10 things we learned at Brookings in January

10 things we learned at Brookings in January

By Fred Dews

Here are 10 interesting things we learned from Brookings scholars in January.

1. Lower-pay, lower-education occupations have the highest automation potential

Automation report banner

Metropolitan Policy Program researchers Mark Muro, Robert Maxim, and Jacob Whiton examine and assess trends in automation across 800 occupations, and offer policy recommendations to manage the changes. One finding is that “the average automation potential of occupations requiring less than a bachelor’s degree is 55 percent, more than double the 24 percent susceptibility among occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.”

2. By 2020, one million computer science-related jobs will go unfilled

Howard Jackson, a Liberian migrant, attends a law class at a university in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain March 8, 2016. Jackson escaped civil war and spent three years crossing Africa before reaching Spain. Dressed up in one of his more than 200 costumes, from Peter Pan to Little Red Riding Hood, he is a well-known figure at an intersection entering the Spanish city of Seville where he has sold tissues to motorists for over a decade. Jackson is studying law and wants to become a judge. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo SEARCH "MIGRANT JACKSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES - GF10000350822
In a review of 6 top trends in higher education, Emal Dusst and Senior Fellow Rebecca Winthrop describe three reasons for higher education innovation, including a skills mismatch that is creating a gap in fields like computer science, “where real-world practice easily outpaces academic curricula.” Along with reduced return on investment for students, soaring tuition, and reduced government spending, Dusst and Winthrop argue that “These major shifts in higher education are opening opportunities for new approaches and new actors to help support post-secondary learning and skill development.”

3. Scholars rate US-Europe relations as poor

Transatlantic scorecard

In the second edition of the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard—from the Brookings Center on the United States and Europe—survey respondents (Brookings scholars and other experts) give U.S.-European relations a 3.5 out of 10 score in a recent survey of Brookings scholars and other experts on transatlantic relations. Strobe Talbott, one of the respondents and a distinguished fellow in residence, argues that “President Trump doesn’t understand either history or current trends, and he does want to disrupt the legacy he inherited and replace it with contrary ‘policies’ (which are basically shutdowns).”

4. The average salary of a TSA inspector is $40K

An employee with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checks the documents of a traveler at Reagan National Airport in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC1299538A70
Aaron Klein, an Economic Studies fellow and policy director of the Center on Regulation and Markets, notes that two-thirds of government workers did not have savings to cover a missed pay period, and many of them experience income volatility in a variety of ways. “This new reality for government workers highlights what is the norm for a growing number of middle class families,” he writes. “Our payment and financial system needs to adapt accordingly.”

5. Coal-fired power generation in the US has declined 40 percent over the last decade

Coal miners leave the mine Pozo Santiago after finishing their shift, in Caborana, Spain, December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso - RC1F19664270
“The decline of the U.S. coal industry is the result of market forces,” explains Energy Security and Climate Initiative Fellow Samantha Gross, “not a policy ‘war on coal.’” Gross adds that despite significant efforts by the Trump administration, “a recovery in domestic coal demand is not likely” due to alternatives, the cost of building new capacity, and other factors.

6. $43 million spent on a contract to hire Border Patrol personnel has yielded only 15 new officers

A migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, runs with his son after crossing illegally from Mexico to the U.S. by jumping a border fence, as they are photographed through the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, January 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem - RC11E5CFADE0
Christine Stenglein and John Hudak report on a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract awarded to Accenture in the amount of $297 million to support hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol officers over the next four years. Only 15 new officers have begun duty, according to GovExec. In an earlier paper with Elaine Kamarck, Stenglein and Hudak explained why it is so hard to hire border personnel. “The deeper problem with spending millions or billions on hiring a surge of Border Patrol officers,” they say, “is that it’s the wrong kind of staffing for the types of migrants who are arriving at U.S. border.”

7. About one-third of Americans living in poverty are children

Homeless children

Lauren Bauer, a fellow in Economic Studies and the Hamilton Project at Brookings, reviews a recent Hamilton Project report on poverty in the United States. Of the nearly 40 million Americans living in poverty in 2017 (12.3 percent of the U.S. population, but 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous year), nearly a third were children, 22 percent were working, and 12 percent were seniors. “The overall decline in poverty—to be expected as the labor market strengthens—is certainly encouraging,” Bauer observes. “However, the fact that so many of the poor face significant barriers to working their way out of poverty … suggests that more targeted interventions are necessary.”

8. Democratic superdelegates will not vote in first ballot for 2020 presidential nomination

Delegates watch the Democratic Women of the Senate address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - HT1EC7S1T9V1T
Senior Fellow Elaine Kamarck explains new rules that will govern the nomination process for Democratic presidential nomination aspirants in 2020. These include a prohibition of superdelegates voting on the first ballot if it would change the outcome of primaries. “These changes mean that superdelegates will not play a big role in choosing the 2020 nominee,” she writes, but “they wouldn’t in any event.”

9. Twenty-three percent of the global poor live in fragile and conflict-affected countries

An Ethiopian asylum seeker carries an infant in the Dambala Fuchana refugee camp near the Ethiopian-Kenyan border town of Moyale, Kenya, March 27, 2018. Picture taken March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RC1F5BBAC1E0
In the recent “Foresight Africa 2019” report from Brookings’s Global Economy and Development Program, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim writes that the share of global poor who live in fragile countries has risen from 14 percent in 2008 to 23 percent 7 years later. “We need a stronger focus on the underlying drivers of fragility to have any hope of achieving our goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030, and to boost shared prosperity around the world,” he argues.

10. One in five Americans lives in one of the nation’s 135 midsized metro areas

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Alan Berube explains why midsized metro areas—with populations ranging from 250,000 to 1 million—should be getting more attention. Not only do they contain about a fifth of the nation’s population, but they are located in 44 of the 50 states, they resemble the whole country demographically and economically, and are critical politically. While the largest metro areas “still matter greatly to our national prosperity,” Berube says, “this is arguably the right time to also lift up the midsized metro areas that are poised to determine whether our country grows together, or grows apart.”

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