Why Did America Stop Working? The Pursuit to Fill Jobs

The United States is at an awkward crossroads. At a time when the 2016 presidential election is creating a bitter divide, arguments between neighbors and friends are seemingly at odds with the reality of the U.S. economy. The question is not whether the economy can produce jobs, the question is why did America stop working?

Social services and nonprofit leaders have expressed frustration. Jobs are available. Employers are creating openings. But it is becoming harder and harder to find workers to fill them. To this point, too few Americans are stepping up to take these positions.

As a recent Wall Street Journal article reported:

Retailers are scrambling to hire holiday-season workers despite an unusually early start on recruiting this year, creating a collision among employers for temporary help in a tight labor market.

Data from job-search site Indeed.com shows retailers, and the warehouse and logistics firms they compete with for seasonal labor, started searching for temporary workers in August, a month earlier than in recent years. This suggests retailers and other firms “anticipate stronger consumer demand and expect that it will be harder to find the people they want to hire,” said Indeed economist Jed Kolko.

Last year, more than one in four retail workers hired in the fourth quarter of 2015 started their jobs in October, the highest share on records back to the 1930s.

Companies and analysts say a number of trends are converging. The holiday-shopping season is starting before Halloween for many consumers, rather than the traditional day after Thanksgiving. There are fewer workers available, due to unemployment holding around 5% for the past year. And retailers are facing tougher holiday-hiring competition from logistics firms and distribution centers, which have grown along with e-commerce. …

The pace of overall hiring has slowed a bit this year compared with 2015, but has remained strong enough to absorb new entrants into the labor force, and keep the unemployment rate in check. As a result, wages have started to inch up. That is particularly true for the lowest-paid workers. Weekly wages for workers at the 25th percentile—someone who makes roughly $14 an hour for a full-time job—have increased 4% in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared with a narrower 3% increase for the median worker, according to the Labor Department.

Keeping the economy on track and producing opportunities will be a major task for the next administration, but so will addressing the reasons why so many potential workers are staying on the sidelines. Should we be most concerned about work disincentives in safety net programs, health challenges, or the lack of affordable child care? We have to find the answers to help more Americans go to work.

But these are only a few of the challenges the labor market faces today. In a new volume edited by AEI Director of Economic Policy Studies Michael Strain, 21 of the country’s most prominent economists answer some of our most pressing questions: Is productivity the most important determinant of compensation? How can we build workers’ skills? What should we do about workers who are especially difficult to employ?

Strain gets to the core of these policy issues by speaking to the overall reason why they matter. The chief driver is not the need for a smooth economic engine, but the personal worth that working creates. As Strain eloquently explains:

If I asked you to tell me about yourself, there’s a good chance you’d begin with your job. ‘I’m a teacher.’ ‘I’m a nurse.’ There is something noble behind the impulse to lead with your occupation: we want to contribute to society,and for many of us employment is a key avenue for social contribution. Especially in a market economy— where comparative advantage is rewarded and incentives exist to discover yours, nurture it, and apply it—who we are is, to a large degree, how we choose to contribute.

Work allows us to provide and care for our children. (That the national income statistics don’t reflect much of this work says nothing about its immense value.) Work fosters community—there is something unique and edifying in enjoying the company of your coworkers after that long, hard project is finally completed or the work week has come to a close. The best antidote for boredom and vice is often a good job. Among other features, the expressiveness inherent in work—its creative element—is, or at least can be, deeply spiritual.

Indeed, work is central to the flourishing life. And public policy, in its effort to promote the common good, is properly interested in helping to create a vibrant labor market in which individuals can earn their own success, realize their potential, and enjoy the dignity that hard work provides.

Importantly, all nine of the topics covered in the volume — which range from immigration and corporate taxes to income inequality and worker mobility — are addressed twice from different perspectives — reflecting that the competition of ideas is the best way to solve the nation’s toughest problems.

