News, events and opinion that shape the future of Southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond



The End of White Christian AmericaThe End of White Christian America
By Robert P. Jones

Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), challenges us to grasp the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA)—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white Christian nation.

Son Also RisesThe Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility
By Gregory Clark

How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage.

Capital in the Twenty-First CenturyCapital in the Twenty-First Century
By Thomas Piketty

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

The Entrepreneurial StateThe Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Myths in Risk and Innovation
By Mariana Mazzucato

This new bestseller from leading economist Mariana Mazzucato – named by the ‘New Republic’ as one of the ‘most important innovation thinkers’ today – is stirring up much-needed debates worldwide about the role of the State in innovation. Debunking the myth of a laggard State at odds with a dynamic private sector, Mazzucato reveals in case study after case study that in fact the opposite situation is true, with the private sector only finding the courage to invest after the entrepreneurial State has made the high-risk investments. Case studies include examples of the State’s role in the ‘green revolution’, in biotech and pharmaceuticals, as well as several detailed examples from Silicon Valley. In an intensely researched chapter, she reveals that every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded: the Internet, GPS, its touch-screen display and the voice-activated Siri. Mazzucato also controversially argues that in the history of modern capitalism the State has not only fixed market failures, but has also shaped and created markets, paving the way for new technologies and sectors that the private sector only ventures into once the initial risk has been assumed. And yet by not admitting the State’s role we are socializing only the risks, while privatizing the rewards in fewer hands. This, she argues, hurts both future innovation and equity in modern-day capitalism. Named one of the ‘2013 Books of the Year’ by the ‘Financial Times’ and recommended by ‘Forbes’ in its 2013 ‘creative leaders’ list, this book is a must-read for those interested in a refreshing and long-awaited take on the public vs. private sector debate.

So Rich So PoorSo Rich So Poor: Why It’s So Hard To End Poverty in America
By Peter Edelman

Income disparities in our wealthy nation are now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top.
In this “accessible and inspiring analysis” (Angela Glover Blackwell), lifelong anti­–poverty advocate Peter Edelman assesses how the United States can have such an outsized number of unemployed and working poor despite important policy gains. He delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at young people of color for whom the possibility of productive lives is too often lost on the way to adulthood. In a timely new introduction, Edelman discusses the significance of Obama’s reelection—including the rediscovery of the word “poverty”—as well as the continuing attack on the poor from the right.
“Engaging and informative” (William Julius Wilson), “powerful and eloquent” (Wade Henderson), “a national treasure composed by a wise man” (George McGovern), and “a great source for summaries of our country’s antipoverty program” (Publishers Weekly), So Rich, So Poor is crucial reading for anyone who wants to understand the most critical American dilemma of the twenty-first century.

American_NationsAmerican Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
By Colin Woodard

According to award-winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard, North America is made up of eleven distinct nations, each with its own unique historical roots. In American Nations he takes readers on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, offering a revolutionary and revelatory take on American identity, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and continue to mold our future. From the Deep South to the Far West, to Yankeedom to El Norte, Woodard reveals how each region continues to uphold its distinguishing ideals and identities today, with results that can be seen in the composition of the U.S. Congress or on the county-by-county election maps of presidential elections.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
By George Packer

The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future.

Blue SkiesNothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland
by Edward McClelland

“McClelland’s knack for turning a phrase (‘My last two full-time jobs no longer exist. For a Generation-Xer, tales from the 1960s are employment porn.’) allows him to tie together these auto and steel towns and capture touching, personal tales so as to bring these dying municipalities back to life, if only on the page…. A reservoir of information about American manufacturing, labor unions, and social movements, McClelland’s book, ironically, stands as a testament to the simple truth that one steel worker told him: ‘You can’t grow an economy without making things, producing stuff.’”—Publishers Weekly

Mckee book coverThe Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia (Historical Studies of Urban America) by Guian McKee

Contesting claims that postwar American liberalism retreated from fights against unemployment and economic inequality, The Problem of Jobs reveals that such efforts did not collapse after the New Deal but instead began to flourish at the local, rather than the national, level.

