Engaging Ideas - 3/24/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: What if sociologists had as much influence as economists? Analyzing the American Dream and the middle class. A tool that maps the schools Betsy DeVos visits. And a doctor asks his patients to guesstimate the price tag of their latest test or treatment.


Healing the political divide (Toledo Blade)
Love him or hate him, President Trump has Americans on the edge of their seats.Donald Scherer is not a political analyst or a psychologist.But the retired Bowling Green State University professor, who founded BGSU’s applied philosophy program, may be in a good position to help break down what’s happening across America.

What Data-Driven Mayors Don't Get (The Atlantic)
In an age of growing alienation from civic institutions, the technocrats running many American cities don’t understand what old-style political machines once delivered.

We Should All Be Political, Even If We’re Not All Partisan (New America)
Manuela Ekowo highlights the importance of participation in the democratic process and how that ties into being "political" while remaining "nonpartisan" in fields that demand a political stance, such as education policy.

Economic View: What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists? (The Upshot)
In 1967, Senator Walter Mondale actually proposed a White House Council of Social Advisers; he envisioned it as a counterpart to the well-entrenched Council of Economic Advisers. It was never created, but if it had been, this is the sort of advice it might have been giving recent presidents. For starters, while economists tend to view a job as a straightforward exchange of labor for money, a wide body of sociological research shows how tied up work is with a sense of purpose and identity.


Is the American Dream Alive or Dead? It Depends on Where You Look (Economic Innovation Group)
Analysis of new data finds a clear correlation between the degree of prosperity or distress in a county and the extent to which it boosts or hinders the future earnings potential of the children who grow up there. However, exceptions abound.

Middle Class Is Shrinking, Difficult To Define (International Business Times)
There’s no easy or direct way to define the middle class. Whether you’re considered middle class depends on the where the rest of the country stands, too. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t define it. But other organizations have developed their own ways to measure middle class. Pew, for instance, defines the middle class as the 51 percent of adults who live in the middle bracket, in between 29 percent who live in higher-income households and 20 percent living in lower income households.


Why Objectively False Things Continue to Be Believed (The Upshot)
Partisan polarization has come to affect the way that people consume and understand information.

Citizen Engagement: A Game Changer for Development (edX)
This is the third time the WorldBank will be offering this MOOC on citizen engagement. Learn about citizen engagement and critically analyze how it can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results.

Why Cultural Institutions Must Lead the Way (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
Deborah Cullinan, CEO of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, writes: Arts and culture organizations have the power to drive the cultural movement America needs to deliver democracy.

Roused by Trump, First-Time Female Candidates Eye Local Seats (The New York Times)
Four years of increasing activism and growing political awareness recently brought Lacey Rzeszowski to Rutgers University here, to a packed room of nearly 280 women, each on the cusp of launching a bid for public office for the first time.

K-12 Education

Parents See Benefits in Special Education Vouchers, But No Silver Bullet (Education Week)
For students with disabilities, vouchers can help open the door to private school attendance, but they come with trade-offs, including the loss of specific legal protections.

Where in the World Is Betsy DeVos? Track Her School Visits With Our New Tool (Education Week)
Each time she stops by a school, you'll see a slide with the name and location of the school, along with any other pertinent information and coverage we have of her trip. The interactive tool also adds up not just the number of times she's visited schools, but the types of schools she's visited: traditional public, private, and charter schools.

How teachers bridged two Boston high schools to reap gains for all students (Hechinger Report)
Teachers at Boston Collegiate Charter and Jeremiah E. Burke focus on instruction: "Our jobs require us to seek out solutions that will help our students reach new heights so they can get the most out of the hours they spend in school. Among the many solutions we have tried, one has proven transformational: teachers across schools learning from one another."

Higher Education & Workforce Development

College Is the Goal. The Problem? Getting There. (The New York Times)
Over the last few months, TaTy and two of her classmates, Nathan Triggs and Zachary Shaner, grappled with decisions about college and made their way out of childhood, through money worries, broken families and peer pressure, into the next phase of their lives. Each followed a different path, but in combination, they tell a story of students at an average school in the middle of America trying to find a better future.

Policy Brief: Beyond WIOA: Why Should Workforce Development Boards Care About Education Policy? (Jobs for the Future)
WDBs and workforce systems should: Become experts at helping WIOA participants access Pell grants where possible; Engage in the design of postsecondary programs that have workforce preparation as a focus; and Engage in the development of policies that govern student aid funding—advocating for more flexibility in what programs can be funded under the Pell grants Program (e.g., competency-based education and shorter-term credentials), and ensuring program relevance and improved student outcomes.

Report: The State of Entry-Level Employment in the U.S. (The Rockefeller Foundation)
A study of C-Suite and HR professionals, and recent college grads and opportunity youth shows a disconnect between the benefits and supports employers think will matter to younger workers and those that truly matter to them.

Health Care

Taming Health Care Spending: Could State Rate Setting Work? (Health Affairs Blog)
To gain control over price, policymakers should seriously consider rate regulation. Such an approach is traditionally used in the United States for essential goods like water and electricity and can be adapted to regulate the prices of health care goods and services.

What Does My Health Care Cost? (National Review)
Last week I asked every patient who came to see me if they could guesstimate the price tag of their latest test or treatment. No one got it right, or even came close to predicting the actual price.

HB 2216 seeks elusive price transparency in health care (Non Doc)
The trend for health care cost transparency seems to be growing as fast as health costs themselves. HB 2216, introduced by Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Tulsa) last month, attempts to implement price transparency in the state with respect to non-contracted health providers.

Not much saving going on in Health Savings Accounts (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Health Savings Accounts feature prominently in the new health care bill being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, with a variety of changes in store. But research shows not many participants are actually saving money beyond the initial tax break.


Comment on this article.

Recent Blogs


Public Agenda knows what it takes to fuel progress on critical issues.
We need your support to keep things moving!

Join the Community


Take Action