Poor and middle class students more likely to get stuck with unpaid internships

The Second-Biggest Myth About Unpaid Internships: They’re Just for the Rich:

If anything, poor and middle class students are extra likely to get stuck in unpaid internships. Rich kids, by and large, seem to prefer collecting a paycheck.

Such were the findings of a fascinating 2010 study conducted for Intern Bridge, a consulting firm that specializes in college recruiting, and one of the few major sources of data on the internship market. After analyzing survey responses from thousands of college students, the paper concluded: “Our findings do not support the common contention that students from the wealthiest families have greater access to unpaid internships, even among most for profit companies. Low income students have a much higher level of participation in unpaid internships than students from high income families.”

This was a myth that I believed until I read this article. Turns out I wasn’t completely wrong though: rich kids do tend to take a large share of the unpaid internships in Hollywood and Wall Street.

Of Liberty and Underemployment

Every summer hundreds of Irish students disembark Berkeley BART station to earn their keep for a summer in San Fran. They come with a J-1 Visa; find a job within a month or go home. These new arrivals go out in groups to drop their CV’s (Irish for resume) wherever mass transit will take them. They wander until their feet hurt, and return with sunburns to their new abodes, perhaps a room full of mattresses in a busy frat house.

Within weeks, the Irish have taken hundreds of openings in stores and restaurants within a forty mile range. Along Telegraph, Piedmont, and Shattuck, chances are you’ll hear that familiar lilt coming from your cook, cashier, or pale and pretty hostess. They are here for a good time, but they are invited to work. The area loses work when the students go home to the summer, and the Irish fill the gap and maintain the nightlife.

I am an American and I need a job. I am 23, I graduated college last year with a degree in the humanities, and I’m still hanging around the college scene. I’m not saying I don’t know other 23 year olds. Who says I don’t go out every other weekend with my girlfriend and ten other coupled 23 year olds to bars with wood paneling and craft beer specials? The point is, I am between two phases and a bit adrift on what to do next. I do know, and we all know, that I now need a job to duck destitution rather than deportation.

I’m not looking for a job in a shop or a restaurant; I’m ready for an office, just to pay my bills in between now and grad school. We all want to go to grad school. I have dress shirts, a clothes iron, and I can tie a bow tie. I try to take to the classic professional approach; it adds some charm to my quivering upstart base. I need a job that one, the Irish don’t have, and two, that pays my bills with some to spare.

Then I saw a flyer on one of the many construction sites around campus. SUMMER JOBS: ACLU canvassers wanted. The Irish can’t take it because of their type of visa. Sometimes I take the role of a college student, and sometimes a college graduate. The former got me this time. I took a tab thinking I’d hit pay dirt. I showed up to the interview all quaffed in a grey suit and discovered I’d hit dirt pay.

I was a millennial clipboard jerk. Hi my name is Eric and I’m a paid fundraiser working on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. They looked at me like I was a mosquito eater. Sure you don’t bite but go away anyways. This was a door to door job that had me in Anywhere, Oakland selling vague Utopian promises with all the credibility of a paper name tag.

The day started in an office. Pro tips: once you get to the office, choose a clipboard first thing so you can get one of the good ones. If you bring your own pens, you’ll have a pen. The shirts are damp with another’s sweat but you’re more likely to make quota with a shirt than with a name tag. We got in, practiced, slumped into a clown car and went out all day with a clipboard and a name tag. In the day it was hot, past 7:30 people were irritated, and it was cold until 9. My feet hurt and I wanted a beer, day after day.

I was good at it. I made quota and got promoted. Then I got chased by a dog. Then I trekked a mile out of territory to relieve myself in a sketchy homeless person bathroom. Then Anywhere, Oakland, was anywhere in Oakland, which wasn’t always hospitable. Then there was no real possibility of commission and it became clear that I couldn’t pay my bills with it. I fulfilled my administrative responsibilities for the day and politely excused myself from my employer.

So I am a college graduate and not a college student. So now what? Both of the roles I’m tackling agree that the ACLU is a fine organization. With our friends the Democrats presiding over a land of cameras and prisons, who else will keep the guns pointed away from us while we cloak ourselves in entitlement and dive into a brave new world? Then who did I represent: the ACLU or the company they contracted to raise funds for their political lobby? Either way, organizations with such strong ties to the labor movement should have higher labor standards. It’s part of dealing with our lot.

Then what is the lot of my age group? We are more educated than our parents, yet we approach a world that demands us to be ever more refined cogs. Broad interests are no interests at all. Office software familiarity is as common as typing skills. You have no skills, no network, and wipe that smirk off your face. While I’m betting on being presentable and capable, will this land me work or land me in the same situation as millions of college graduates who move back in with their parents until they are twenty six and find a job that will be twice as specialized as it is now.