With a focus on Philadelphia, this volume illuminates the central role of these local political and policy struggles in shaping the fortunes of city and citizen alike. In the process, it tells the remarkable story of how Philadelphia’s policymakers and community activists energetically worked to challenge deindustrialization through an innovative series of job retention initiatives, training programs, inner-city business development projects, and early affirmative action programs. Without ignoring the failure of Philadelphians to combat institutionalized racism, Guian McKee’s account of their surprising success draws a portrait of American liberalism that evinces a potency not usually associated with the postwar era. Ultimately interpreting economic decline as an arena for intervention rather than a historical inevitability, The Problem of Jobs serves as a timely reminder of policy’s potential to combat injustice.

Book Cover of Remembering Pittsburgh: An Eyewitness History of the Steel CityRemembering Pittsburgh: An ‘Eyewitness’ History of the Steel City
by Len Barcousky

The doomed Whiskey Rebellion, the Great Fire that destroyed a third of the city in 1845 and Lincoln’s speech urging residents to shun talk of secession–all have made the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its predecessors. Since 1786, the paper has covered local events, and reporter Len Barcousky is a part of this long tradition. This collection of his “Eyewitness” columns draws on next-day stories to tell the history of the city, from President Coolidge’s almost-silent visit in 1927 to a report on the first woman hanged in Allegheny County. Join Barcousky as he vividly recounts the compelling history of the Steel City.

Book Cover of Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War 2Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War II
by Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day

“Breaks new ground as the first significant history of the African American community of Pittsburgh since World War II. The authors’ approach is wide-ranging, covering issues of civil rights, housing and segregation, organizational development, and political involvement, among other subjects. What makes this volume particularly valuable, however, is its placement of Pittsburgh’s black community in the framework of the city’s decline as an industrial center and eventual rebirth as a smaller city with a postindustrial economic base. It deserves a wide readership.” —Kenneth L. Kusmer, Temple University


Retail in Underserved Communities – One challenge repeatedly mentioned by forum participants is the difficulty of changing perceptions about a distressed community, thereby unlocking existing potential. In the 1990s, Pittsburgh faced these issues in the East Liberty community. Vacant parcels pushed both commercial and residential investment away. Multiple owners discouraged a more comprehensive vision of community renewal. Local leaders wanted to signal major change and sought a “name brand” tenant.

The State of Working Pennsylvania 2014 – It is now more than six-and-half-years since the Great Recession began. After three years in which Pennsylvania job growth declined each year, Pennsylvania has seen more rapid job growth in 2014 and a significant decline in its unemployment rate. Yet even in July 2014, the latest month for which we now have data, Pennsylvania still had 20,000 fewer jobs than in December 2007 – with no jobs created to absorb Pennsylvania’s population growth of 3.7% since then (which would require another nearly 220,000 jobs). These facts set the context for our annual review of the Pennsylvania economy.

Understanding Trends in Poverty in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area – In 2010, about one in eight residents (12.1 percent, or 280,000 people) in the Pittsburgh region had incomes below the poverty level, an increase of 8.5 percent since the Great Recession started in 2007. Although demographic factors such as the arrival of new immigrants and more single-parent households contributed to the growing number of people living at or near poverty, the economy was the driving force in changing poverty rates.

UPMC Tax Exemption Hearing – December 5, 2012 (Audio)
This audio file contains the first two hours of the Allegheny County Council Public Hearing from December 5, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) authorities and critics commented and presented evidence on UPMC’s charitable programs, labor policies, and tax exempt status.

Increasingly Unequal in Pennsylvania: Income Inequality, 1917 to 2011

Highmark WorkForce Incentive Results Report

Western Pennsylvania’s Workforce Development System: Challenges and Opportunities

The State of Working Pennsylvania 2012 – Keystone Research Center’s annual report shows how working Pennsylvanians are faring in today’s economy. This year’s report had little good news for most working Pennsylvanians, following a decade in which most workers experienced stagnant or falling wages and a recession that made family-sustaining job opportunities harder to come by. The Executive Summary is HERE with a chapter by chapter summary of findings HERE.

Garfield Listening Project – Hannah Thompson produced this brief documentary as part of an FED-funded course at Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 on economic redevelopment in Pittsburgh. It focuses on the decline of housing for the poor in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Strategy 21: Public and Private Cooperation in 21st Century Pittsburgh – Alex Smith wrote this paper in 2012, during participation in an FED-funded course at Carnegie Mellon University. It focuses on the unique collaboration between public and privately funded organizations, one of the first of its kind in the country, and highlights the strategy they used to successfully bring new industry to a city that was on the verge of collapse following the devastating losses of the 1970s and 80s.