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Why adapting to climate change is so difficult

Mon, 2014-03-31 09:27
Monday, March 31, 2014 - 14:10 Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A Mexican woman skirts a Jaguey water hole, February 4, 2006 near San Marcos Tlacoyalco, Mexico. The Tehuacan Valley South-East of Mexico City has long experienced severe water shortages. Drought and climate change have contributed to this but recent industrial growth has also placed tremendous strain of a very limited ground water resource. Big industry has taxed this resource so severely that many small farmers and rural people have had no choice but to move closer to the cities and abandon their traditional lives. Water resources in the area area largely based on a weekly delivery by truck as well as collecting water from small pools known as Jagueys. This collected water was traditionally only used for animals but now more and more people are relying on it as a water source for crops and for drinking and bathing purposes. 

The newest report on climate change is out from the U.N. Researchers say climate change is already affecting many parts of the world—rising sea levels, heat waves. Now is the time to adapt. But figuring out how to adapt, even if you put politics aside, can be incredibly tricky for a few reasons.

People do OK handling risks we’ve experienced. “We do a pretty good job of preparing for some infectious diseases, with getting children vaccinated,” said Ben Orlove, a co-director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. “We put we put strong housing codes into effect in earthquake prone areas.”

But, people are less good at preparing for threats that aren’t familiar -- threats like climate change. “It’s hard for us to accept risks that are uncertain, and that are far in the future,” said Orlove.

The uncertainty and the future nature of many climate change impacts, makes difficult decisions about adaptation even more difficult. 

Who should adapt? Who should pay to adapt?

 How should communities use land?

“How are you going to make all these decisions when you can’t tell them exactly at what level the sea rise is going to affect them in 2030, 2040, 2050?” said Dan Mazmanian, a professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

He calls the best strategy for moving ahead “adaptive management for adaptation.” Communities adapt, and then stay flexible to adapt the way they adapt.

Many climate models look out to a future that’s too far away for us to imagine, said Mazmanian. Instead, we ought to be thinking a few decades out.  And then rethinking the rules again, and again, as the science and future gets clearer.

Marketplace for Monday, March 31, 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title: Why adapting to climate change is so difficultStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

What happens when you shout "buy!"

Mon, 2014-03-31 08:07

So what does happen when you shout "buy" at your broker, or hit the "enter" key when you're making an order on your online trading website? 

Well, it's not like regular shopping: it's not like walking into the butcher's shop, seeing sausages are $5 a pound, asking the butcher for five pounds, and handing over $25 in exchange for a nicely-wrapped package of pork.

The first thing to remember is that when you shout "buy!" you haven't bought anything … yet.

The second thing to understand is just because you asked to buy at a certain price doesn't mean that you'll get that price. Let's walk step-by-step through this process:

Step 1: What you've done is called placing an order. Whether you're an individual with an online trading account or a professional fund manager in charge of billions of dollars of retirement money, your purchase order is the first step in a chain of events.

Step 2: In most cases, if you're an individual investor using an online broker, your order will be routed to a completely different firm, to someone called a market maker.  Big institutions also use market makers.

Step 3: The market maker now looks around all the places where you can buy stock, from exchanges like the NASDAQ and the NYSE to electronic networks like BATS in Kansas City, to see where he or she can get the shares at a price that's closest to the price you asked for.

Step 4: The market-maker buys the shares, filling the order.

Step 5: The shares are sent to you and placed in your account.

In other words, it's a bit like going into the butcher's shop, noticing that while there are no actual sausages in there, there is a sign that says sausages are selling for $5 a pound. You ask the butcher for five pounds, watch her shout the order into the phone, wait for a moment until a messenger boy comes racing into the shop with five pounds of sausages, and then pay for them.

Except you might not pay $25. You might pay $25.50. Or $30. It depends on how much the butcher's boy can get them for.

A caveat. The process I've described above is called placing a market order. That's when you ask your broker to buy shares at a certain price – usually the price your trading software is telling you people are offering to sell their shares for.  You might consider placing a limit order, which is where you tell your broker you don't want to pay any more than a certain price per share.  That way you don’t end up forking out $50 for a bag of dodgy bangers.

And high-frequency trading? Well, some would describe that as a dog running off with your sausages, and making you pay even more for your dinner.

PODCAST: UN warns of climate change effects

Mon, 2014-03-31 06:35

A United Nations panel of experts has looked at 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies and its latest report warns of "severe, pervasive" effects, from climate change. Among the effects, deepening poverty and problems with the food supply. Matt McGrath, environment correspondent for the BBC. joins us from Yokohama, Japan where members of the UN panel have been meeting.

Meanwhile, a grab bag of 55 tax benefits expired at the end of last year, and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wants Congress to reinstate them.

Tens of thousands of the babies born each year had a extra little help along the way from in vitro fertilization, where the sperm and the egg first meet in a piece of medical equipment.  Often in vitro clinics will transfer more than one embryo at a time. But a new statement from the National Perinatal Association says this practice can cause problems for mothers and babies.