As this unpleasant election season comes to a close, these important challenges will need to be addressed by the next administration and Congress. Hopefully, come January, both parties will find common ground on a handful of important policy reforms that will be good for the country.

Robert Doar contributed to this discussion.

Good News Story of the Week: Dallas Police Department Applications Triple After Shootings

It’s only Monday, but the good news story of the week has to be that the Dallas police force has seen job applications triple since Chief David Brown challenged people disenchanted with policing to become part of the solution.

The Dallas police came under attack on July 7, when five police officers were struck down and another nine injured by a shooter who said he was targeting white police. The shooting followed two incidents in which two black men were killed by police officers, sparking massive protests organized by the Black Lives Matter movement.

A few days later, Brown held a long, deep press conference in which he was asked about what black men could do to become less fearful of the police. He responded that they could help police their own communities.

“Become a part of the solution. Serve your communities. Don’t be a part of the problem. We’re hiring. We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in, and we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about,” he said.

Whether or not more men from those communities have applied, the department is seeing an uptick in applications.

From June 8-20 of this year, the police department was receiving 11.3 applications per day. From July 8, the day after the shooting until July 20, police received an average 38.9 applications per day, a 344 percent increase.

Joining the police force is not an easy task. Brown noted that starting salaries for officers are only about $44,000, and police are asked to do far more than should be requested of them.

What we’re trying to accomplish here is above challenge. It is … We’re asking cops to be too much in the country. We are we are just asking us to do too much. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas, we have a loose dog problem. Let’s have cops chase loose dogs. You know, schools fail. Give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African American community is being raised by single women, let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems, and I just ask for other parts of our democracy along with the free press to help to help us, and not put that burden all on law enforcement to resolve. So you know, just being pretty, pretty honest with you. You know, I have raw feelings about all of what we do and don’t ask me if you don’t want the answer.”

Brown noted that while violence is down in the city over the past decade from decades before, police officers have been leaving the force for better paying jobs. The Dallas Morning News reported that around 240 officers left the Dallas Police Department (DPD) during fiscal 2015, including nearly 50 in June.

The attrition rate in the 3,500-strong department, was 6.8 percent in fiscal 2015, or about 238 officers, the highest since the 1980s. The city only has budgeted for 200 new officers during fiscal 2016.

If anything, Brown, who was cheered for his long, impassioned, and thoughtful conference, has motivated some Dallas citizens to become part of the solution.

Find out more about applying to join the DPD.

Watch the July 11 news conference.

Hillbilly Poverty: Trump’s Appeal to Poor Appalachian Whites

The discussion of "hillbilly poverty" — a deep and abiding poverty that has been prevalent, but overlooked, for generations in the Appalachian region — seems to keep coming back to the fore, particularly this election season. It may be because white poverty is a blind spot to many Americans who are either white, but don't live in poverty, or are non-white and unaware of or too preoccupied with their own identity struggles to worry about the white underclass. Or maybe most Americans are aware, but feel helpless to do anything about it. read more

Hey, Older Workers: Raise Your Hand If Too Much Work Makes You Dumber

A study cited by the BBC claims that too much work makes you dumber. That’s right, working too many hours after a certain age could be bad for our brains … maybe.

If you’re over 40, working more than 25 hours of work a week could be impairing your intelligence, according to a study released in February by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia. The team conducted reading, pattern and memory tests in more than 6,000 workers aged over 40, to see how the number of hours worked each week affects a person’s cognitive ability.

Working 25 hours a week (part time or three days a week) was the optimum amount of time spent working a week for cognitive functioning, while working less than that was detrimental to the agility of the brain for both men and women, the study found.

Oh, if only everyone could use such excuses to take the afternoon off.

So why is 40 the magic number?

According to (lead researcher Colin) McKenzie, our ‘fluid intelligence,’ which is how well we process information, starts declining around the age of 20 and ‘crystallized intelligence,’ or the ability to use skills, knowledge and experience starts decreasing after 30 years of age. McKenzie said that by age 40, most people perform less well at memory tests, pattern recognition and mental agility exercises.

