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EconomicPolicyInstitute January 20, 2012

In recent years, Latino and African American consumers with good credit scores of 660 and higher have too often ended up with high-interest-rate mortgages—mortgages that are supposed to go to risky borrowers. This week’s Economic Snapshot illustrates that from 2004 to 2008, only 6.2 percent of white borrowers with credit scores of 660 and above ended up with higher-rate mortgages. Latinos and blacks with good credit scores were at least three times as likely to end up with higher-rate mortgages.

“Discriminatory housing practices are one reason why our country needs a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” said Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program.

Austin’s research on the recession’s overall impact on the economic status of African Americans continues to be a key resource for reporters. His work most recently appeared in Forbes and The Grio.

Focusing on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s pursuit of economic justice for all Americans, Forbes contributor Joel Kotkin stressed the significant amount of work that remains to be done, particularly with respect to the African American community. “While African-Americans make up 12% of the nation’s population, they account for 21% of the nation’s unemployed. Unemployment for black men stands at a staggeringly high 19.1%, and the Economic Policy Institute estimates that overall black unemployment will remain well above 10% till at least 2014,” wrote Kotkin.

The Grio columnist Monique W. Morris highlighted Austin’s research showing that African American under-and unemployment statistics dwarf their white counterparts both in good economic times and downturns. Morris wrote, “Research by Algernon Austin at the Economic Policy Institute has demonstrated the consistently high rates of under- and unemployment among African-Americans as evidence of a ‘permanent recession.’ This is true, he argues, when the economy is strong. So, when the rest of the nation is experiencing a recession, what are African-Americans experiencing? That’s right, a depression.”

Oregon retirees need more income options

Social Security, pensions, and personal savings are the legs of the “three-legged stool” of the ideal retirement income. But the stool is in danger of tipping for Oregonians, as Social Security now comprises nearly half (47.6 percent) of all income for the state’s retirees. Furthermore, the new EPI report, Oregon retirement security by EPI experts Elise Gould and Douglas Hall, explains low-income workers are much less likely than high-income workers to have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans and to participate in them. In fact, nearly half of all Oregon workers age 25-64 are not covered by a retirement plan at work.

“Oregon needs to expand retirement income options to those who are limited by low incomes and lack of access to employer-sponsored retirement plans,” said Elise Gould, co-author and EPI economist.

The report identifies two main areas where expanded retirement-plan coverage would have the greatest effect. The first is the lowest quartile of retirees (disproportionately composed of women and people of color). The second is workers in very small private-sector firms (those with 24 or fewer employees)—less than a quarter of whom participate in employer-sponsored plans, compared with nearly two-thirds in private-sector firms with 1,000 or more employees.

On Thursday, report co-author Douglas Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), presented the paper’s findings before the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee of the Oregon State Legislature.

EPI in the news

Economic writers—including correspondents from MSNBC, National Journal, and Christian Science Monitor—have cited EPI’s research to explain that while recent labor market reports show some improvement, the country’s slow economic growth will not return the unemployment rate to its pre-recession level for many years.

EPI labor economist Heidi Shierholz told the National Journal’s Michael Hirsh the nation hasnever seen unemployment this high for this long.” She expounded, “At current growth rates, even with the unemployment rate heading in the right direction, the U.S. economy won’t get back to prerecession levels until 2019.”

Refuting recent claims that employers are not hiring due to a lack of qualified candidates, MSNBC’s Allison Linn noted the high number of job-seekers available for each job. In an interview for the story, Shierholz explained, “The gap between what employers want and which workers are available isn’t nearly enough to explain the nation’s high unemployment rate.” She continued, “Unemployment rates are elevated across most industries and all education levels, which is a sign that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around.”

EPI is searching for a new director of research and policy

The Research and Policy Director oversees development of the EPI research and policy agenda and is responsible for the policy relevance, quality, timeliness, and potential for impact of projects. The director will also help shape development of funding proposals. The director is expected to continue to develop his/her own research agenda and be available for public speaking and media work. The director is responsible for relationships with a number of key audiences, including policymakers, researchers, and funders.

The director will supervise a staff of approximately 15-20 people, including professional researchers in economics, public policy and related fields, a computer programmer, and others. These individuals carry out a broad array of research in areas ranging from tax and budget policy; macroeconomics; and education to international trade and finance; labor market economics; health; immigration; race, ethnicity, and the economy; retirement; and industrial relations.

The Economic Policy Institute is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. See job announcement: http://www.epi.org/about/jobs/#rpd

Please send a resume and cover letter to research-jobs@epi.org.

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