NAACP's former head is going to Silicon Valley

Mon, 2014-03-31 05:12

We've reported from time to time on Wall Street people who want to join the cool kids and get a Silicon Valley-type technology job.  Now the former head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, is taking a tech job -- to make the tech industry better reflect the diversity of this country. 

Jealous is joining the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Northern California, an outfit which helps find tech solutions for minority and low income communities. 

Noted entrepreneur and philanthropist Mitch Kapor, co-chair of the center, along with Jealous join Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss their work and the state of diversity in the tech sector.

Making in vitro births safer and less costly

Mon, 2014-03-31 02:05

Shortly after Megan Wood’s 26th birthday, she and her husband Brian decided to try to get pregnant. Wood says she was young and didn’t anticipate any problems, so the couple was surprised when they weren't able to conceive quickly and easily. But after spending three years pursuing less expensive medical options, the Woods traveled from their home in Idaho Falls, Idaho to California to try IVF. When they returned home Megan Wood says they got some unanticipated news.

“I was laying on the table and I remember the ultra sound tech looking over at my husband saying ‘Did you see that’?”

The couple already knew they were pregnant. Wood had transplanted two embryos hoping for one healthy baby, a decision she says they discussed at great length with her doctor, and things were going well with the pregnancy. But embryos can split -- and that’s exactly what happened to Megan Wood’s.

“It’s blazoned into my memory for all time,” she says. “I cried. I was terrified. I wasn’t afraid to raise triplets, but the thought of losing all of them was terrifying.”

A new statement from the National Perinatal Association says that because transferring more than one embryo at a time often results in multiple order pregnancies, the practice can mean dangerous and expensive births. Sean Tipton, Chief Advocacy and Policy Officer for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine says it can be very challenging to try to educate patients about the risks that multiples pose.

Of the patients he says, "They're thinking 'I want to have a baby' and many of them think twins are an optimal outcome even though from an obstrical and pediatric standpoint, twins are not optimal."

Sally Herships

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Only 15 states require insurance coverage for infertility and Wood’s home state of Idaho wasn’t one of them. So even though she describes herself as “very lucky to have a husband with a union job and good health insurance,” her IVF wasn’t covered. With the cost of medical bills, and travel to her out-of-state doctor, one cycle of IVF cost Woods $25,000. She says the high cost was a big reason they decided to take the risk of transferring more than just one embryo, although she and her husband know that medically speaking, single embryo transfers are preferable.

“We wanted to make sure that was a reasonable risk to take before transferring two embryos,” she said. “Certainly when you’re gambling that much money at just a chance to get pregnant you want your odds to be as good as possible.”

Sean Tipton says access to insurance would go a long way towards alleviating the problems of human engineered multiple births. In several states, he says, that have mandated infertility insurance coverage, the levels of multiple births are lower than in other states.

“When you can factor out the economic costs and let the decision be made on medical criteria alone,” he says, “you reduce the number of multiple births.”

Infertility, says Tipton, should be treated like a disease.

Megan Wood’s 5-year-old triplets -- Ginger, Daisy, and Edison -- were born two months early and ended up in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. According to the NPA, the average cost for multiple births like Wood’s trio is 20 times higher than for just one baby. $105,000 per twin, and $400,000 thousand or more per triplet.

“It’s not uncommon for babies to go home on heart monitors or with breathing support. Some babies end up needing interventions like tracheostomies or feeding tubes," says Erika Goyer, Program Director of Hand to Hold, a non-profit that works with families dealing with difficult pregnancies, and a board member of NPA.

Goyer says the problems that twins or triplets from multiple transplant IVF births, as well as those born of less expensive, and less precise treatments, can bankrupt families. She notes that a lot of families of children with special healthcare needs face a dilemma – how to qualify for Medicaid after leaving the hospital, a point at which coverage usually stops. Some families, she says, go to great lengths to ensure that they continue to qualify.

“Families will rearrange their finances and make changes so that they never make anything more than what they’re allowed to make and still qualify for services," Goyer says. "Some families with special needs are really faced with the choice – how do I live my life, just at the right level of poverty so that we get the health care coverage we need?”

But Goyer is also Megan Wood’s sister, and she says she understands how and why the NPA’s suggestion to transfer just one embryo at time is tough. Emotionally, she understands why families use more. But clinically, she says the safest choice is transferring just one embryo at a time.

A lot of ethical decisions, says Goyer, about in vitro fertilization need to be discussed.

“And at this point,” she notes, “those decisions are being made by the marketplace.”

Miriam Zoll, a health and reproductive rights advocate, and author of Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies, says part of the blame for transferring too many embryos is due to a different kind of financial pressure. The clinics that provide fertility services to prospective parents stand to gain more clients if they acheive higher sucess rates. So, althought it may not be best for couples seeking treatments, it's in the provider's best interests to transfer multiple embryos."

“The higher their success rates," says Zoll, "the more likely new customers will come to them."

