THINK-TANK ROUNDUP: APRIL FOOLS' EDITION.

Today's TTR dabbles in the international aspects of the auto industry, considers diversity in suburban schools, freaks out about unemployment, and evaluates the effects of the economic-stimulus package. Try it. You'll like it.

  • Buy... Mexican? Even the Big Three automakers aren't immune to the pressures of international economics. The Economic Policy Institute reports that from 2007 to 2008 alone, the percentage of Big Three production in Mexico increased from 11 percent to 14.5 percent. Ford was the most prolific internationalist of the U.S. automakers, producing more than a third of all its 2008 cars south of the border. These outsourced investments will continue to rise. GM spent $3.6 billion in Brazil for infrastructural development in recent years and has plans to allocate $1 billion more. Chrysler, whose outsourced production has been comparatively modest, is poised to build a $570 million engine factory in Mexico. While officials justify continued aid to the auto industry by citing the catastrophic impact of losing 2 million┬áto 3 million U.S. jobs, their coinciding demand that automakers restructure will likely result in further outsourced production under the guise of economic competitiveness and principles of comparative advantage. The only difference is that job losses will be protracted rather than immediate. -- JL
  • Tribalized suburbia. Over the last decade and a half, the proportion of Latinos in suburban public schools doubled, from 11 percent to 20 percent. At the same time, the proportion of white students in suburbia went down by even more. Suburban Latinos are going to school with other Latinos, and the average suburban white student goes to school where three-quarters of the student body is also white, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report. The flow of Latinos into suburban public schools comes directly from urban schools, the report shows. City schools used to educate a majority of minority students, but no longer. Now, "suburban schools are much closer in racial and ethnic makeup to the nation's public school population as a whole than are city schools, which tend to [still] be disproportionately minority, or rural and town schools, which tend to be disproportionately white." Thanks to this urban exodus, the suburban public school system as a whole is more diverse now than in the early 1990s, but individual schools within suburbia remain segregated. -- CP
  • "Interactive Map: More Job Losses In Every State." The Department of Labor's new shudder-inducing stats have been made somewhat palatable by two nifty interactive maps, courtesy of the Center for American Progress. One map-timeline charts rising job losses across the country over the last few years, while the other shows off the ever-increasing unemployment rate. The job loss timeline begins in 2005, when most states reported healthy levels of job retention, with the notable exception that perennial post-industrial punching bag, Michigan (where unemployment now stands at a mind-boggling 15.7 percent), and ends with job losses ballooning across the nation. Unemployment follows similar trends, with Michigan again leading the pack. Many currently unemployed Americans cannot find new work -- one in four have been looking for six months or more. "3.4 million workers over the past year ran out of unemployment benefits before they found a new job," and another 567,000 will join them if the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's funding for 13 to 20 more weeks of unemployment benefits isn't accepted by states with unemployment levels over 6.5 percent. -- JB
  • Urban reinvestment opportunities. Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program offers an early assessment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) ability to stimulate the four "fundamental 'drivers' of productive growth" -- innovation, infrastructure, human capital, and a high-quality built environment -- in urban areas, where the bulk of such growth will occur. The conclusion: the act's outlays have generally been effective (an estimated 43 percent of the total amount supports the aforementioned drivers), but the demand placed on state and local governments for hasty spending has left little time for innovation, thus guaranteeing that the projects that get funded don't go too far outside the traditional box. Nonetheless, Brookings applauds the openings the ARRA provides for metropolitan-area leaders to solve larger-scale problems by coordinating funding streams at the regional level, particularly in the arenas of energy retrofits, high-performance charter schools, and the transparency of the funding process, and suggests that the ARRA be used as a model for future federal policy-making. -- MK

-- TAP Staff

Previous Round-Ups:
3/24/09
3/17/09

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