The Coolest (And Silliest) Infographics From The White House’s “Enhanced” State Of The Union Broadcast

Last night, the White House offered an “enhanced broadcast” of the State of the Union address that had graphs, statistics, and other images playing alongside Obama’s speech. It’s a pretty cool concept, offering a way to make the speech more interesting and to provide important context on what was being said. The execution of the idea was a mixed bag – some of it was really valuable while other parts were irrelevant or downright silly.

The best graphics added important context to what Obama was saying, like this shot that played as Obama said, “We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition.” (22:45)

Or this graph showing increasing wealth inequality as Obama said, “Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hard-working Americans struggled.” (5:50

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Study Touting iPad Textbooks Raises More Questions Than It Answers (UPDATED 1/27)

The latest Apple innovation everyone is talking about is interactive textbooks for the iPad, which Apple and others are promising will revolutionize education. So far, the buzz seems to be working: in the first three days after the project was unveiled last week, 350,000 textbooks were downloaded, along with 90,000 copies of the program authors can use to create the textbooks. And on Friday, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the nation’s largest textbook publishers and a key participant in the new initiative, released a pilot study touting the benefits of its HMH Fuse: Algebra 1 iPad textbook. The press release points to a twenty percentage point increase in math proficiency among students who used the app and claims these students were, “more motivated, attentive, and engaged than traditionally educated peers.” The findings have been picked up by Wired, MarketWatch, and a host of other technology and news sites.

Unfortunately, this seems to be another case of poorly-done research being used to promote a product or policy to journalists and consumers who may not have the statistical background to question the evidence they’re being presented with.

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Who Pays? More on the Impact of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age

In a post last week, I wrote about the Congressional Budget Office’s new projection that raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 could save the federal government $113 billion over the next decade. But I missed a big part of the story: that this savings might be far outweighed by increased costs to senior citizens, employers, and state governments.

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Raising Retirement Age Could Save $230 Billion Over Next Decade

In 1950, there were 7 people of working age – 20 to 64 – for every person 65 or older. That ratio is currently below 5 and will fall below 3 by 2030. – CBO, 2012

The current age at which someone becomes eligible for Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance program for seniors, is 65. Guess what the age was when Medicare was created in 1966? Continue reading

The Disaffected Voters Romney Should Be Worried About

Republicans, like Democrats, come in many flavors: social conservatives, libertarians, neo-cons, moderates, big-business conservatives, evangelicals, independents, and so on. But what do these labels mean when people step into the voting booth?

There are many ways you can carve up the American public into ideological categories, but my favorite comes from the Pew Research Center on People & the Press. Pew’s political typology has been evolving since 1987 and currently breaks the American electorate into nine groups. What’s great about Pew’s project, compared to other attempts to categorize voters, is that it is actually based on data. Continue reading

Are For-Profit Colleges A Scam?

For-profit colleges are no stranger to controversy about whether they provide a quality education and the kind the career advancement promised in their marketing campaigns. A new study by Harvard economists will only add to the debate over whether students (and the federal government) are getting what they pay for. Continue reading

Even Short Bouts of Unemployment Cause Lasting Setbacks

In the depths of the recession, from October 2008 to April 2009, around 700,000 people lost their jobs every month. Many of these workers remained jobless for long stretches of time, as this downturn produced the highest levels of long-term unemployment in six decades. Yet even those who found new jobs relatively quickly have experienced lasting setbacks. Two years after losing their jobs, workers who are reemployed are earning 17% less than they previously made, according to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. The lost income averages about $600 per month.

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5 States Where The Working Class Was Hit Hardest By Recession

It’s been well documented that low-skilled workers were more likely to lose their jobs during the recession than those with higher levels of education. The current unemployment rate is 14.0% for workers without a high school degree, 9.7% for those with only a high school degree, and 4.2% for those with a college degree. A new analysis by the Urban Institute identifies the states where low-skilled workers (those with less than a high school degree) were hit hardest by the recession in comparison to other groups: Tennessee, Virginia, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Arizona.

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