Of course, while it’s unlikely a person at 40 years of age is going to call it a day during the peak of his or her career and head to part-time service, take heart — lower performance over 40 is not an across-the-board truth. Getting the right amount of sleep, mixing up the routine, and enjoying the type of work you do are all elements that can prolong the ability to perform at optimal levels.


Who Voted for Brexit? An Analysis of Voter Turnout and Its Implications

Who voted for Brexit? A very interesting analysis on the characteristics and demographics behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union comes from Zsolt Darvas, a senior fellow at think tank Bruegel in Brussels, Belgium.

Darvas did several regression analyses to find that low-income voters as well as older Britons supported leaving the European Union. Younger people and those with a degree were more likely to vote to stay in the Union.

And despite claims that Scotland was ready to bolt Great Britain if the UK voted to leave, turnout was low in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland, and London, where staying int he EU was preferable.

At the same time, a large presence of immigrants in a region was not a significant factor in the vote to stay or leave. Neither was the availability of disposable income in a region, according to Darvas.

But the lack of money did play a role.

The poverty rate is also robust and statistically significant, with a parameter estimate of about 1, implying that a 1 percentage point higher poverty rate boosted the share of ‘leave’ votes by 1 percentage point. This result highlights the importance of poverty as a determinant of ‘leave’ votes.”

Among some other findings, Darvas found that:

  • Turnout was lower in areas where young people are a higher share of the resident population. Therefore, the young, the main supporters of ‘remain’, abstained more from voting.

  • Older people (many of whom are ‘leave’ supporters) cast their votes in a higher proportion.

  • People with a degree (‘remain’ supporters) tended to vote in higher proportions, while people without qualifications (‘leave’ supporters) abstained more from voting.

  • Among the three social indicators, inequality contributed positively to the votes, while greater poverty and higher unemployment discouraged people from voting. These results together with the finding for uneducated people, suggests that disadvantaged people tended to vote in smaller proportions.”

Finally, Darvas concludes from the data that if Europe wants to be more unified, it should probably do more to create opportunities for low-income households to grow their wealth.

This finding calls for more inclusive growth, which is defined by the OECD as ‘economic growth that creates opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, fairly across society.’ In the UK, income inequality – a key indicator of inclusive growth – is almost the highest in the European Union. Theresa May, the new UK prime minister, has rightly emphasized very strongly the importance of a social reform to reduce the inequality of opportunities.”

Read more about who voted for Brexit.

Emotional Intelligence and the Case of The Interns Who Didn’t Get It

Every now and then, a news story causes people to snicker with a satisfying sense of knowing others got their comeuppance, even though a more appropriate response would be to use one’s emotional intelligence to consider applying the lessons of the story to one’s own life. Here’s one example of that, with the usual suspects — interns —in the unenviable role of learning a lesson the hard way:

A young reader’s request for advice went viral over the weekend, via a blog post on askamanager.com. The reader had received a summer internship with a company that does work in the individual’s desired industry.

‘Even though the division I was hired to work in doesn’t deal with clients or customers, there still was a very strict dress code,’ the person wrote. ‘I felt the dress code was overly strict but I wasn’t going to say anything, until I noticed one of the workers always wore flat shoes that were made from a fabric other than leather, or running shoes, even though both of these things were contrary to the dress code.’

The intern spoke with a manager, who made it clear that there wasn’t any leeway allowed under the dress code, despite the exception made for the other worker.

And that’s where it all goes downhill.

Angered by the ‘hypocrisy’ and having discovered that many of the other interns felt the same way, the reader and the others wrote a proposal stating why they should be allowed to stray from the dress code. The proposal was accompanied by a petition signed by every intern (minus one who refused to sign), and given to the managers. The interns asked for ‘a more business casual dress code,’ outlining the types of footwear they felt were more appropriate, along with a request that the group ‘not have to wear suits and/or blazers in favor of a more casual, but still professional dress code.’

