Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


What Could Go Right? Better money—and a baby?

Two improvements for high- and low-wage American workers from the Covid-19 pandemic

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Two improvements for American workers

The Covid-19 pandemic was terrible. But it did contribute to two improvements in the lives of working Americans on both sides of the wage spectrum.

First, low earners. “After a brutal few decades in which low-wage jobs proliferated and the American middle class hollowed out, the working poor have started earning more—a lot more,” writes Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic. “Many low-wage jobs have become middle-wage jobs. And incomes are increasing faster for poorer workers than for wealthier ones, a dynamic known as wage compression.”

Why now? The pandemic was just one part of the two-part equation to more money. The first part happened fast: pandemic-era stimulus checks gave workers the financial cushion to quit poorly paying jobs, assess their options, and go somewhere else that pays better. The second happened more gradually: the unemployment rate, after a decade-plus of downward movement, is finally low enough that employers are being forced to raise wages and offer other benefits to attract workers. Together, these parts add up to companies like Target, for instance, which in 2022 raised its starting hourly wage to $15–$24 and announced that workers clocking at least 25 hours per week would be eligible for health coverage.

Second, high earners. Wages for them are static. But the flexibility of remote work, finds a new survey from the bipartisan public policy organization Economic Innovation Group, has led to a positive impact on marriage rates and family planning. The survey is based on answers from 3,000 US women ages 18–44.

Some questions the survey posed showed statistically insignificant links between remote work and intentions to start a family or have a second child. But others showed a clear, positive relationship. Remote workers were significantly more likely to plan on getting married in the next year than their in-office counterparts, potentially because remote work allows a much easier relocation to the same place as a partner. And for women over 35—especially for women over 35 with two or more children already—remote workers had much higher intentions to have more children, suggesting, the survey analysis says, that remote work “may help older women balance the competing demands of work and family.”

The research is still early, so we’ll have to wait and see if the higher remote-work marriage rates, for one, lead to other fertility trends. And while we know that remote work isn’t an unqualified good, it’s important to gather a body of evidence, especially in a world of falling birth rates, of what government policies would best support families. As Derek Thompson points out in The Atlantic, return-to-office rates are lower in major US cities than they are in international ones. So it does seem that in the US at least, the effects of remote work will continue to accrue. 

P.S. Speaking of family-friendly policies, I did not know until I read this article that German parents, every four years, can go on a three-week health retreat called a Kur that is mostly covered by insurance. “Meals, childcare, and therapies are all included,” says the BBC. You can go for a physical health problem, but also for psychological problems and even burnout. In the personal example told in the article, the dad even got to go with his young son! This is the kind of European treat that usually makes Americans’ eyes twitch, but in this instance Germany may be making the rest of Europe jealous, too—the BBC reports that Germany is possibly the only country in the world that offers this.  

Before we go

Who will protect the high seas? Finally, United Nations member states will. Almost 200 countries have agreed to set up guidelines for fishing, scientific research, mining, and other activities that occur on the two-thirds of the ocean that are international waters and thus ungoverned by any national law. This is the first international agreement on ocean protection since 1982. 

Carbon-free sources supplied over 40 percent of the US’s total energy output in 2022, a new report reveals. This is an all-time high.” If you’re wondering which states are leading the charge, look to Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Florida, and Texas, power-producers of wind and solar.

Below in the links section, solar-panel recyclers, AI for breast cancer, psychedelics for anorexia, and more.

Correction: Last week we quoted an article that said Ghana is seven years ahead of schedule on their 2016 commitment to restore two million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2030. Thank you to one eagle-eyed reader who spotted that the math was off. Ghana committed to the two million goal in 2016 for 2030. It began implementation in 2017 as part of a larger plan called the Ghana Forest Plantation Strategy, on a timeline for 2040. By 2022, Ghana had put 628,000 hectares under restoration, putting them behind schedule for the 2030 goal, not seven years ahead.

According to the ninth annual Women, Business and the Law report, around 93 million women aged 15–64 have gained the same legal rights as men since 2010, when “no woman in the world” had the same legal rights in the areas measured: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension.

Progress in 5 minutes: Caste as protected category

With Seattle’s historic move to ban caste discrimination, along with recently added protections at some US universities, momentum is growing. | Read more 

Government secrecy | S4 E4

What’s with Biden’s, Trump’s, and Pence’s classified documents? Why is everything secret in the first place? And what is this costing democracy? Matthew J. Connelly, professor of international and global history at Columbia University, principal investigator at History Lab, and author of the book The Declassification Engine, looks at the consequence of unchecked governmental power and the effect it has on citizens. Plus, Human Rights Watch’s good news for kids and open source farming. | Listen to the episode

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

Other good stuff in the news 🔌

Energy & Environment:

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Public Health:

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TPN Member originals 🧠

(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)

Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)

Social media and modern politics BOTH cause depression among boys and girlsMaximum Truth
Newly crunched data show major negative trends in teen wellbeing.

Why we picked it: Takes on teens and social media use abound. This one is slightly different from the rest as it analyzes the combined effect of social media, politics, and the news, with a long-term view for perspective and suggested solutions sprinkled in at the end. —Emma Varvaloucas

New Member Alert

Tanner Campbell is the founder of Practical Philosophy, a media company creating practical and accessible philosophy content for everyday people. He hosts Practical Stoicism, a podcast aimed at helping newcomers get acquainted and comfortable with Stoicism. His forthcoming book, Living Well: Stoic Ideas for a Better Life, is a practical, actionable, and non-partisan approach to implementing the biggest ideas of Stoicism into one’s everyday life.

Until Next Time

Want to win the Nobel Prize? Then you might also want to consider eating more chocolate. 🍫

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.