Valuing Children

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 15, 2008

Finally and “long overdue”:, here is my book review of Valuing Children, Nancy Folbre’s latest book. The overall goal of this book is to show how and why children matter for economic life, to provide estimates of the economic value of family (nonmarket) childcare and parental expenditures in the USA, and to raise critical questions about the size and kinds of public spending on children in the USA.

Folbre formulates four questions which she sets out to answer: (1) Why should we care about spending on the children? (2) How much money and time do parents devote to children? (3) How much money do taxpayers spend on children? And (4) who should pay for the kids (in other words, which share of the costs of children should be borne by parents and by the government)?
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How much is AIG worth?

by John Q on September 15, 2008

Now that Lehman Bros and Merrill Lynch are gone, attention is turning to insurance company AIG. When the first big failure, that of Bear Stearns was coming up, the initial offer of $2 a share suggested that the company was worth less than the building it operated it (the deal was subsequently sweetened, courtesy of the US taxpayer[1]). Looking at AIG, this WSJ story says that, as of last quarter, assets exceeded liabilities by $78 billion, a number that has almost certainly declined since then, given that the $1 trillion asset book includes lots of toxic sludge. But the story also notes that the company’s aircraft leasing subsidiary (where did they get this?) owns planes worth more than $50 billion. So, it looks clear that, apart from the planes, AIG is worth little, nothing or (most likely) a large negative value.

Update Commenters object, correctly, that it isn’t legit to value the planes without taking account of the associated debt. However, after today’s debacles, it doesn’t matter too much. AIG is toast, the only question being whether the Fed will treat it as another Bear or another Lehman. Next cabs off the rank appear to be Washington Mutual and Wachovia, taking the FDIC with them. I even saw GE mentioned somewhere, but it seems too soon for that.

[1] Despite the tough talk and the refusal to bail out Lehman, the Fed has given yet further ground to the banks this time around, agreeing to lend public money against subprime trash.

Crowdsourcing works!

by John Q on September 15, 2008

In the comments to my last post, reader Peter Schaeffer provides exactly what I asked for: a breakdown of the discrepancy between 30 per cent growth in US household income over the last 40 years and 117 per cent growth in income per person. In addition to the factors I’d mentioned (falling household size and growing inequality) Schaeffer notes two more: the fact that GDP has grown faster than national income and the fact that prices faced by households (the CPI-U-RS) have risen faster than the GDP deflator. He provides the details to show that this fully explains the discrepancy.

What should we make of this. As far as the situation of the average American is concerned, the only correction we need to make to the household income figures is to correct for changes in household size. That makes the increase over the last 40 years about 63 per cent, or an annual growth rate of 1.2 per cent. By contrast, the 117 per cent growth in GDP per person implies a rate of just under 2.0 per cent. So, changes in GDP per person (let alone changes in total GDP) are essentially irrelevant as a guide to how the average household is doing.

And of course, the poor have done much worse. Household incomes for the bottom quintile have barely moved for decades. Growth in consumption has been driven largely by increasing access to debt, a process that now looks to have run out of road. That would seem to indicate a looming social crisis. But the coming election will still turn on whether Obama called Palin a pig.