And this is where the sense of comeuppance comes in — when the “should’ve just followed the rules” thought kicks in. Reportedly, the interns were pulled into a meeting the next day and terminated for “unprofessional” behavior. They were told to leave immediately, and it was explained to them that “the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in.”

And that’s what we call a ‘welcome to reality’ moment.

But the worst part of it all, and what proves that the interns’ decision to submit a petition lacked emotional intelligence, is the reasoning that comes next. After acknowledging the situation of the colleague who was given an exception due to her physical condition, the reader writes:

‘You can’t even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.’

Man oh man.

Read the lessons that author Justin Bariso offers up to other newcomers who demonstrate a lack of emotional intelligence (a.k.a. the know-it-alls).

Could Poverty Be Alleviated With a Tweak to EITC?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasn’t successful in every venture he tried to implement to improve the city, and he earned a fair amount of grief for some of his ideas. But as a successful businessman, and one of the world’s wealthiest people, he was the kind of politician who served the same way he ran his corporations — with a willingness to take risks.

It’s that kind of leadership that enabled the mayor to drive New York City’s poverty rate down at a time when poverty rates nationally were rising. Several of the experiments that animated New York can be credited with keeping the city’s poverty rate among the lowest in the nation’s 20 largest metro areas even today.

Though Bloomberg has been out of office for a while, the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) launched more than 60 initiatives over an eight-year period, some of which have become national models for success or “are showing enormous promise for their scalability and replicability across the country,” according to Robert Doar, who was commissioner of Bloomberg’s Human Resources Administration during that time.

Now, Doar reports that, while years in the making, one of those initiatives is finally reaching the demonstration project-testing phase, and, if successful, could have a much broader impact.

“Started 40 years ago to offset payroll taxes, the (Earned Income Tax Credit) EITC has become one of the nation’s most successful antipoverty policies. Yet noncustodial parents and single individuals receive an EITC of one-tenth the full value, hardly enough to fatten a paycheck. While the EITC was a powerful tool for helping women and dependent children, it was far less beneficial to fathers of noncustodial children. …

We began by advocating an expansion of the federal EITC for single workers and noncustodial fathers, with the goal of attracting more men into full-time employment and providing them with enough earnings to be a meaningful presence in their children’s lives. The end result would be a reduction of poverty in both parents’ households.

But when our proposal went nowhere, we conceded that the best path to overcoming resistance was to prove it worked at a smaller scale and use the evidence to advance it further.

Today, ‘Paycheck Plus,’ a pilot program to simulate an expanded EITC for low-income single workers without dependent children, is being implemented and evaluated in two cities. The pilot test in New York City began in late 2013 and in Atlanta, Georgia, in October 2015. …

If it proves effective, there will finally be concrete evidence that the EITC should be further reformed and expanded on the federal level.”

Read more about New York’s programs for alleviating poverty.

Why Dodd-Frank Was Never Meant to Cure Any Banking Woes



Wow, talk about nailing it on the head:

Dodd-Frank’s ‘too big to fail’ solution … is essentially a speed trap, designed to ensnare more and more firms under greater government control. It was never set up to avoid unsafe behavior in the first place. …

Here’s another reason the government might be inclined to create more SIFIs, and it’s part of the reason why Main Street should care about this issue: There’s money in it. Designating firms, particularly insurance companies, as SIFIs puts more money into the government’s Orderly Liquidation Fund. And since the fund is made up of fees levied on SIFIs, it’s consumers that end up shouldering the burden.

Setting aside the fact that the SIFI regime doesn’t necessarily make the system safer, Main Street gets hit another way: Reduced competition for business loans. GE Capital, in seeking to shed its SIFI designation, sold off most of its business-lending unit to Wells Fargo. This comes at a time when small businesses, especially in rural areas, are suffering from a lack of capital.

Read more about how Dodd-Frank doesn’t make consumers or banks safer.