Zoll says there's also the problem of inflated rates. Some in the medical industry set rates far higher than necessary, seeking to tap into fearful patients desperate to conceive and willing to pay. Reproductive work, she notes, is referred to by some care providers as the new “oil”.

But aside from wishing that insurance had covered the hefty price tag of her in vitro, now mom-to-triplets Megan Wood, says she wouldn’t change a thing about her pregnancy, even if she could.

“There’s no guarantee that you’re going to have a healthy pregnancy when you’re 21,” she says, “and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have a healthy pregnancy when you’re 45. Pregnancy is always a gamble and it’s a gamble that we’re willing to take to become mothers.”

Doctors and developers are building apps to keep you sober

Mon, 2014-03-31 01:56

Among the endless list of health-related apps for the mobile world, there are a growing number of efforts to use your smartphone to deal with serious addiction, such as alcoholism.

But the reviews of these apps' effectiveness have been mixed. There's a new program at the University of Wisconsin that aims to support addicts after they leave a residential program. 

"Some of things that are done with the app are behind the scenes," says David Gustafson, director of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, worked on the application project. "For instance, the GPS system monitors the movement of the person and if they come close, for instance, to a bar they've identified as being a place where they used to drink a lot, the system can begin an accelerated form of rescue."

He says the app can start off with a beep or play a message of the user talking about why it's so important for them to stay sober. Other things the app can do is connect the user to a doctor or caregiver or find a nearby supporter or friend.

Gustafson says he believes this app has proven to be more effective because it has better theory behind its development. He also says the developers have thought about the privacy concerns such an app creates.

"There is a lot of information that is stored. We can track every keystroke that a person makes on a phone," Gustafson says. "So it's also really important to be really forthright with the person, giving them options about what they want to do, for instance, if they want to turn off the GPS system, they can do that."

"We only use it for research, we don't sell the information or share it in any other way." 

Senate Finance Committee chair to review tax breaks

Mon, 2014-03-31 00:37

A grab bag of 55 tax benefits expired at the end of last year, and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wants Congress to reinstate them.

"Although they all have the same expiration date, that’s the only thing they have in common," says Richard Kaplan, who teaches tax law at the University of Illinois. "There is no coherent theme to this package."

There are tax breaks for Americans who use mass transit, and for businesses that invest in research.

"There are some that, shall we say, have a little bit more narrow benefit," says Gabe Horowitz, with the think tank Third Way. Horowitz points to tax breaks that benefit the owners of thoroughbreds and NASCAR racetracks.

Health care deadline reveals state disparities

Mon, 2014-03-31 00:16

Monday is the deadline to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, or risk paying a penalty. Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says the way people are experiencing Obamacare varies across the country. Take Connecticut and Oregon, for example.

Levitt says both states were enthusiastic about Obamacare, but the actual rollout in each state couldn’t be different. He says for some states, it came down to how lucky they were in choosing a developer to build their online exchange. And Connecticut has a strong history of outreach to the public around health issues.

Connecticut’s program is doing so well, it’s now offering to help other states that are having trouble with their heathcare exchanges. By contrast, Oregon is still enrolling people using paper applications because the online enrollment system still isn’t working.

Geoffrey Joyce, a heathcare professor at the University of Southern California, says right now there's too much emphasis on short term numbers.

"It's almost like looking at the stock market day to day. You're missing the bigger picture."

Joyce says that's whether Obamacare improves healthcare quality and lowers costs -- something we won't know by today's deadline.

On Helvetica and U.S. government spending

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:56

This final note in which CNN reports a 14-year-old kid in Pittsburgh has found a way to save the federal government $136 million. 

For a science project, Suvir Mirchandani researched the price of ink, and how much of that it different fonts use.

Anyway, long story short, by changing to the Garamond font, Suvir figures the government printing office could save 30 percent of its printing costs...

The GPO said it'd think about it.

Weekly Wrap: Consumer confidence? 'Meh'

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:52

Leigh Gallagher from Fortune magazine and John Carney from the Wall Street Journal joined us this to talk the last week's news in finance.

Up for discussion was the uptick in consumer spending that was accompanied by consumer confidence best described as, "meh." And we delve into the Fed's recent stress tests of the nations banks.

As the world turns, don't stress about it

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:18

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's an extended look at what's coming up next week:

  • Take me out to the ball game. Monday is opening day for Major League Baseball.
  • On March 31, 1889 the Eiffel Tower was complete! It only took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days. It's held together by 2.5 million rivets. I counted them so you don't have to. You can thank me later.
  • Tuesday is April Fools' Day. Tie a string around your finger so you don't forget.
  • Automakers are slated to report sales for March and the Commerce Department reports on Construction Spending for February.
  • Mid-week the Senate Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing titled, "Data Breach on the Rise: Protecting Personal Information from Harm."
  • "As the World Turns" premiered in 1956. It ran until 2010. That's a lot of soap.
  • And Wednesday is Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Burn it off Thursday in observance of National Walking Day.
  • We wrap up the week with the monthly jobs report due out from the Labor Department.
  • And April is Stress Awareness Month. So don't stress about it, whatever it is. And good luck with that.

