounds while researchers monitored their neural activity. Not only did one group tend to have a harder time with the task, Dr. Hertzman recalls, it " had a systematically different pattern of brain responses to the test."
How could children drawn from a city of just 85,000 people end up with wiring that was essentially different? They had grown up with any number of genetic and environmental influences affecting their brain development and behaviour, but one variable stood out: affluence. Those who did not perform as well tended to be from the poorer of the two neighbourhoods. Somehow their socio-economic status was showing up in the architecture of their thoughts.
The result was a particularly vivid example of something scientists who specialize in early childhood development have seen again and again. Kids from communities that are underresourced and subject to economic stress think differently than their wealthier counterparts in ways that can ultimately affect behaviour.
Five years later, Dr. Hertzman – who teaches at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health and was Canada’s health researcher of the year in 2010 – is part of a rapid evolution of the field that has grown from merely recording the demographics of cognitive disparities to building a bottom-up understanding of the molecular changes that cause them.
The change has gathered momentum in recent months, fuelled by a bounty of new findings that bolster the long-observed link between social environment and development with a newly emerging biological perspective.
It also underscores the stunning human cost of what is called the "socio-economic gradient." Only 3 to 4 per cent of Canadian children are born with inherited differences that will limit their physical, emotional or intellectual growth, yet an average of 25 to 30 per cent exhibit some level of developmental vulnerability that could include a cognitive "deficit."
In some communities, the figure may reach 70 per cent, and by adolescence, the resulting deficits can translate into a range of mental-health issues, substance abuse and diminished opportunities for education and employment.
The Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences issued a report in November that surveys the new research on how socio-economic factors can affect someone’s biological makeup – and warning of "dire consequences for the individual and society" if nothing is done. The report concludes by calling for a broad strategy of investment in early childhood.
"If a society wants to ensure the best trajectory for its children, its policy focus should be on those early years," says Alan Bernstein, president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), which supports several leading scientists in the field.
A key feature of the emerging connection between brain and poverty is stress. While economic status does not necessarily spell bad news for a given child’s development, it tends to dovetail with parental stress and family stability in a way that can strongly shape how a young brain experiences the world.
At the extreme end, low socio-economic status and the stress that underlies it can mean higher incidences of physical and emotional abuse. But it can also lead to a broader, more subtle type of social adversity – parents or caregivers have less time, or are less inclined, to nurture their children.
The potential risk is illuminated by a proliferation of genetic studies that, by comparing the DNA, uncover hidden variants that could affect how children develop in response to adversity.
But genes are hardly the development dictators they are sometimes made out to be. Instead, the quality of the nurturing environment, often through the presence or absence of stress, can determine whether a genetic difference actually matters.
"The genes, in a sense, are listening to the environment," says Marla Sokolowski, who specializes in genetics and behavioural neurology at the University of Toronto.
Researchers have long recognized that not everyone abused or neglected as a child goes on to have problems. In some cases, genes can buffer against environmental effects and allow the brain to develop normally; in others, those that might otherwise be silent are triggered by adversity in early childhood and so influence brain development.
As an analog for more complex human behaviour, Prof. Sokolowski studies fruit flies that naturally carry one of two possible variants of a gene that affects food-foraging habits. The genes, dubbed "rover" and "sitter," will either lead a fly to wander around a food source or stay put and feed. Fruit flies that are genetically predisposed to be rovers nevertheless become sitters if they are nutritionally deprived during development. The effect of the scarcity is to ramp down the activity of the rover gene, thereby maximizing food intake over other kinds of behaviour.
At McGill University, a powerful set of studies by behavioural scientist Michael Meaney and his colleagues has been especially important at showing how the interplay of genes and social environment can program the behaviour of mammals.
Mother rats who lick and groom their babies less often tend to produce offspring more sensitive to stress. The effect is thought to be "epigenetic" – the underlying DNA sequence of the baby rats is unchanged, but a cascade of biochemical signals triggered by the grooming affects the activity of a gene that is crucial for regulating stress response.