Lost Equality of Opportunity Is Biggest Threat to Education

Diamonds are forever. Desegregation orders will be, too, if our end goal for Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is merely to color-code American classrooms rather than to create equality of opportunity.

The latest case comes from the state of Mississippi. On May 13, to meet a desegregation order that began in the 1960s, a U.S. district judge ordered the state’s Cleveland School District to consolidate its two middle and high schoolsbeginning in the 2016-’17 school year. According to Judge Debra M. Brown, Cleveland’s failure to consolidate its largely racially separate schools in the past had “deprived generations of students of the constitutionally guaranteed right to an integrated education.” This is just one of hundreds of cases like it; the Justice Department currently has 177 open desegregation cases.

Enforcing desegregation orders is important because desegregation’s effects on American schooling have been positive. For example, a 2015 report found that black children born between 1945 and 1968 who attended a desegregated school were more likely to complete college, more likely to earn a higher salary, less likely to be incarcerated and had better health than their peers.

Read more about the lost equality of opportunity due to an overdependence on desegregation policy.

Zenefits CEO David Sacks on his bold bet: Less than 10% of employees accepted ‘The Offer’

Last week, Zenefits CEO David Sacks made one of the more daring turnaround moves in recent Silicon Valley history.

Following several months of turmoil over compliance issues that led to the departure of the company’s founder in February, Sacks made what he called “The Offer.” In essence, any employee hired before February could take a generous buyout offer if they didn’t feel they could get behind his plan to save the company.

The deadline for accepting The Offer was last Thursday. So how’d it go?

Read the rest of the article on Zenefits buyout offer.

Take Mothers’ Labor Force Participation Seriously

There are two narratives about the labor force participation rates of mothers. The first argues that participation rates are low because women voluntarily choose to cut down on hours worked or quit their jobs after the birth of a child—the so called “opt-out” moms. The second narrative contends that the decline in participation after the birth of a child is involuntary and driven by factors such as high childcare costs and a lack of policies—such as paid family leave–that ease participation in the labor force. Clearly, the former is not a source of worry but the latter suggests that there is room for significant improvement. …

According to BLS data for 2015, of all working mothers, 76% work full-time and 24% work part-time. Working single mothers were marginally more likely to work full-time than married mothers. But what about preferences? A 2012 Pew survey found that 22% of non-working mothers would like to work full-time. Among working mothers, the demand for full-time work increased as well between 2007 and 2012. About 50% said part-time work would be ideal, down from 60% in 2007, suggesting that the recession and subsequent loss of incomes is driving some of these choices. …

mothers labor force participation rates

It’s time to stop debating whether mothers want to work or even whether it’s ok for mothers to work. As we see in the data, that choice is obvious. The larger question is how we can make it happen in a manner that improves economic outcomes and well-being for mothers and their families. That is the discussion worth having.

Read more about mothers’ labor force participation rates and policies to get women who want to work into the workforce.

Happy Birthday, George Lucas! 7 Great Quotes From the Great Innovator

George Lucas, the film innovator, auteur, and genius behind “Star Wars,” turned 72 on Saturday, May 14. In honor of his birthday, here are seven inspiring quotes of his on innovation, technology, and America.

1) If America is the pursuit of happiness, the best way to pursue happiness is to help other people. Because there’s nothing else that will make you happy. You can be as rich, and famous, and powerful as you want to be, and it will not bring you happiness. … This is a 5,000 year old idea, and every prophet, every intelligent, rational, successful person has said it. It’s a very, very simple idea and the most important part of it is, true.  (Academy of Achievement interview.)

2) I had a problem: a story I wanted to tell… So I went and found the technology to do it. In the process of making “Star Wars” there weren’t any visual effects houses so I had to invent one. (Sundance Film Festival.)

Read more from  Happy Birthday, George Lucas! 7 Great Quotes From the Great Innovator.

Why Western Civilization Classes Are Not Passé

Can you answer the following questions?

Who fought in the Peloponnesian War?

Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach?

Who was Saul of Tarsus?

Why does the Magna Carta matter?