Discriminate against the old? Even the old do it

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:17

I am sitting at my desk, clicking keys on my keyboard as faces with words cross my computer screen rapidly. In my midday slump, I’m more than a bit annoyed. What useful information can anyone glean from how quickly or slowly I decide whether words are happy or sad, even as I am also answering whether a pictured face belongs to a younger or older person?

As it turns out, plenty.

After the test, I learned that I had the energy to identify words as “good” more quickly when they were paired with young faces instead of older ones.

This finding comes as no surprise to Mahzarin Banaji, the Harvard University professor who is the co-creator of the Implicit Association Test, the online exam I’ve just taken. It’s designed to uncover prejudices so subconscious we are often unaware of them. Almost all of us reveal bias against older adults, she says — including older adults.

About 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for about the next decade and a half. Unlike those from previous generations, who in the popular imagination happily shuffled off to leisure, most of the new retirees say they want to stay in the paid work force.

So far, however, staying on the job — in any position — is turning out to be harder than the baby boomers anticipated (and, in some cases, less desirable). Fewer than a fifth of Americans over the age of 65 remain in the paid work force. If a man or woman over 55 is unemployed, it takes that person several months longer than someone younger to find a job. Such people are also disproportionately represented among the long-term jobless.

As a result, academics are increasingly churning out studies and papers about age bias that they hope will reach those in a position to hire, promote and issue paychecks. “I can teach you a lot about the scientific evidence of bias, but the job of solving the problem is not just the job of scientists,” Ms. Banaji said. “You would want the public at large to engage with this.”

But many academics don’t see much grappling with the issue of age discrimination in the day-to-day work world. Ofer Sharone, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of the Institute for Career Transitions, recently recruited a group of 90 long-term jobless men and women and paired them with career coaches and counselors for three months. He’s now analyzing the data to determine what, if any, interventions were helpful.

Mr. Sharone has noticed one thing in common among his subjects. “Without exception, they talk about age discrimination,” he said.

Even though age discrimination claims at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are up sharply in recent years, older Americans have little recourse if they believe they are victims of illegal bias, since it is hard to prove.

Some companies are trying to use the research to combat the problem. In the health care sector, for example, growth of the sector and fears about the rapidly aging work force are leaving employers worried that they won’t be able to fill positions with qualified workers. The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has brought in Ms. Banaji to speak with senior executives and give an online seminar to other managers. “We all have unconscious biases that shape our perceptions and have a negative impact on our business decisions,” said Jack Watters, Pfizer’s vice president for external medical affairs.

One that might be of particular concern? “You assume when someone is older, their career will be shorter, so they don’t get the same opportunities,” Mr. Watters said.

Pfizer has also placed renewed emphasis on its Mentor Match program, in part to destigmatize aging by encouraging relationships between workers of different generations.

Tracey Rizzuto, an associate professor of human resources at Louisiana State University, is studying the impact of such mentoring in the oil and gas industry. She said the initiatives appeared to convey to older workers that their companies continued to value them and their contributions.

Human resources professionals often tell Ms. Rizzuto that formal mentor relationships increase the satisfaction of all employees. “What I’ve found is that among large companies using these programs, there was higher morale and internal performance,” she said.

Research shows that bias against senior workers decreases the engagement of everyone in the workplace. “It’s about a perception of fairness,” said Jacquelyn Boone James, the director of research at Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work. Ms. Boone James was the lead author of a paper published in The Journal of Managerial Psychology that studied the impact of intentional and unintentional age discrimination on workers in a retail organization.

California-based Scripps Health tries to make sure employees in departments being eliminated are offered a chance at newly open positions within the company. They are offered three months of pay while they take advantage of placement services at the company’s Career Resource Center. Almost all end up finding new jobs at Scripps, said Victor V. Buzachero, the company’s senior vice president for innovation, human resources and performance management.

Mr. Buzachero acknowledged that he sometimes stepped in to require a Scripps manager to hire a middle-age or older worker if he thought age bias was a reason for someone being passed over. “It’s subtle,” he admitted. “They don’t come out and say it’s age. They say the person doesn’t have the commitment we’re looking for or the skills we are looking for.”

Scripps also encourages older workers to explore career reinventions. Take Ingrid Hassani, now 59. Ms. Hassani, a former chief nurse for a Florida hospital, returned to her native California in 2011. Seeking less management responsibility and more time to spend with her retired husband, she went looking for a position as a department care manager. She said she was routinely considered “overqualified” until she sent her résumé to Scripps, where she is now a care manager in the oncology department.

Ms. Hassani said her years in health management often came in handy. “When my boss calls me in she’ll say, ‘Ingrid, with your experience, how do you think we should handle this?’ ” she said with a laugh.