The experiments suggest how the social adversity that can come with low socio-economic status may work on human children, Prof. Sokolowski says, by reducing the signals of key genes that guide brain development "like a dimmer switch." This, in turn, affects cognition and behaviour with consequences that can reverberate through a lifetime.
Such vulnerability may showcase a fundamental weakness in the way our brains work. It may even be evolution’s way of preparing brains for the environments they are growing up in.
"The brain is not fragile; the brain is adaptive," Dr. Herztman says. "The question is whether or not those adaptations will allow you to cope with the world you are then going to live in."
Thus, a developing brain that has been influenced by a stressful or chaotic social environment at an early age may lead to a child with serious attention issues in the classroom years later.
But a behaviour pattern that is perceived as a deficit in the school setting may be there precisely because the child, as an infant, was shaped by social circumstances to pay more attention to distractions that could warn of sudden danger.
"It’s a kind of vigilance – the brain is searching for threatening stimuli to thwart," Dr. Hertzman says. But the epigenetic fine-tuning comes at a cost, he adds, because the brain is less able to concentrate on high-order functions, such as math or reading.
"The problem is that the developmental signals and the demands of modern society become a mismatch."
Symptoms of such cognitive disorders as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not restricted to children of low socio-economic status, of course, and do not always relate to parenting. However, evidence that the environment plays a role in the prevalence of such symptoms is reinforced by studies that track individuals over the course of their lives.
One such study, based in Wisconsin, has followed more than 500 children from the second trimester of pregnancy through high-school graduation.
Those who were in preschool at a time when their parents reported high levels of economic and social stress bear the scars of that stress in the form of epigenetic marks on their DNA. These marks will persist for life, inhibiting genes that might otherwise be more active.
Thomas Boyce, a professor of pediatrics at UBC, has collaborated with the team behind the Wisconsin study, and says its findings could guide strategies to head off the negative impact of cognitive differences even before it becomes apparent.
Prof. Boyce (who leads with Prof. Sokolowski a long-running program in experience-based brain and biological development sponsored by CIFAR) and his colleagues at UBC are currently studying children from different socio-economic backgrounds in the Vancouver area.
To find epigenetic changes, they will compare their subjects’ genetic profiles at ages 8 to 10 with DNA from blood spots banked when they were newborns. These changes can be correlated with cognitive perform- ance and environmental stress.
"The whole idea behind pursuing these epigenetic markers is to develop better indicators of how a child is doing before problems become salient," Dr. Boyce says.
Amedeo D’Angiulli, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Carleton University in Ottawa, welcomes the new tools that enable direct eavesdropping on the brain-gene dialogue.
He is also keen to test measures that may aid children with attention and focus issues, and counterbalance some of the effects of growing up on the low end of the socio-economic spectrum.
In one study, being conducted with the Leading Note Foundation, which teaches music to children in underserved communities, Dr. D’Angiulli will track cognitive function and stress levels as youngsters embark on an intense period of musical training and performance.
He suspects the program can bolster the brain. Children’s "short-term memory improves, their focus improves, and it’s reinforced because they’re doing it as an ensemble," he says.
Ultimately, the research points to what many early childhood education advocates have long maintained: Directing resources toward the social and cognitive health of young minds can help to counter the long-term costs of economic disparity.
"All of the new insights we’re getting into how the interactions of genes and environment drive development reinforce the importance of a society that helps families," says Dr. Hertzman, who points to data showing a link between a population’s mental health and its economic output.
"If we were to invest according to what the biology of brain development is telling us, there would be a lot more investment in children early on."
Editor's note: A study of the cognitive performance of children in Kamloops, B.C., mentioned in a story on Saturday, was led by Dr. Amedeo D’Angiulli, who was then Canada Research Chair in early childhood education and development at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Unclear information about the study appeared in an earlier version of this article. This online version has been corrected.
Follow Ivan Semeniuk on Twitter: @ivansemeniuk
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