Which Wave was it?

Staff & Wire Reports

Opinion: The Wave That Wasn’t

By Michael Graham


Call it the Oprah Election: You get a win! And you get a win! And you …

Democrats win control of the House, along with all the chairmanships — and subpoena power — that come with it.

Republicans add to their Senate majority, an unusual feat in a Republican president’s first-term midterm. As a result, it will be easier for President Trump to fill the first post-Kavanaugh Supreme Court vacancy.

In the heartland, red Kansas will have a Democratic governor, Laura Kelly. Blue Massachusetts re-elected both Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and 2020 progressive POTUS candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren in landslides. Democrats made gains in legislatures across the South and Midwest, but couldn’t beat Republicans governors in Vermont or New Hampshire.

In Texas, Ted beat Beto. In Florida, Ron DeSantis stopped Andrew Gillum. And the Democrats lost two potential rock stars — for the moment. In Michigan, a GOP star may have been born as West Point grad John James ran a close race against longtime incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Florida, an alleged “swing state,” won’t have a single statewide-elected Democrat as of January. Senator Bill Nelson was the last, and had been the only one since 2005.

In New Hampshire, a purported “purple state,” Democrats maintained control of the entire congressional delegation and flipped both houses of the state legislature — a disaster for the Granite State GOP. But that same night, Gov. Chris Sununu became the first Republican re-elected to the governorship since 1994.

It’s a true ‘al a carte’ menu of election results. Yes, the Democrats won control of the House for the first time in eight years, which is big news by any measure. But, Trump supporters remind them, Bill Clinton lost 53 seats in his first midterm and Barack Obama lost 63 seats in his. So President Trump has outperformed two of the most successful Democrats in the modern era, Republicans can claim.

But in another sense, this was really a dog-bites-man moment. We woke up Wednesday morning in a divided America, watching Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi engage in bitter partisan battle with little hope of cooperation. That’s different from a week ago … how?

So what did we learn from the mixed-up mess of the midterms?

That Donald Trump is the greatest GOTV motivator in a generation. And it’s the one area in which he’s completely bipartisan.

That Republicans hoping the Trump Effect would fade, or that the president would even get an electoral rebuke, must now reconcile themselves to the fact their party is really his party.

That the idea of a serious GOP challenge to Trump in 2020 is, for the moment, DOA.

That everyone who said “Why is Trump talking about immigration instead of the economy?” was wrong.

That, as Democratic strategist Joel Payne said, “Democrats are going to have to eventually run the ‘Trump Gauntlet:’ Florida, Ohio and Missouri. They have got to find a way to win in those states.”

And that there are still plenty of voters willing to split their votes if they are given the right candidates or right message.

And now what?

Trump will declare victory. He can make a legitimate argument that he spared the GOP the sort of devastation history would suggest and that recent polling had predicted.

Speaking of polling, everyone who wants to believe polling is a hot mess of pseudo-science and liberal bias now has another data point to back their case.

Democrats will tout their well-earned victory in the House and say they’re on their way to taking the White House in 2020.

Republicans will embrace the fact that, as The Federalist’s Ben Domenech put it on CBS News on Tuesday night, “Democrats got the candidates they wanted and still lost. Republicans got stuck with candidates they didn’t want — and still won.”

And those much-celebrated “moderate voters” the media say are so vital to our democracy? They are even more marginalized than before.

America’s politics are divided. They were divided before Trump and before Barack Obama, for that matter. The American people have some fundamental disagreements on big issues, like the role of government in our lives and the value (or lack thereof) of identity politics. It’s going to take an awfully big wave to wash all that away. We certainly didn’t get it on Tuesday.


Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He’s also a CBS News contributor. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

The Conversation

2 economic policies likely to change with Democrats in control of House

November 7, 2018


Steven Pressman

Professor of Economics, Colorado State University

Disclosure statement

Steven Pressman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Colorado State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the midterm elections was that, unlike 2016, there wasn’t one. Polls and pundits expected Democrats would take control of the House and Republicans would keep the Senate, and that’s exactly what we’re getting.