Now I’m a young man. I want to find love, have friends, and have the sense of freedom that comes with taking care of oneself. Then I went home on Father’s Day and hear thirty is the new twenty and life is only going to get more demanding. Do I take a college student job and tough it out like the Irish so I can return home to poverty and a bit of fun, let the mounting abyss of indecision paralyze me, or supplicate myself like a company man to squeeze a job I won’t be qualified for in three years? If you’re saying the world is bleak and I am meek now, don’t despair.

We will inherit the Earth. Clipboard jerking for the ACLU reminded me I’m capable and willing to work hard. We struggle for a place that we will eventually take for ourselves. We are more educated than our parents. Last week two of my friends went bust and are moving back with mom. They had jobs and came home worn and hungry from them to a nice house in a bad neighborhood. They’ve still got time but whose patient? The man has a towering intellect and the woman has the qualifications to run her own theater. Too bad for now, but their abilities remain. We’re all taking the same beating.

Your parents took the beating. The beating has always been around. Your backwards ancestors wanted creationism taught in schools because they felt evolution and the implied competition in that philosophy would subject us to a level of dehumanization not fit for their Christian social progress. The ACLU fought against this in court, most famously in the Scopes trial, for the same reasons you’d favor science today. While you wouldn’t call the current face of Christian politics progressive, we might take that a feeling of dread and dehumanization is and has been universal no matter which political umbrella one cowers under.

So then don’t cower. Are you feeling alienated in your own homeland? The Irish are foreigners and yet they are able to make their own place every year. Remind yourself, this is our land and we are the most able bodied, and the most educated. The coveted youth vote is still ours to be diverted into any project whatsoever. The technology and culture of tomorrow is ours to invent. Our work is valuable, desirable, and innovative. We’ve navigated the most dynamic time in human history our entire lives and will handle it better than our predecessors. Keep producing work, and aim for the work you are entitled to.

Becoming a scientist isn’t an option for most kids

The Path to Being a Scientist Doesn’t Have to Be So Narrow:

Many American students are all but knocked out of the race toward a graduate science degree before their 13th birthday. To get on the advanced math track in high school, you need to complete algebra in the eighth grade. This is standard practice in affluent communities but rare to nonexistent in many low-income schools. Then students must advance through calculus—another subject more available to the privileged—by their senior year of high school. Then they must navigate the complex college admissions process and come up with an increasingly large amount of money to pay tuition. Then they have to slog through huge, impersonal freshman lecture courses that are designed to weed students out. Only then can the few students who remain advance toward science careers.

While I look forward to online classes making higher education more accessible in the coming years, I also worry about the cultural shifts that need to happen if America is going to stay competitive in the future. Parents need to understand the importance of motivating their children to aspire to bigger and better things. That can’t be taught in the classroom alone. 

If a university-level education can be offered for little-to-no-cost to anyone anywhere in the world, we need to make sure that our kids take advantage of that opportunity because at some point, people won’t need to come to America to be successful.

There are 10 million fewer jobs than there should be

U.S. Is Still 10 Million Jobs Away From Normal:

To get a better idea of where the job market stands, consider a different question: What percentage of the civilian population aged 16 to 65 is employed, and how does that compare to the pre-crisis average? This measure covers everyone, including those who have given up on finding jobs and hence are not counted in the unemployment rate. It also attempts to correct for the effects of an aging population by focusing on one age range.

As of May, the 16-to-65 employment-to-population ratio stood at 67.5 percent. That’s up from 67.2 percent a year earlier, but still well below the average of 72.5 percent in the 10 years preceding the recession that began in January 2008.

In terms of jobs, as of May, the economy was 9.98 million short of the number needed to put the employment-to-population ratio back at its “normal” level of 72.5 percent. That’s better than a year ago, when the number was 10.50 million, but worse than in May 2009, when it stood at 8.93 million.

Think we can create 10 million jobs in the next five years? Keep dreaming. This is what a lost decade looks like.

It turns out that immigration reform would be a huge boost for the economy

The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants:

Under the first scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship in 2013—U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion cumulatively over the 10 years between 2013 and 2022. What’s more, Americans would earn an additional $791 billion in personal income over the same time period—and the economy would create, on average, an additional 203,000 jobs per year. Within five years of the reform, unauthorized immigrants would be earning 25.1 percent more than they currently do and $659 billion more from 2013 to 2022. This means that they would also be contributing significantly more in federal, state, and local taxes. Over 10 years, that additional tax revenue would sum to $184 billion—$116 billion to the federal government and $68 billion to state and local governments.

Under the second scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status in 2013 and citizenship five years thereafter—the 10-year cumulative increase in U.S. GDP would be $1.1 trillion, and the annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $618 billion. On average over the 10 years, this immigration reform would create 159,000 jobs per year. Given the delay in acquiring citizenship relative to the first scenario, it would take 10 years instead of five for the incomes of the unauthorized to increase 25.1 percent. Over the 10-year period, they would earn $515 billion more and pay an additional $144 billion in taxes—$91 billion to the federal government and $53 billion to state and local governments.

