Research Roundup: ALEC in MN and TX, Economic Benefits of Paid Family Leave, and More

In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from Minnesota Common Cause, Progress Texas, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, Retail Action Project, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, and more.

Legislating Under the Influence – How Corporations Write State Laws in Minnesota, ALEC Exposed in Texas – These two reports by Minnesota Common Cause and Progress Texas shine a spotlight on the hidden influence that corporations wield in their respective states’ legislatures through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In its report, Minnesota Common Cause highlights more than 60 bills "written by ALEC corporate lobbyists" that have been introduced in Minnesota's legislature over the past two years and exposes the corporate interests behind them and the "impact that the legislation will have on Minnesotans." Progress Texas' report takes a look at how the corporations that underwrite ALEC "funneled $16.2 million to Texas lawmakers from 2001-2011," and describes how the ALEC is able to "increase corporate profits at public expense."

Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public – This study, commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families and conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, looks at the positive economic effects of paid family leave policies. Among its findings are that women who take paid leave after giving birth to a child benefit from higher wages in the year following a child’s birth, and that both women and men who take leave receive lower levels of public assistance in the year following a child’s birth when compared to those who do not take leave. The report also notes that "given local, state, and national attention to workplace policies that address the integration of work and family life, better national‐ and state‐level data collection on leave‐taking is needed."

Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short – This report by the Retail Action Project looks at retail jobs in New York City - one of fastest growing sectors in the city and the nation - and tracks the wages and working conditions of “frontline non-managerial workers in New York’s booming retail industry." Through interviews with workers, the report finds that "race and gender matter a great deal" when it comes to wages, and that approximately one third of surveyed retail employees support a family member on their wages, despite the median wage for surveyed workers being only $9.50 an hour. It concludes that, "as a leading industry in job growth, creating family-sustaining jobs in the retail industry must be a part of any strategy to address the growing inequality in America."

State of Working Mississippi 2012 – This report by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center looks at the state of the workforce and the economy in Mississippi compared to years over the last decade. It finds that the state's population and workforce is growing, that the median wage has increased only slightly over the past decade, that unemployment is higher for African-Americans, and that household income and poverty rates are both headed in worrying directions. In addition, the report finds that Mississippi's tax collections per capita rank among the lowest in the nation. The study also includes policy prescriptions for advancing the state of working Mississippi, such as emphasizing job training, affordable higher education, encouraging savings, and restoring investments in public structures by updating the state's tax system.

Fighting for our Health – This new book by Richard Kirsch, an Institute Fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, gives an insider’s account of the fight for the passage of national health care reform from 2008-2010. As national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, Kirsch relates his experiences from the front lines of the legislative and advocacy fights around the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.