• Financial Regulation

    Why you should pay attention to cryptocurrencies even if you think they are pointless

    I have never been hyped up about Bitcoin, the “blockchain,” or cryptocurrencies. The basic premise behind Bitcoin is that it’s a currency you can send anywhere nearly instantly. The computing power of the millions of bitcoin “miners” is used to solve math problems which create a secure record of every Bitcoin transaction – that record of transactions is called the “ledger.” The miners get paid for keeping the system running by receiving a share of the small amount of new Bitcoins that are being continuously released. Anyone can see the code, and everything is “decentralized” — instead of a single central bank or government holding the power, lots of people participate…

  • Jobs and Working

    What’s it like to make it from one rung on the economic ladder to the next?

    When we talk about economic mobility (or the lack of it) in the United States, it’s easy to get lost in the statistics — missing what life is like for those who make it from one rung of the economic ladder to the next. As you gain new opportunities, you face new conflicts — in my piece for The Outline, I talked to first-generation college graduates to understand what it’s like to bridge ‘different worlds.’ It goes without saying, but you are probably either a colleague or employer, educator or classmate of those who grew up in very different economic circumstances than you — and to create opportunity, you have…

  • Jobs and Working

    One in four “gig economy” workers would take a normal job at a lower pay

    In a recent working paper for the Federal Reserve of Boston, Anat Bracha and Mary Burke find that 26% of gig economy workers would accept a lower hourly wage to be able to work hours at a formal job instead of in the informal economy — even if the formal job didn’t come with benefits.  While informal and ‘gig’ jobs are sometimes presented as offering greater flexibility and autonomy, Bracha and Burke’s findings strongly suggest that many would gladly ditch gig work in favor of greater predictability. Their working paper also finds that the census districts with the highest rate of informal and gig labor force participation have the lowest…

  • Economic Policy

    ‘Faces of a new economy’ – my thoughts on the economic order

    Mark Trumbull writing for the Christian Science Monitor profiled millenials rebelling against “an economic system that puts profits over fairness and equality.” The word ‘socialist’ means different things to different people.  To some, countries like Sweden, Norway, or Germany are ‘socialist’ — many Western European countries have higher taxes, particularly on their wealthier citizens, to support free or very low-cost college and healthcare, and stronger guarantees of meeting the basic human needs of their citizens.  At the same time, those countries all have vibrant market economies. While some industries in those countries like healthcare or education may be fully public or operated with greater government intervention, citizens can also start and…

  • Debt

    Checking Immigrants’ Credit Scores: What Could Go Wrong?

    Since 1882, the United States has denied immigration visas to those who were deemed “unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” This principle has applied also to the renewal of visas of those already legally living and working in the United States, and in some cases, resulting in the deportation of people whose visas were otherwise still valid.   For the past twenty years, while nearly all undocumented immigrants and many legally documented immigrants have been ineligible for a range of public benefits, the only people labeled as ‘public charges’ were those who received more than 50% percent of their income from cash-based public benefits.   Trump’s…

  • Credit Cards,  Financial Regulation

    Are credit card rewards even good for consumers?

    Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that merchants like Home Depot, Target, and Amazon are becoming increasingly frustrated with the high fees they pay to accept rewards credit cards, and are seeking relief from the courts or through negotiations with Visa and Mastercard.   Particularly, merchants are looking for the networks Visa and Mastercard to end their ‘honor all cards’ rules, which say that if you accept any Visa credit card you need to accept all Visa credit cards, and ditto with Mastercard. Today, if you spend $100 at a large grocery store, Visa would charge the store a $2.20 processing fee if you used a top-tier rewards credit…

  • Banking,  Credit Cards,  Financial Regulation

    What’s happening with consumer financial protection around the world

    In the United States, there hasn’t been much positive policy action on consumer financial protection recently, at least not at the federal level. But regulators and policy-makers in the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore have been trying a range of solutions, some incremental and some radical, to make life better for borrowers in their countries. You can read more in my post for the Duke Global Financial Markets Center’s FinReg blog.

  • Jobs and Working

    D.C. neighborhoods that voted ‘Yes’ to raise the tipped minimum wage have nearly twice as many restaurant and hospitality workers

    D.C. City Council held a hearing yesterday to consider overturning Initiative 77, which would gradually raise the tipped minimum wage for D.C. workers from $3.33 to $12.50, rising to $15 along with the base minimum wage in 2020. Opponents of the Initiative claim to have the backing of not only the District’s restaurant owner and operators, but the city’s restaurant servers and bartenders as well.  At yesterday’s hearing, Jill Tyler, Co-Owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan said “by and large, the current system works,” resulting in workers “who can afford to buy a home, who can afford to raise a family,” noting that 40 of her…

  • Banking,  Credit Cards

    “I’m not falling for your tricks” and other mixed reactions to credit limit increases

    All it takes is a quick search on Twitter to see that credit limit increases drive incredibly strong and oftentimes mixed emotional reactions for Americans. To clarify, when I say ‘credit limit increase’ here, I’m talking about when a credit card issuer raises the limit of how much a customer is able to spend or borrow. In theory, having access to more credit — that you’re under no obligation to use — seems like it would be a strictly good thing. It’s there if you need it, and if you don’t use your higher credit limit, your credit score will typically go up (this article explains why). But clearly, many…