What are one or two of the arguments made in Federalist 10?

Hard questions, right? Maybe not. Maybe you learned some or all of the answers in school, or you knew them at one time, but have now forgotten the details. Or perhaps you are devoted to a few events that you have internalized and helped form you into the person you are today.

But knowing the answers in great detail may be less important than recognizing the importance of the questions.

Unfortunately, Stanford University students may never realize how significant and meaningful these questions are because the student government earlier this week voted overwhelmingly against requiring students to complete a two-quarter course on Western civilization.

That’s right. Instead, the student leadership, validated by its Pravda-esque mouthpiece, The Stanford Daily, concluded that supporting Western civilization basically equated to “upholding white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.”

Read more about Western civilization classes in U.S. colleges.

Our Dangerous Reality: There Are All Sorts of Threats America Must Prepare For

With the terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, Americans are increasingly concerned about the safety of their communities. Daily media reports about the spread of the Islamic State group, its infiltration of the refugees streaming out of the Middle East and its savvy social media efforts to radicalize Muslims across the globe undergird their concerns.

As former President George W. Bush warned us after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the fight against this terrorist threat will be a long one. For the first phase of this fight, the focus was on preparing for spectacular large-scale attacks that would produce thousands of casualties. While some terrorists groups retain that aim, our national security apparatus has adjusted to meet that threat.

Such an attack could occur, but our capabilities to disrupt their ability to plan, to limit their funding channels, to prevent the movement of material and attackers and, ultimately, to detect and thwart their operations are strong. Plus, the Atlantic Ocean remains one of our best defenses.

So what should Americans be worried about over the next few years? What “grey swans” could occur that would cause loss of life and our economy to falter? To answer that question, it is important to look back at what history has to say on this issue.

Read more about national security threats America should prepare for.

Book Review: The Conservative Heart

By Robert M. Whaples, Wake Forest University

Arthur Brooks quoteAlthough Arthur Brooks’ book is titled The Conservative Heart, it might just as aptly have been titled The Libertarian Heart, and perhaps even The Liberal/Progressive Heart. Its goal is to share a compassionate world view, findings from social science research and practical advice to build a broad coalition for achieving goals that are embraced by almost everyone – building a fairer, happier, and more prosperous society. Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute) argues that the central paradox of American politics is that conservatives’ ideas are better at achieving these goals but are sometimes dismissed because too many people think conservatives care only about themselves. Their inability to demonstrate their compassion in thepolitical arena has trapped us in a mire. The problem seems to be that many people think compassion is spending other people’s money in expensive but vain attempts to solve problems, rather than getting to the roots of the problems and empowering people to solve them by themselves.

The irony is that liberals often mistakenly view conservatives as greedy materialists. Of course many self-proclaimed conservatives are quite greedy, as are people of all political stripes. “Materialism is tyranny, and no ideology or economic system is immune to it” (p. 43). But true conservatives, Brooks argues, are actually less materialistic than average, as is demonstrated by giving larger fractions of their incomes to charities, having larger families and being more willing to donate blood (“if liberals and moderates gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the U.S would instantly jump by about 45 percent” (p. 139)). Conservatives’ success in escaping the all-too-human cycle of “grasping and craving” (p. 41) often arises from the fact that they are more likely to focus on religious and spiritual matters, realizing the relative unimportance of material possessions. Perhaps excessive materialism is another example of lack of self-control. Interestingly, recent studies suggest that conservative also exhibit more self-control than others (see Science Daily, “Conservatives Demonstrate More Self Control than Liberals, Studies Suggest,” June 22, 2015).

Read more of this book review of “The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.”

Why Ministers for Happiness, Tolerance, Youth and the Future?

Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid Al MaktoumOver the past two weeks, I have heard and read many questions, comments, and news stories regarding recent changes to the government of the United Arab Emirates. Why, everyone seems to want to know, did we establish a Ministry of Happiness, Tolerance, and the Future, and why did we appoint a 22-year-old Minister of Youth?