The likely result: two years of congressional gridlock on economic policy, which requires both houses of Congress to agree on the same legislation. So, we can expect that the status quo on economic policy will mostly prevail.

There are, however, two economic issues on which the election outcome will make a meaningful difference: trade and infrastructure.

NAFTA lives

One of the first items of business in January after the new Congress gets sworn in will be the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement.

The deal is intended to replace NAFTA, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from for several years. In reality, the new deal is little more than a slightly modified version of its would-be predecessor.

But before it can become the law of the land, Congress must ratify it, either by a majority vote by both houses or two-thirds of the Senate.

The USMCA’s chances were already far from assured before the Democrats took the House. Now its failure is very likely.

So what happens next?

The simple answer is not much. NAFTA remains in force. Ultimately I believe that’s a good thing for the U.S. economy because the new deal would likely shift auto industry jobs to Mexico.

With any luck, the USMCA defeat also convinces Trump to have second thoughts about his costly trade war.

But what if he tries to follow through on his threat to withdraw from NAFTA? Fortunately, most constitutional scholars say he can’t do so unilaterally. Were he able to, however, the consequences for the U.S. economy would be severe.

Roads, bridges and bipartisanship

Infrastructure, on the other hand, offers a rare opportunity for House Democrats and Trump to find common ground.

The signs of a crisis in America’s infrastructure are unmistakable: derailing and delayed trains, crumbling roadways, collapsing bridges, undrinkable tap water and a wastewater system that is a menace to public health.

The American Society of Civilian Engineers estimated that America’s “D+” infrastructure costs an average household US$3,400 annually. It also cost lives, as it did when a Minnesota bridge collapsed in 2007, killing 13.

In February, Trump proposed a fund to spend $1.5 trillion to fix the infrastructure mess, with the government putting up $200 billion and the private sector kicking in the rest.

While Democrats support infrastructure spending, the stumbling block in the Trump plan was the provision that the private sector would effectively own the roads and bridges that it builds.

While House Democrats may not support this plan, they would likely be willing to support something that mainly relies on just federal spending. And Republicans have a reason to go along as well: Infrastructure spending would boost economic growth, which is forecast to slow in 2019 – just before the 2020 elections.

While a few hundred billion dollars in spending won’t solve the U.S. infrastructure problem, it would be a good start. It would stimulate the economy and also make everyone’s lives more pleasant and less expensive – and may even end a little gridlock (pun intended).

The Conversation

Which country is best to live in? Our calculations say it’s not Norway

November 7, 2018

It’s not the U.S., either.


Warren Sanderson

Professor of Economics, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York)

Sergei Scherbov

Deputy Director of World Population Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Simone Ghislandi

Associate Professor of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University

Disclosure statement

Warren Sanderson receives funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No 323947. Project Name: Reassessing Aging from a Population Perspective, Re-Ageing. Warren Sanderson is a senior research scientist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria and a Professor of Economics, emeritus at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA.

Sergei Scherbov receives funding from European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No 323947. Project Name: Reassessing Aging from a Population Perspective, Re-Ageing.

Simone Ghislandi receives funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No 323947. Project Name: Reassessing Aging from a Population Perspective, Re-Ageing.

Every year, the United Nations releases the Human Development Index.

The HDI is like a country’s report card. In a single number, it tells policymakers and citizens how well a country is doing. This year, Norway was at the top of the class, while Niger finished last.

The index first appeared in 1990. Before then, a country’s level of development was measured solely by its economic growth. By taking non-economic dimensions of human well-being into account, the HDI revolutionized the idea of what was meant by countries becoming “more developed.”

The HDI has been wildly successful in changing the way people think about the development process. However, it still suffers from real flaws. There have been numerous attempts to do its job better, including one that we published on Nov. 6.

Eliminating the flaws in the HDI make a substantial difference. For example, Denmark was ranked fifth in the world according to this year’s UN rankings, but our new index knocks it down to only 27th, switching places with Spain.

Problems with the HDI

Human development can be devilishly hard to measure. The HDI considers changes in three domains: economics, education and health. (One alternative to the HDI, the Social Progress Index, combines data on 54 domains.)

