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Economics

Winter 2016

Call it the Urban Extension

The massive Oso landslide killed 43 people, caused extensive flooding, and destroyed a key highway north of Everett in 2014, pushing the communities of Arlington and Darrington to their breaking point.

For months, grieving residents and community leaders remained so immersed in the search and recovery demands that nearly everything else had to be put on hold. That’s why, when they were invited to participate in a national competition that could funnel up to $3 million or more toward desperately needed economic revitalization efforts, Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert was practically on the verge of tears, again.

“It was this rare opportunity but we had no … » More …

Summer 2011

Arun Raha ’91—The good, the bad, and the budget

When Arun Raha ’91 started work as the state of Washington’s chief economist three years ago, his new staffers welcomed him with a gift: an official Magic 8 Ball.

“I said ‘OK, great! Now I have a forecasting tool,’” he recalls.

If only it were that easy.

At 51, Raha is the E.F. Hutton of state government: When he talks, people listen. He speaks at more than 100 events a year, from universities to small-town chambers of commerce. His quarterly revenue forecasts are broadcast live on TV.

That’s because the forecast, once approved by a bipartisan council that Raha reports to, frames the state budget. … » More …

Winter 2009

Housing by the numbers

From his corner office in Johnson Tower in the midst of Washington State University’s Pullman campus, Glenn Crellin is far from the most populated parts of the state. Still, from his vantage, he contemplates rental rates around the Puget Sound, home sales in Spokane, and real estate in Moses Lake.

Crellin is the state’s real estate numbers guy and in mid-summer he’s just about to release a report that will stir up homeowners and real estate agents with news that home sales were showing some positive signs.

Crellin and his reports appear regularly in newspapers throughout the state. He’s also well placed in Washington where … » More …

Winter 2004

Prisons offer few economic benefits to small towns

Over the past three decades, many of the nation’s most depressed rural communities have vied to host new prisons, hoping that economic benefits would follow.

The trend grew in the early 1990s when an average of three 500-bed prisons opened around the country each week. Small towns courted new correctional facilities, sometimes offering free land or discounted municipal services to tempt them, believing they would get returns in new jobs and money.

But now they may be thinking differently about prisons, thanks to research led by Washington State University sociologist Gregory Hooks.

“We found no evidence that prison expansion has stimulated economic growth,” Hooks says … » More …

Summer 2006

Can America compete in a 'Flat' World?

Many of you are familiar with Thomas Friedman’s argument, in The World is Flat, that technology has eliminated many barriers to competition and thus created today’s globally competitive economic environment. His dramatic examples of outsourcing show that key services, including high-level engineering and scientific tasks, can be effectively accomplished without regard to the workers’ physical location. This allows imaginative businesses to tap talent from around the globe, often at considerable savings.

Friedman, a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, uses this evidence to reach some alarming conclusions about how America will fare in the future. After establishing the central thesis that location is … » More …

Summer 2008

The Coming Depression

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Growing up with parents born in the crash year of ’29, and with grandparents marked and ennobled by sacrifice and ingenuity in living well with nothing, I’ve amounted to nothing but a Baby Boomer: first coddled and spoiled, and soon to bring down, single-handedly, the world’s climate stability and Social Security.

But now I have a chance to redeem myself. Pretty soon I’m gonna experience some real honest-to-goodness privation, my own little corner of a general decline in living standards in the U.S. of A.

I’m psyched. A Depression of my … » More …