Los Angeles

Two years ago, Nick Melvoin was hired to teach English at Markham Middle School, which serves some 1,500 students in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. The school, which is 72 percent Hispanic, 27 percent black, and mostly poor, posts among the lowest test scores in the city. Last year, nearly 60 percent of students were suspended at some point. And, just off school grounds, students must navigate poverty, crime, and gangs. But, fresh out of college, Melvoin, a Los Angeles native, was excited to work with kids in one of his city's most challenging schools.

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The federal transportation finance system is broken and will be short on cash for the foreseeable future. Some regions—like the growing Phoenix, Salt Lake, Las Vegas, and Denver metropolitan areas—have meanwhile achieved system viability through unusual self-help yet even so face massive outstanding maintenance and capacity needs. Is there a deal to be done? Perhaps there is.  Check out, for example, the intriguing concept for a new federal-metro partnership in transportation finance being shopped around by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) in Arizona.

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The idea for “The Lottery,” first published in 1948 and now one of the most widely anthologized works of American fiction, came to Shirley Jackson while she was pushing her baby daughter in her stroller. When they got home, she writes in an essay included in the new Library of America collection of her writings, she put away her groceries, put the baby in a playpen, and in a single sitting wrote the story, which describes, without elaboration or allegory, a village ritual in which the inhabitants gather annually to stone one of their neighbors.

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A New Metro Map

Do you live in the “Rust Belt” or the “Sun Belt?” Are you a West Coaster, an East Coaster, or a resident of “flyover country?” Perhaps you’re a proud New Englander, Midwesterner, or Texan. More to the point, does any of that matter? (For the full-size map click here) Maybe not as much as you think. Our new report, the State of Metropolitan America, surveys the demographic landscape of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas over the 2000s. It finds that who metropolitan areas are is in many ways more important than where they are. In fact, my Brookings colleagues and I identify seven categ

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Bad Land

Severe recessions can make people crazy and mean. During the Great Depression, immigration to the United States from Mexico virtually ceased, but states began arresting and deporting Mexicans, many of whom were in the country legally. The Mexican population of the United States fell by 41 percent during the 1930s. And the same kind of thing is happening again. The recession has sharply curtailed illegal immigration to the United States.

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While bankers again swim down a Wall Street awash in profits and the IMF celebrates upwardly-revised global growth forecasts this week, the local government fiscal crisis continues.  Last week we reported on some provocative stop-gap measures in Colorado Springs, which has among other things switched off half the street lights. This week’s story is more sobering and more pervasive--and suggests that the fiscal crisis will now start hitting communities at their hearts:  their schools.   Several prominent news outlets (The New York Times and The Washington Post among them) ran stories this week

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Amid all the talk of U.S. trade recently, The Economist just published a series on the importance of exports. A piece entitled “Export or Die” described how a New York-based architecture firm barely avoided massive layoffs by finding projects in China, Korea, and the Middle East, where demand has not faltered as sharply over the last two years. In other words, service exports prevented unemployment. One wonders: Is this just an anecdote, or is it representative of an important trend? As it turns out, it is a trend.

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Obama on Offense

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- What does President Obama's visit to California this week on behalf of embattled Sen. Barbara Boxer have to do with passage of the financial reform bill? Far more than you'd imagine. That Boxer is in any trouble says much of what you need to know about this year's election. California has become a Democratic bastion and Boxer has been a liberal institution who never before faced a serious re-election challenge. Now she is seen as sufficiently vulnerable that Obama will come to the state for another fundraiser for her next month.

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In Washington, it’s the season for many things—spring flowers, baseball, political speech (always in season), and House and Senate appropriations subcommittees delving into the minutiae of the president’s proposed $3.7 trillion budget for FY2011. Scattered among the nooks and crannies of this massive document are the plans for the multiple agencies in the nation’s decentralized statistical system.

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As a serial finalist for nice awards I've never won, I believe in the secondary value in prizes—the value in not only honoring achievement but also in stimulating debate over who wins those honors. Among the major American prizes in arts and letters, the Pulitzers have an exemplary record at stirring that worthy debate.

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