The changes reflect what we have learned from events in our region over the past five years. In particular, we have learned that failure to respond effectively to the aspirations of young people, who represent more than half of the population in Arab countries, is like swimming against the tide. Without the energy and optimism of youth, societies cannot develop and grow; indeed, such societies are doomed.

When governments spurn their youth and block their path to a better life, they slam the door in the face of the entire society. We do not forget that the genesis of the tension in our region, the events dubbed the “Arab Spring,” was squarely rooted in the lack of opportunities for young people to achieve their dreams and ambitions.

Read More from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on his country’s new attention to shaping its future.

Things Science Says Will Make You Much Happier

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with happiness. After all, the “pursuit of happiness” is even enshrined in the  Declaration of Independence. BWhat habits make us like a happy babyut happiness is fleeting. How can we find it  and keep it alive?

Psychologists at the University of California have discovered some  fascinating things about happiness that could change your life.

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the Riverside campus  who is known among her peers as “the queen of happiness.” She began studying happiness as a grad student and never stopped, devoting her career to the subject.

One of her main discoveries is that we all have a happiness “set point.” When extremely positive or negative events happen—such as buying a bigger house or losing a job—they temporarily increase or decrease our happiness, but we eventually drift back to our set point.

Read more from Dr. Travis Bradberry on ways to break the habits that tend to make us unhappy, and will help you focus on the right approach.


Narcissism is Increasing. So You’re Not So Special

My teenage son recently informed me that there is an Internet quiz to test oneself for narcissism. His friend had just taken it. “How did it turn out?” I asked. “He says he did great!” my son responded. “He got the maximum score!”

When I was a child, no one outside the mental health profession talked about narcissism; people were more concerned with inadequate self-esteem, which at the time was believed to lurk behind nearly every difficulty. Like so many excesses of the 1970s, the self-love cult spun out of control and is now rampaging through our culture like Godzilla through Tokyo. …

This is a costly problem. While full-blown narcissists often report high levels of personal satisfaction, they create havoc and misery around them. There is overwhelming evidence linking narcissism with lower honesty and raised aggression. It’s notable for Valentine’s Day that narcissists struggle to stay committed to romantic partners, in no small part because they consider themselves superior.

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times.

What People Around the World Mean When They Say They’re Happy

Even though she is still healthy and lively, Mrs. Xie has already prepared the clothes she will be buried in.

An 86-year-old Chinese woman who lives in Dongshan, a city on China’s southeastern coast, Xie has an active life, cooking for friends at the local Buddhist temple and joining in the chants there. Yet she has already bought the pants, shirt, shoes, earrings and purse she will wear after she dies, as well as an embroidered yellow pillow for her head. She had a portrait taken that will be displayed at her funeral. And she wrapped the items neatly in a cardboard box to await her death.

For many people in the West, picking out an outfit for your own funeral might seem sad or macabre. But Xie and her friends see it as a cause for reassurance, even celebration.

The video below, in which Xie shows off her burial clothes to her friends and a visiting researcher, Becky Hsu, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgetown, makes the scene feel almost like a party. Xie’s friends laugh as she shows off her outfit, congratulate her on getting a deal on her shoes, and scold her for paying too much for fancy earrings.

“It’s a happy thing,” another Chinese woman told Hsu about preparing burial clothes. “Everybody does it. I’ve had mine for more than 10 years!”

Read more about what it means to be happy from The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson.

The Economics of Homelessness

Turns out the 2008 recession didn’t increase the number of homeless while at the same time the number of sheltered homeless didn’t expand during or since the recession.

Nonetheless, the renewed effort since 2007 to count the number of homeless has ushered in a lot of politics into the issue of homelessness, a number that has not been optimally measured since the 1990s through today.

So what is the definition of homeless and what is its cause? Economics? Mental health care access? Drug abuse? Dissolution of families?

Kevin Corinth, a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a former lecturer at the University of Chicago investigating this troublesome phenomenon in America, discusses how public policy is addressing this problem and the best way to acknowledge a homeless individual’s humanity.

