Vox: Larry Summers makes the case for a government bailout of the American heartland

Vox, March 8, 2018: Larry Summers makes the case for a government bailout of the American heartland

In 2016, only 5 percent of men ages 25 to 54 in Alexandria, Virginia (a rich DC suburb), were not working. In Flint, Michigan, the share was 51 percent.

That staggering fact frames a new paper by three Harvard economists — Benjamin Austin, Ed Glaeser, and former Treasury secretary/chief Obama economic adviser Larry Summers — released on Thursday as part of the Brookings Institution’s Papers on Economic Activity series.

Austin, Glaeser, and Summers argue that particular areas of the United States (specifically what they call the “Eastern Heartland,” defined as Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia) have fallen behind on a number of economic indicators, but especially male joblessness.

While the whole country is experiencing this decline in male work rates, Austin, Glaeser, and Summers argue that the trend is geographically concentrated. They argue that subsidies meant to encourage work, such as an expanded earned income tax credit, should perhaps be changed to be more generous for recipients in struggling regions, where they might do more to encourage additional employment and reduce joblessness.

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