Research that Matters
Column Published in syndication October 16, 2019

Poverty affects hundreds of millions of people around the globe despite centuries of efforts to alleviate it by myriad individuals, organizations, and programs. A primary issue is the complexity of the problem. A trio of Americans helped to implement and demonstrate a novel approach and have received this year's Nobel Prize in Economics (or, more formally, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) for "their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." The recipients are Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michael Kremer of Harvard University.

Fleeing Films
Column Published in syndication October 09, 2019

Moving images are big business. From movies to television series to next-generation extended reality to video games and beyond, these media generate billions in investments annually. For a state to serve as a location can lead to a huge influx of funds, and enhancing needed infrastructure and supplier and talent networks can generate a notable sustained presence.

Staying Put
Column Published in syndication October 02, 2019

The number of people moving to Texas from other states is slowing markedly. The primary reason is that the national economy has become stronger over the past few years and most areas are at or near full employment, diminishing the comparative advantage and some of the rush to the Lone Star State. Given the current relatively low Texas unemployment rate, this could create greater workforce challenges.

Resilience
Column Published in syndication September 25, 2019

Earlier this month, oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked, knocking a large portion of production (about 5% of the world's daily supply) offline. However, rather than a market-roiling, global crisis, the result was a modest increase in oil prices. A decade or so ago, the scenario would have been totally different and, back in 1973, a smaller reduction precipitated an eight-year "energy crisis," complete with gasoline lines, oil export bans, 55-mile-per-hour speed limits, turning our thermostats down, and daylight savings time. The reason? The recent revolution in US oil production and, in particular, the surge now going on in the Permian Basin, where about two-thirds of incremental domestic output is occurring.

Congestion
Column Published in syndication September 18, 2019

Traffic congestion costs the US economy billions in wasted time, productivity, and fuel. It also negatively affects quality of life and constrains potential growth. The past decade of expansion has pushed congestion to the highest level since the Texas A&M Transportation Institute began tracking it in its Urban Mobility Report in the early 1980s. The 2019 version was recently released, with data for 2017.

An Economic Imperative
Column Published in syndication September 11, 2019

Mass shootings are tragedies with immeasurable human costs to victims and their families. As most of you are aware, my adopted hometown of Odessa was recently the site of such a tragedy. The nature of the shooting, being both random and widespread, leads to most of us knowing victims or otherwise having personal connections to the event. Lives were lost, injuries were suffered, families were permanently altered, and the character of a rugged community accustomed to resilience in one area is facing a test of a different and far more difficult kind. The focus is and always should be on the families and the victims.

A Large, but Small Revision
Column Published in syndication September 04, 2019

Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revises its employment estimates based on surveys, which is the source of the widely reported monthly job gain and loss statistics, to sync it to a more comprehensive dataset. This time around, the preliminary results suggest that the revision is likely to cause a reduction of more than half a million jobs. The final changes will be implemented early next year, just in time for election madness.

Leading the Pack
Column Published in syndication August 28, 2019

Recently released data on employment and wage growth by county indicates that several Texas counties fall near the top of the list. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled statistics for the 355 largest counties across the United States with annual average (2018) employment of 75,000 or more for the March 2018 to March 2019 time period. Four of the fastest growing 10 counties in the country in terms of employment were in Texas.

New Rules
Column Published in syndication August 21, 2019

America's largest corporations have long been focused almost exclusively on increasing shareholder value. That goal was rooted in traditional notions of market theory that purportedly held that pursuing self-interest would ultimately secure optimal outcomes. Even the architects of this doctrine, including Adam Smith, recognized many occasions where this approach needed to be broadened, and the realities of contemporary life make that point abundantly clear.

Mortgage Milestone
Column Published in syndication August 14, 2019

After more than a decade, the amount of household debt (including mortgages) has surpassed pre-Great Recession levels. Sometimes, an upswing in debt of certain types can be a negative signal, such as rising credit card debt in an economic downturn as people try to deal with financial setbacks such as job losses. However, rising debt can also reflect economic strength as increasing numbers of households are willing and able to purchase big-ticket items such as homes and cars.