Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Orleans has second worst income inequality among US cities; Baton Rouge Business Report examines Louisiana’s open-ended Hollywood entitlement program; States fall short on cancer-preventing policies; Teen birth rates fall nearly 40 percent without a clear reason why

New Orleans has second worst income inequality among US cities
The Crescent City is second only to Atlanta in a ranking for the most unequal cities in America, according to a Bloomberg database of income inequality. The database ranks cities by their Gini coefficient, which measures concentration of income. A Gini coefficient of 0 signifies all residents enjoying the same level of income, while a coefficient of 1 signifies that a single person holds all the wealth. New Orleans’ coefficient is .5744 — putting the state’s most populous city on par with Zambia. Inequality in New Orleans is also growing at a faster rate than many other US cities. As reports, only 14 of the 50 cities in the Bloomberg database had a Gini coefficient increase faster than New Orleans’.

The Bloomberg database also ranks Baton Rouge 32nd, and Lafayette ranked 34th. While local officials’ options for closing income inequality may be limited, there are things that state legislators can do to combat this problem. One option is doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which rewards and encourages work by increasing income. The credit is especially beneficial for children, as studies have shown that higher family incomes leads to stronger school performance and improved lifetime earnings.


Baton Rouge Business Report examines Louisiana’s open-ended Hollywood entitlement program
Louisiana has certified more than $1 billion worth of Hollywood tax credits since 2006 at a major cost for state taxpayers. Louisiana lost $168.2 million on the program in 2012 alone, and is at risk for losing even more as larger movie productions take advantage of the lucrative entitlement program. But as The Greater Baton Rouge Business Reports notes in this month’s cover story, “Next year’s fiscal legislative session is another chance to eliminate, slash or reform the program.” There are ways to tweak the tax credit to stabilize the state’s budget without pulling the rug from under the movie industry. LBP recommended several potential changes to the program in 2012, including lowering the generosity of the tax credit, placing a monetary cap on the total amount of the credit that can be given in a fiscal year, and eliminating the transferability of the tax credits.


States fall short on cancer-preventing policies
A majority of states are failing to implement laws designed to prevent and fight cancer, and Louisiana is no exception to the rule according to a new report by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The report praises The Pelican State for prohibiting minors from using indoor tanning beds and for passing oral chemotherapy fairness legislation to help equalize patient out-of-pocket costs. But the state ranked poorly on nearly every other measure, including tobacco prevention funding, restrictions for accessing pain medications and cigarette taxes. As The Advocate notes, “Louisiana is one of 13 states that have not raised taxes on cigarettes in 10 years, even though the evidence clearly shows that regular and significant increases encourages users to quit or cut back and prevents kids from even starting to smoke.”


Teen birth rates fall nearly 40 percent without a clear reason why
America’s teen birth rate plunged significantly between 2007 and 2013 — falling by 38.5 percent. But Sarah Kliff at explains that there are no clear reasons why America’s teen birth rate dropped so drastically:

“The massive decline in teen birth rates is undeniably good news for public health advocates. Teen mothers are significantly more likely to drop out of high school. Most teen mothers do not receive financial support from their child’s father; 48 percent live below the poverty line. Avoiding early motherhood undeniably opens additional doors in a teen’s future. But there’s something uniquely frustrating about the recent, steep decline in teen birth rates: nobody knows why it’s happened.”


Number of the Day
— New Orleans’ ranking on Bloomberg’s list of the most unequal cities in America (Source: Bloomberg)