Work in America: Our special series in partnership with the New York Times looking at how the improvements in technology, combined with companies’ increased ability to outsource, have conspired to make radical changes to work in America. 

 

Moving past gender barriers to negotiate a raise

Fri, 2014-03-28 12:41

Asking for a raise is the type of conversation that can make even the most confident among us uncomfortable. Women, however, may have good reason to feel that way.

Discrimination persists in the workplace and it isn’t necessarily intentional or overt, experts on gender and negotiation say.

But it can emerge when women act in ways that aren’t considered sufficiently feminine, and when women advocate for themselves, these experts say, some people find it unseemly, if on a subconscious level.

As a result, women need to take a more calibrated approach, whether in asking for a higher salary or a new position. Otherwise, they can risk being perceived as overly demanding and unlikable, experts say, and their requests can backfire.

“We are asking women to juggle while they are on the tightrope,” said Linda C. Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and founder of its gender equity program. “It’s totally unfair because we don’t require the same thing of men. But if women want to be successful in this domain, they need to pay attention to this.”

Research on gender and negotiation has largely focused on requests for a raise, but the same strategies can — and probably should — be applied to a broad range of requests, including negotiating for a new position or job title. “How women negotiate their career paths is arguably a more important determinant of lifetime earnings than negotiating a little extra money,” said Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who has conducted many studies on gender and negotiation.

Some women may bridle — justifiably — at adjusting their behavior to conform to stereotypes. But the negotiation experts say that they think about these strategies pragmatically.

“These stereotypes will hold us back, so we might as well use them to move forward,” added Joan C. Williams, a co-author of “What Works for Women at Work.”

 

Here are some strategies for approaching negotiations at work:

Groundwork 

Asking for a raise shouldn’t be rushed or boiled down to one short conversation. To prepare, keep a record of every piece of positive feedback you receive over time, and catalog any objective metrics that help illustrate your contributions. This is easy to overlook when you’re busy. Be careful about how you present the information — in a performance review might be more effective instead of naked self-promotion.

Women also benefit when other people highlight their accomplishments with the higher-ups, experts said. That’s why it’s important for women to seek not only mentors, but also what some call sponsors, professionals who actively trumpet your work. 

Fact-Finding 

Women tend to negotiate less for themselves than men, when there aren’t clear standards on what they should be asking for, studies found. In fact, women worked longer and made fewer errors but paid themselves less than men did for similar tasks, according to another study. But that effect went away when women were given data on what others paid themselves.

There are several ways to gather objective numbers supporting why a particular salary is merited. “The next time a recruiter calls you up, she is your new best friend, even if you don’t want to move,” said Ms. Williams, also founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Or seek one out. “Talk to her because she is the one who knows what you are worth on the open market.”

Women need to speak with men about salaries, too. If they network only with other women, experts said, they are more likely to come up with numbers that are systematically less.

Specific Language

When negotiating for higher pay, research has found that it is not enough for women to act in a way that conforms to stereotypes. Acting feminine enough — that is, showing they care about maintaining good relationships as well as the communal good over themselves, for instance — helps women in the likability department. And that’s important.

But that doesn’t necessarily make the person in the position of power any more likely to grant a woman’s request. Women also need to legitimize their requests, or find ways to make them seem more appropriate, according to a study that Prof. Riley Bowles and  Prof. Babcock published in 2012. That means saying something like, “My supervisor suggested that I to talk to you about raising my compensation.”

Women should also frame requests from the employer’s perspective. “The key thing is to turn it around and think about what it is legitimate to this person and what they value,” Professor Riley Bowles added.

She refers to this as the “I/We” strategy: You might be thinking about something from your perspective, but when you make the pitch, it should come out as “we.” This, she says, is good advice for men, too. It just may be particularly important for women.

Negotiate in Person

Negotiation by email can backfire. “It comes across very cold, very hard and very direct, so all of the things that women tend to do in conversation that soften their approach are impossible to do in email,” Professor Babcock said.

Email also requires waiting for a response. “If you are having a conversation, you can judge more accurately about how your request is going over,” she added, “and you can adjust your request as you see the reaction.”

That’s what may have caused one woman to have a recent job offer rescinded, a situation that recently made the rounds in the blogosphere and media.

The candidate, known only as W., was offered a position as a philosophy professor at Nazareth College in Rochester. In response, she emailed the job search committee and listed nice-to-have items that would “make my decision easier.”

W. also said in the email that she knew some requests would be easier to grant than others, indicating that she knew she wouldn’t get everything. Nazareth says it declines comment on personnel issues.

In a blog post, W. said she figured asking couldn’t hurt. But it apparently did: In response, the college reportedly emailed her back and said it had determined that she was more interested in teaching at a research university

“It is impossible to say in any particular case whether” gender played a role, Professor Babcock said. “The research could not be more clear in that we tolerate more aggressive or assertive behavior by men more than women.” 