In our view, the HDI has three main problems. First, it implicitly assumes trade-offs between its components. For example, the HDI measures health using life expectancy at birth and measures economic conditions using GDP per capita. So the same HDI score can be achieved with different combinations of the two.

As a result, the HDI implies a value of an additional year of life in terms of economic output. This value differs according to a country’s level of GDP per capita. Dig into the HDI and you will find whether it assumes an additional year of life is worth more in the U.S. or Canada, more in Germany or France, and more in Norway or Niger.

The HDI also struggles with the accuracy and meaningfulness of the underlying data. Average income could be high in a country, but what if most of it goes to a small elite? The HDI does not distinguish between countries with the same GDP per capita, but different levels of income inequality or between countries based on the quality of education. By focusing on averages, the HDI can obscure important differences in human development. Incorporating inaccurate or incomplete data in an index reduces its usefulness.

Finally, data on different domains may be highly correlated. For example, the GDP per capita and the average level of education in countries are strongly related. Including two highly correlated indicators may provide little additional information compared to just using one.

Our indicator

We propose a new index: the Human Life Indicator, or HLI.

The HLI looks at life expectancy at birth, but also takes the inequality in longevity into account. If two countries had the same life expectancy, the country with the higher rate of infant and child deaths would have a lower HLI.

This solves the problem of having contentious trade-offs among its components, because it has only a single component. It solves the problem of inaccurate data, because life expectancy is the most reliable component of the UN’s index. Because GDP per capita, the level of education and life expectancy are closely related to one another, little information is lost by using a human development indicator based only on life expectancy.

Our index draws a different picture than the one made by the HDI. Based on data from 2010 to 2015, Norway is not on top of the list in terms of human development. That honor goes to Hong Kong, while Norway drops to ninth place. Norway ranks highly on the HDI in part because of the revenues that it receives from North Sea oil and gas, but even with that revenue, Norway’s inequality-adjusted life expectancy is not the highest in the world.

What’s more, on our measure, Niger no longer is last. That dubious distinction goes to the Central African Republic.

The UN puts Canada and the U.S. as tied at 10th place, but Canada is ranked 17th in the world using our system, while the U.S. does poorly, ranking as 32nd. This relatively higher ranking of Canada reflects the higher longevity of its inhabitants and the lower inequality in their ages of death compared to people in the U.S.

In our view, the genius of the HDI is too important to give up, just because of problems with its implementation. In our new index, we have provided a simple approach that is free from the problems of the HDI. There is no need to have just one measure of human development, but it is useful to have at least one without contentious flaws.


Gene H. Bell-Villada: Doesn’t availability of employment matter? If so, Denmark, with an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent should stand much higher on the HDI than does Spain, with unemployment at 15 per cent. (Many young Spanish professionals are looking for and taking jobs elsewhere–Germany, France, and in an earlier era, the UK.)

Stan Mrak, logged in via Facebook: It would be useful to see what type of government exists in all the countries rated in these studies. Someone has to show the Republicans that socialism does indeed work as well as, or better than, capitalism.

The Conversation

What’s behind the dramatic rise in 3-generation households?

November 7, 2018

Author: Natasha Pilkauskas, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Disclosure statement: Natasha Pilkauskas has received funding from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, American Education Research Association and the Institute for Research on Poverty.

Partners: University of Michigan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

In a recent study, I discovered that the number of kids living with their parents and grandparents – in what demographers call a three-generation household – has nearly doubled over the past two decades.

Why has this been happening? And is it a good thing or a bad thing?

The answers are complex. The reasons for the trend are as broad as social forces – like a decline in marriage rates – to unique family circumstances, like the loss of a parent’s job.

The trend is worth studying because by better understanding who children live with, we can design better policies aimed at helping kids. Programs targeting kids usually overlook these other people living under the same roof. But odds are that if grandma’s there, she matters, too.

The flexible family unit

A three-generation household is just one type of a living arrangement that falls under the umbrella of what demographers call a “shared household” or a “doubled-up household.”