Listen to the Ricochet podcast here.

Science Behind the Factoid: Lottery Winners Are No Happier Than Quadriplegics

Here’s a frequently repeated, counterintuitive factoid: people who win large sums in the lottery are no happier, over time, than people who become paralyzed in traumatic accidents. This “fact” comes from Brickman et al’s 1978 paper called Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative? The researchers interviewed 22 major lottery winners, 22 randomly selected controls from the same area, and 29 paraplegics and quadriplegics who had suffered the injury in the recent past. The lottery winners had won sums ranging from $300,000 (more than a million in 2013 dollars) to $1,000,000. Here are some of the results:

Happiness lottery study

The respondents rated their happiness and their enjoyment of everyday pleasures such as hearing a good joke or receiving a compliment on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 was the happiest. As you can see, lottery winners were not significantly happier than controls. They also derived significantly less pleasure from everyday events.

Read more about the breakthrough study on the relationship between happiness and winning the lottery.

Maryland to Mail Free Books Each Month to Baltimore’s Children

Not your typical government-sponsored program:

“The Youth League of Baltimore will help coordinate the effort — dubbed ‘Governor’s Young Readers’ — by identifying local partners to lead fundraising efforts, promote the program and help families sign up for it.

The program costs $25 per child, and according to the partnership, the Maryland Department of Human Resources will cover half that amount. The state said about 41,200 children are eligible in Baltimore.”

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A winning strategy for 2016? Think positive

Most commentators don’t even seem troubled by the personal insults and relentless pessimism; they just view them as the natural state of politics. Negativity is the only way to win, right?

Wrong. There is a better way to compete, a path that is both morally superior and more politically effective in the long run. Instead of striving to be angrier or more outraged than their opponents, competitors should strive to be the happiest person on stage. Don’t believe me? Then consider two experts at winning: Andrew Luck and Ronald Reagan.

Luck is one of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL. In his first three seasons, he led his Indianapolis Colts to two division titles and the second-biggest playoff comeback in league history. But the Colts star has become known for more than the cannon attached to his shoulder. He is famous for his “happy warrior” attitude.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark reported something curious: “Luck has become famous for congratulating – sincerely and enthusiastically – any player to hit him hard.”


To read the full piece, click here.

Share Happiness With the World

The research is fascinating. The talks are inspiring. But to make a difference, we need to act.

Here’s how you can join the community that’s building a happier and more just America:

Follow our Facebook page and let us know what you think about our daily examples of attitudes and actions that lead people to happiness.

Hear more from Arthur Brooks. Brooks is a prolific social scientist and public intellectual. His regular New York Times columns teach — among other things — how carrying a “magic briefcase” can change your behavior, how to become a “sturdy lad” instead of a “city doll,” and why money, power, and sex can bring misery rather than contentment. His popular book on this subject is Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It.

Spread the messageShare the “secret to happiness” with people who mean something to you.

Capitalism with a conscience

The Dalai Lama came to Washington, D.C. to lecture economists about empathy. What happened next surprised everyone.

Read More.

Social justice requires these four things

Our nation has a great deal of need. It’s made worse by misguided policies and a materialistic culture.

Does work make us happy or miserable?

Do Americans hate our jobs, or do we actually like to work? The real answer isn’t what the media tells you.

Is happiness like a treadmill we can’t outrun?

Humans are great at adapting our expectations to our environment. Sometimes that’s a big help. Sometimes it’s a burden.

The Guardian Happy for Life app interactive dashboard

View up-to-the minute data exploring how the Guardian’s Happy for Life app is helping readers find a little bit of happiness every day.

Download the app.

Capitalism and compassion: Why morality matters in a market economy

n much of the world, including India, the free enterprise system has come to be associated with material greed, or wealth creation for its own sake. AEI President Arthur C. Brooks believes that supporters of the free market system need to develop a new way of addressing the big human questions of our time.