Outside Offers 

Receiving an offer for a more lucrative position may seem like a prime opportunity to negotiate. But this tactic may harm women because it can be perceived as a threat, experts said, “Every negotiation textbook says to use an outside offer, except for mine,” said Professor Babcock, who with Professor Riley Bowles, studied the effects of using outside offers in an experimental setting. “That is seen as aggressive when used by a woman.”

If you do want to use this strategy, she said you have to be careful about how you craft your language. Approach the situation as a dialogue instead of a negotiation. She said women might say something like, “Hey, there is something I really want to talk about. I want to stay. Is there a way to make this happen for me?”

Role-Playing

Keeping all this in mind isn’t easy, which is why experts suggest role-playing the situation with a friend or partner. Practice how you might present yourself to make sure your request appears appropriate and persuasive, while also demonstrating that you are concerned about communal goals.

“When you are personally inflamed or nervous, role-playing helps to get into someone else’s perspective,” Professor Riley Bowles said. “It takes a lot of practice.”

 Work in America: Our special series in partnership with the New York Times looking at how the improvements in technology, combined with companies’ increased ability to outsource, have conspired to make radical changes to work in America. 

 

A degree in hand, but a slow start up the career ladder

Fri, 2014-03-28 12:30

There were so many low points, it’s hard for Kyle Whittaker to say which was the lowest. Ditching his girlfriend’s broken-down Lincoln at a gas station, because they couldn’t afford the tow? Month No. 3 of living on nothing but angel hair pasta? Or maybe it was the day he realized he might have to move back in with one of his parents.

It was 2009, and "I wasn’t confident that it was going to work out where I was," he said. "You acquiesce to the fact that there’s just nothing coming for you."

Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. Mr. Whittaker, 27,  had worked hard in high school and got into George Washington University in Washington. And he studied applied mathematics and statistics — staples on lists of "the most lucrative majors."

By all measures, he had done everything right. He just did it at the wrong time.

Mr. Whittaker graduated in May 2008 and walked into the worst recession since the 1930s. After six months scouring job sites, he took the only position he could get — working part time at Lord & Taylor in  Northern Virginia.

The pay barely covered his rent.

"It definitely hits your self-esteem pretty hard," he said recently from his home in Severn, Md.

Mr. Whittaker is part of a generation of college graduates who had the bad luck of beginning  careers during the Great Recession and its aftermath. About 10 million students have earned bachelor’s degrees since 2008. In 2012, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost half of recent college graduates were considered underemployed, working in jobs that typically do not require a bachelor’s degree. That compares with about a third of college graduates over all.

"They were successful in the task that we put before them," said Carl E. Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. "Then they can’t get a good job."

And now many recent graduates wonder if a college degree was worth all the effort and expense.

Brittany Himes is pretty sure it wasn’t. Growing up in Mount Vernon, Ky., she had wanted to go to beauty school. But by the time she became a high school senior, the message had sunk in: A four-year college degree was a must. It was "something that you definitely had to do if you wanted to be successful in the job market," she said. She would be the first in her family to go to college.

In December 2009 she finished a business degree at Eastern Kentucky University. After more than a year searching fruitlessly for an entry-level administrative job, she went back to Plan A. She finished a cosmetology program last September.

Now, at 28, Ms. Himes is making $7.20 an hour, with $27,000 in student loans to pay off.

"I’m starting at the bottom," she said between appointments at Kolor Kreations salon in Richmond, Ky., her blond hair now dyed black with purple highlights. "I enjoyed college. I enjoyed learning, but in the end it didn’t really amount to much for me."

Ms. Himes’s generation is hardly the first to stumble. In a recent paper, the New York Fed economists Richard Deitz and Jaison R. Abel looked back more than two decades and found that young graduates typically took a while to settle into careers, no matter the economic conditions.

But what they end up settling for has changed. They are more likely to work part time or in low-wage jobs like retail or restaurant work. "Things have gotten tougher for recent college graduates,"  Mr. Deitz said.

Making matters worse is the more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, which can delay everything from getting married to buying a home.

Natalie Bend graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2007. She owed a little less than $15,000, well below the national average of $20,000 at the time. The plan was to work for a few years and go to law school.

The plan got off to a rough start. "To go from doing really well and being respected by professors and by my peers in class to, ‘We’re just not hiring at Target right now, sorry, thanks,’ was really disappointing," she said.

After months of looking, Ms. Bend, 31, finally found a job at a domestic violence crisis center — just as her first loan payment came due. But her pay was so low she deferred her loans and the balance grew to $32,000.

She’s now an administrative assistant with a financial services firm, a job that requires a degree. She is also married with a baby on the way. But, as with many recession graduates, her slow job start means putting off buying a house. And her plans for law school? They have been delayed for a decade, she said.

Mr. Deitz and Mr. Abel found that by their 30s, most college graduates do end up in career-oriented jobs that require degrees. But the long on-ramp to a decent job can exact a price in earnings for years. "Where you start affects where you end up," said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Then there’s the impact on retirement savings for someone who graduates from college with student loan debt and can’t afford to save for a decade. Take a 22-year-old who earns $30,000 annually, gets a 3 percent raise each year, saves 4 percent of salary that first year in a 401(k) and raises that by 2 percentage points each year until reaching the maximum legal contribution.