In a shared household, a child lives with at least one adult who isn’t a sibling, parent or parent’s partner. It could include a cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent or family friend.

In 2010, about 1 in 5 children were living in a shared household, a 3 percentage-point increase from 2007. In a 2014 study, I tracked the same kids over time and found that by age 10, nearly half of children in large U.S. cities had lived in a shared household at some point in their lives.

Then, to probe further, my colleague and I used two large census data sets to study trends by the type of shared living arrangements.

We found that, overall, the percentage of children in shared households had increased since 1996.

But the rise was nearly entirely driven by an increase in just one type of household: three-generation households – sometimes referred to as multigenerational households – in which children live with at least one grandparent and one or both parents.

We also found that the share of children living in three-generation households has risen from 5.7 percent in 1996 to 9.8 percent in 2016.

In other words, roughly 1 in 10, or 7.1 million, kids lives in a multigenerational household. At birth, about 15 percent of U.S. kids now live with a parent and grandparent – a rate that’s double that of countries like the U.K. and Australia.

Meanwhile, there was no real change in the percent of children living with aunts and uncles, other relatives or non-relatives. Nor did we find any evidence of an increase in “grandfamilies,” also known as “skipped-generation households.” These are homes in which a grandparent is raising a grandchild without the child’s parents living with them. Counter to some media reports, the share of children living in grandfamilies has held steady at roughly two percent since 1996.

A trend rooted in more than the recession

What propelled the rise in multigenerational households?

We found that shared living arrangements did increase during the recession, but it wasn’t just because of the recession. Research on unemployment during the Great Recession has found that the economic downturn didn’t have much of an effect on whether parents expanded their household ranks.

In fact, the share of multigenerational households was rising before the Great Recession – it actually started in the 1980s.

Furthermore, these shared living arrangements continued to increase even as the economy recovered.

All of this suggests there other, more deeply rooted, reasons for the increase.

My study identified three possible drivers.

Declines in marriage and increases in single parenthood mean more moms and dads are living with their parents, who can help with childcare and paying the bills.

Next, a growing share of U.S. children are non-white. Because minority families are much more likely to share households, this population shift seems to explain some of the increase.

And finally, there’s the fact that more people are receiving Social Security. Because Social Security gives grandparents a steady source of income, it could be that these grandparents are stepping in to help their grandchildren if their own children’s incomes are too low.

But this only explains some of the increase.

There may well be a range of other factors at play: rising housing costs, growing inequality, increased longevity, or even just an increase in the number of grandparents and step-grandparents.

We also know that low-income parents, younger parents and parents with less education are more likely to live in a three-generation household.

At the same time, some of the fastest growth in these households has been among more traditionally advantaged groups – children with married mothers, higher income mothers and older mothers.

More research is needed to really understand why these households have increased and the extent to which public policies, like reduced welfare availability or declines in the real minimum wage, are driving this trend.

Not an ideal arrangement

While the exact reasons for the trend are still unclear, the fact remains that more kids are living in three-generation households.

What should we make of it?

Studies have found positive, negative and no effects of three-generation households on children.

For example, sharing a household has documented economic benefits, like rental savings. But it can also make households crowded, which isn’t the best environment for kids.

The findings are mixed because living arrangements are a complex topic. Motivation is difficult to distill. Sometimes people live together by choice – say, to be closer to family. Other times it’s by necessity – prompted by a crisis like a divorce, health problem or job loss.

From a policy perspective, who is in the household will likely impact the effectiveness of programs designed to help parents and kids. For example, programs that seek to improve the parenting skills of low-income moms generally focus only on moms. They’ll teach mothers to use positive parenting skills, like avoiding spanking their kids. But what if grandma still uses corporal punishment?

We also know that, in general, people would prefer to live independently and that it can be challenging to negotiate responsibilities when living with others.

In other words, it’s a situation that most families would probably avoid if they could. So the fact that more people are living together suggests other larger societal and policy shifts are driving this trend.


Roland Magyar: What about cultural differences? Are there cultures that embrace multi-generational living as normal and to be expected?


Staff & Wire Reports