Finally, under the third scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status starting in 2013 but are not eligible for citizenship within 10 years—the cumulative gain in U.S. GDP between 2013 and 2022 would still be a significant—but comparatively more modest—$832 billion. The annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $470 billion over the 10-year period, and the economy would add an average of 121,000 more jobs per year. The income of the unauthorized would be 15.1 percent higher within five years. Because of their increased earnings, undocumented immigrants would pay an additional $109 billion in taxes over the 10-year period—$69 billion to the federal government and $40 billion to state and local governments.

It’s like a stimulus package that reduces the deficit.

The government needs to spend money in an economic crisis

Austerity Principles, or How to Save an Economy in Crisis:

Automatic stabilizers work. In the U.S., when it comes to fiscal policy in times of economic crisis, there isn’t much disagreement between the political parties. But if a separate debate over the proper size of government is allowed to intrude (as it has), the result is gridlock.

Policy makers should instead agree in advance to a system of automatic stabilizers that kick in during recessions. These include unemployment insurance extensions and relaxed eligibility standards for food stamps when the jobless rate exceeds, say, 6 percent. By the same token, lawmakers could agree to spend, say, 20 percent more on public works programs when unemployment increases. Automatic stabilizers offset about 20 percent of an economic shock after two years, according to research by Federal Reserve economists. The effect is even bigger in Europe, where automatic stabilizers are more prevalent.

Republicans shouldn’t care if the U.S. spends more this year and less next year so long as the permanent size of the government remains the same.

Maybe there wasn’t disagreement between Democrats and the Republicans of yesteryear, but the Tea Party Republicans from 2010 and 2012 would beg to differ. These are the people who would rather jeopardize the health of children than provide the poor with assistance.

If any good has come out of the last 5 years, it’s that there will be a solid case for  stimulus and stabilizers the next time we have a severe recession.

You can’t make it as a freelance writer

As someone just getting his journalism career off the ground, this Medium post was a bit of a punch to the gut:

You almost certainly can’t make it as a freelance writer. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m saying: you almost certainly can’t make it as a freelance writer. I think the essential thing to understand is that the next level, the really lucrative stuff that you get after you “get your name out there,” doesn’t exist. The little publications can’t pay and the medium publications want to con you into thinking that publishing for them for next to nothing will get you a piece in one of the big ones and the big ones figure just giving you the platform is payment enough. You can’t live on publishing in the New York Times and The Atlantic three times a year. Look: a lot of the supposed freelance writers you know of either come from money or work as shills on the side. Everybody’s gotta eat, I’m not judging. But many or most freelance writers aren’t. Ask other writers, preferably after a couple drinks. They’ll tell you.

Boeing using robots to make more planes with the same amount of people

Speaking of machines doing increasingly more complex tasks, it turns out that Boeing is now using robots to paint the wings of its massive 777s. Unsurprisingly, they’re way better at it than humans are:

Manually, it takes a team of painters 4.5 hours to do the first coat. The robots do it in 24 minutes with perfect quality. Boeing began using the machine in February. By midsummer, all 777 wings will be painted this way.

Both the head of the of the 777 program and the director in charge of their manufacturing were quick to point out that no one was laid off because of the robots, but the reality is that more work being done with fewer people means fewer jobs to go around.

The economy is doing alright despite government cutbacks

The economy is holding up surprisingly well in a year of austerity:

It adds up to this reality: In a year when tax increases and spending cuts by the federal government were expected to bleed life out of the economy, the strengthening housing and financial markets are proving to be more powerful than acts of Congress.

Americans with higher incomes are wealthier thanks to the stock market’s 16 percent rise so far in 2013. Middle-income earners, whose assets are disproportionately tied up in their homes, are becoming wealthier thanks to higher housing prices — up 10.2 percent in 20 major cities in the year that ended in March, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday.

The tax increases and spending cuts as a result of the fiscal cliff this winter haven’t crushed the economy – but they have kept it from doing much, much better.

What will we do when all the jobs are gone?

After Your Job Is Gone:

Do you have a job? Do you like having a job? Then I have some bad news for you. The Guardian is worried “today’s technologies are going to remove people from economic activity completely.” Techonomy says “America’s real worker crisis is not immigration, it is jobs.” Om Malik asks: “People talk about robot-helpers and an army of drones, but…what is going to happen to millions of people who will be replaced by those drones and robots?”

Wrong tense: the right question is what is happening.

An excellent article by Jon Evans for TechCrunch.

Machines and the software that runs them are going to make most workers completely unnecessary over the next few decades. So what will we do?

It’s not like everyone can be a programmer or an engineer – hell, even those can be automated to a degree. Are we going to have a moderately-taxed classed of super-rich that finances a “basic income” (or in libertarian terms, “negative income tax”) for everyone else?

Or are we going to let millions struggle for the few jobs that are left until we go through some kind of global revolution that sends us back to the Dark Ages?