That person would end up with $953,100 by age 65 in today’s dollars, assuming a 6 percent annual return on the investments, according to the contribution increase calculator on Vanguard’s website. That end amount, however, falls to $674,800 for someone who doesn’t start saving until age 32, earning $40,000 annually, all other things being equal.

College does eventually help most people get jobs and keep them. At its worst, unemployment for recent graduates reached about 7 percent in 2011, compared with the peak of almost 16 percent for young workers without degrees, reached in 2010, according to Mr. Abel and Mr. Deitz. For people 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree, unemployment is now 3.4 percent, about half the rate for all workers.

"They’re not doing as well as they might have done when the economy was in full growth mode, but they do a lot better than anybody else," Mr. Carnevale of Georgetown said. 

Six years after he graduated, Kyle Whittaker, the math major who worked at Lord & Taylor, has pretty much caught up to where he wanted to be. Eventually, he landed a job as an analyst with a defense contractor in Maryland.

Gradually, he paid off his credit card debt and started chipping away at his student loans. He began contributing to his workplace 401(k), steadily increasing his contribution. Three and a half years and several promotions later, he and his fiancée had saved enough to make a small down payment on a house.

Work in America: Our special series in partnership with the New York Times looking at how the improvements in technology, combined with companies’ increased ability to outsource, have conspired to make radical changes to work in America. 

 

Mr. Whittaker can even find some good in his retail job. When he showed up for the analyst interview, he was wearing a designer suit with a stylish pocket square. He bought it with his employee discount.

"I would like to think that things are working out relatively well now," he said. "It just took a little bit of time."

Detroit to delinquent water users: pay up

Fri, 2014-03-28 12:07

The city of Detroit is preparing to start shutting off service to residents who are behind on their water bills. About half of the city’s residential customers, 140,000 homes, are more than two months in arrears.

As soon as the weather is warm enough, officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department say they’ll send shutoff crews to 3,000 homes a week.

But lots of businesses are in the red, too, as is the school system, and the city itself, which is in bankruptcy. Together, those players owe more than $50 million.   

Darryl Latimer, the water department's deputy director and the person leading the collection efforts, says settling up with the city government is a work in progress.  

“You have some departments that are behind, some departments that are disputing some changes,” he said. “And in some cases, it’s not clear-cut who’s responsible for what facilities.”

Latimer is negotiating. He is also trying to be patient as staff for a new mayor get their bearings. “We were close with the schools,” he said. The city's school system has back bills of $3.3 million. “However, we were able to work out an agreement, and they’re on schedule with their payment arrangement.”

Then there are businesses. More than a third of the city’s commercial customers are at least 60 days behind, for a total of $22 million.

“Yeah, that’s kind of high,” Latimer said, “but a lot of those are in dispute.”

Some business owners say they are being overcharged on a new stormwater-drainage fee the city imposed last year. They are withholding payment on just those fees while making payments on other charges.

That leaves residents. Latimer said he doesn’t want to shut off the water for half of the city’s households, and he doesn't expect to.

He thinks some people who can pay just haven’t gotten around to it yet. “The water bill is not seen as very important,” he said. “It ranks behind your gas, electric, and even your cable bill here. Until we start to step up enforcement.”

He said that since news came out that shutoffs were in the works, foot traffic had increased at the department’s payment centers.

Word of the shutoffs prompted Yvette English to seek help with her bill. Her total: $3,000. She said the debt crept up on her.

“I wasn’t paying it all the time," she said, "but every time I could pay a little something on it, I did.”

Twenty dollars here and there didn’t make much of a dent. The bill is $85 a month. English has minimal income -- she cuts hair out of her house. She has three teen-age kids. She was in trouble with the electric utility and the gas company, too.

“I just keep trying to make arrangements with them,” she said. “I’ve tried making a lot of payment plans with them, and some arrangements, I couldn’t keep.”

The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency is helping her get caught up with the water bill.

The agency expects to have $1.5 million to help residents avoid water shutoffs. But there are more than 140,000 households at risk, with debts of more than $70 million.

Katy Kibbey, the agency’s program director for Detroit, paused when asked about that disparity.

“I don’t know if I even have words,” she said. “It is stunning.  I think of families, I think of children. Water is a basic right.  People can’t live without water."

Are billboards effective advertising?

Fri, 2014-03-28 10:38

Billboards may be old-fashioned, but they’re still big business for advertisers.

That may seem odd, considering how hard it is to measure the effectiveness of billboard ads.

Walking on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Christopher Taylor didn’t notice the 50-foot billboard for a TV show. The ad didn’t even register.

Even though there isn’t an easy way to calculate the return on advertisers’ investment, S&P Capital IQ equity analyst Tuna Amobi says, “There is little question that it is effective. The question is, to what degree or what magnitude.”

Some costs of billboard ads are not born by advertisers.

Condo-owner David Korkis has his windows blocked by a giant ad.

“I had one of the best views in LA. Then, because of that billboard and the sloppy job they do putting up the billboard, it’s dark in there. It’s depressing,” says Korkis. He complained to the management, but he says “they make about $50,000 to $80,000 on the thing. So no matter how I complain, it’s not going to change.”

Studies have shown that a nearby billboard can reduce property values by up to 30 percent.

Diego Luna on Chavez film and getting American backing

Fri, 2014-03-28 10:37

The new film Cesar Chavez chronicles the life of the historic labor leader who fought for better wages and working conditions for farm workers. Chavez is the founder of the United Farm Workers Union and is known for his nonviolent approach toward bringing national attention to the plight of farm workers.

While Chavez’s life is well known, getting a film about a union leader to the silver screen is a challenge all in its own. Diego Luna, the director of the film, said the project got most its funding from supporters in Mexico. Luna said this is mainly because Hollywood doesn’t like to take risks at the box office; and a movie about a Latino labor leader isn’t always a surefire money maker.

“I heard many things like ‘How can this be told from the angle of a white American?’ said Luna, “I said ‘the problem is that his name is Cesar Chavez.' You want to do a film about a reporter who goes and meets Cesar Chavez? No.”

He explained that before his film on Chavez there had never been a motion picture biography done about a Latino figure who was not an entertainer.

“It’s quite ridiculous if you think about this community that grows and grows and grows, but it’s not represented in entertainment,” said Luna, “At least not with respect and the complexity, diversity, and cultural richness that it has.”

The film Cesar Chavez: History is made one step at time will be in theaters Friday, March 28.

Doctor's new order: no limes, no coconuts

Fri, 2014-03-28 09:37

If the doctor in Harry Nilsson's most famous song is reading this, we admonish you to change your recommendations immediately. On Thursday, we explained why lime prices are rising and threatening favorite beverages, condiments and foods, including mojitos, salsa and even soups like pho.

Now there's news that the price of coconuts are climbing, too: both prices for copra – the white meat of a coconut – and coconut oil rose in March.

Copra prices rose 60 percent since February of 2013 (graph and data via Index Mundi)... 

... and a 50 percent rise for coconut oil prices over a year:

Read: do not put limes in coconuts. Do not pass go. 

The Hindu reports that Bharat N.Khona, former Board Member of the Cochin Oil Merchants Association (COMA), says drought conditions are hurting shipments of copra. In addition, Super Typhoon Yolanda reportedly destroyed 10 percent of coconut trees in the past winter in the Philippines. That country is the main supplier of coconuts to the United States, according to GMA News. In fact, the deadly typhoon resulted in a 13 percent drop in copra supply.

The demand for tender coconuts during the upcoming summer is also contributing to the copra shortage.  

How long until prices level out? It takes six-to-seven years to grow new trees to the point where they bear new fruit.

Other top growers of coconuts include Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Thailand, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. But the fact remains that the Philippines is the second-largest global producer behind Indonesia, which means we may not see prices lower any time soon. 

Taken all together, what shall we call this lime-coconut catastrophe? We've got limes and coconuts. We've got copras.We've got COMAs.

A coco-catasrophe? A coconut coma? A lime coma? A loma? A Point Loma? (Shout out to San Diego). A copratastrophe? A copracabra? (Shout out to chupacabras.)

Whatever we call it, get ready to shell out extra bucks at your Harry Nilsson party. 

PODCAST: Bridging the movie language barrier

Fri, 2014-03-28 07:43

The White House says more than 6 million people have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. This ahead of a Monday deadline. Marketplace's Noel King joins us to talk about what's ahead.

And, movie studios depend more and more on Latino consumers. Research shows Hispanic customers attend movies more often than many other groups and spend more on concessions. But around 23 million Hispanics don't go to movies because they don't speak English.

Meanwhile, in an article for The Atlantic, Julie Beck looked at the "optimal office" and found that one factor in some of the issues we're having with our workspace's may be the "open office" movement.

 

Momentum stocks slowed down in March

Fri, 2014-03-28 06:03

Reuters reports that some of the hottest stocks of the past year, called "momentum stocks" which refer to hot-ticket companies like Netflix, Priceline and Twitter have, combined, lost billions in total market value in the month of March. 

What is a momentum stock, exactly? It refers to the trendiness of the stocks. One thing which nearly all momentum companies have in common, according to the Credit Suisse analysis cited by Reuters, is that they derive more than half their current value from their predicted growth prospects.

In other words, the anticipation about the future of these companies ends up impacting the value of their stock. This value is what we saw drop in March, although the stock market as a whole hasn't witnessed the same levels of volatility as the higher-priced, faster-traded stocks. 

Who wins when momentum stocks slow down? One group stands to make out just fine: short sellers who are willing to take a bet that some stocks are over-valued and bet against them. 

 

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