Center on Labor, Human Services and Population
Dr. Robert Lerman, a leading expert on how education, employment, and family structure work together to affect economic well-being, is the Urban Institute's first Institute fellow in labor and social policy. He was director of the Institute's Labor and Social Policy Center from 1995 to 2003.
Dr. Lerman was one of the first scholars to examine the factors leading to unwed fatherhood and the effects of early unwed fatherhood on earnings. His work on youth apprenticeships in the late 1980s encouraged the creation of national school-to-work programs. Dr. Lerman's current research focuses on interactions between job and marital stability, the effects of marriage promotion programs, and youth transitions from school to career.
The author of more than 150 articles, monographs, reports, reviews, and conference papers, Dr. Lerman has held dual appointments with the Urban Institute and the economics department at American University since 1995. He chaired the American University department from 1989 to 1995 and continues to be a professor of economics there. Dr. Lerman has served on a variety of panels and commissions, including the National Academy of Sciences panel looking at the nation's postsecondary education and training system for the workplace and the board of the National Fatherhood Initiative. He has testified before congressional committees on such topics as youth apprenticeship, child support policies, and the information technology labor market.
Dr. Lerman earned his doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh (1969-1971) and Brandeis University (1980-1989), where he also served as research director in the Heller School of Social Welfare's Center for Human Resources. He conducted research on social security and housing policy as research associate at the Brookdale Institute of Gerontology in Jerusalem, Israel (1974-1976). His public policy experience includes positions as staff economist with Congress' Joint Economic Committee (1972-1974) and special assistant for youth and welfare policy at the U.S. Department of Labor (1977-1980).
Apprenticeships Could Help U.S. Workers Gain a Competitive Edge (Commentary)
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In this Washington Post commentary, Robert Lerman and Stuart Eizenstat argue that the U.S. manufacturing sector is poised for a comeback, but faces serious workforce challenges. To avoid squandering the opportunity to sustain a manufacturing resurgence, the U.S. must match the quality and quantity of skills training achieved in many other countries. One way to do this is a 21st-century apprenticeship program. By training youth and adults through a combined work-based learning and classroom instruction program leading to a recognized and valued occupational credential, apprenticeships can increase employment, while insuring a close match between the skills learned and the skills required.
The Two Worlds of Personal Finance: Implications for Promoting the Economic Well-Being of Low- and Moderate-Income Families (Research Report)
|Posted to Web: May 09, 2013||Publication Date: May 08, 2013|
Personal finance for low- and middle-income families differs significantly from that of upper-income families, who tend to be the focus of mainstream finance. The assets of low- and middle-income families have less to do with stock and bond portfolios than they do with human capital, social insurance programs, and homeownership. Social welfare policy should be adjusted to acknowledge this reality.
These remarks were originally presented at the "The Future of Life-Cycle Saving and Investing" conference, co-sponsored by the Boston University School of Management, the Research Foundation of the CFA Institute, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on May 24, 2011. It was first published in Life-Cycle Investing: Financial Education and Consumer Protection (November 2012): 85-96 (doi: 10.2470/rf.v2012.n3.7).
Coping with the Great Recession: Disparate Impacts on Economic Well-Being in Poor Neighborhoods (Research Report)
|Posted to Web: February 26, 2013||Publication Date: February 26, 2013|
Did the Great Recession hit poor neighborhoods especially hard? Surprisingly, between 2007 and 2009, residents in the poorest neighborhoods did not suffer worse losses in employment and wages than did other neighborhoods. Poor neighborhoods saw unusually high job losses among men but not among women. Because residents in poor neighborhoods had especially low homeownership rates, they were less likely to face big losses in home equity. Homeowners in poor neighborhoods were slightly less likely to sustain homeownership, but they weren’t locked out of jobs because of immobility. In fact, these homeowners fared better in the job market than renters.
Homeownership Policy at a Critical Juncture: Are Policymakers Overreacting to the Great Recession? (Policy Briefs/Opportunity and Ownership Project)
|Posted to Web: January 07, 2013||Publication Date: January 07, 2013|
Is supporting homeownership still viable policy for low- and moderate-income families? Although middle-aged families are less likely to own homes than a decade ago and many recent purchasers are underwater, homeownership is still the primary saving vehicle for low- and moderate-income families, and longer-term homeowners generally managed to achieve net saving or gains despite the losses of the Great Recession. Nearly 90 percent of families that owned homes as of 1999 were still homeowners in 2011, and market conditions are increasingly favorable for homeownership. This suggests that losses incurred during the recent bust mask emerging opportunities and sensible housing policies.
The Two Worlds of Personal Finance: Implications for promoting the Economic Well-Being of Low- and Moderate-Income Families (Presentation)
|Posted to Web: July 12, 2012||Publication Date: May 11, 2012|
There are two worlds of personal finance: mainstream vs. low-income personal finance. The former focuses on savings and investment, the latter (for those with low or moderate incomes) on asset building and benefits, such as Social Security. Current pension and housing subsidies are weighted toward higher-income people, and may even discourage saving among the less well off. Many low- and middle-income households do not receive financial advice on when to retire, how to arrange Social Security benefits, and homeownership, despite these being their most important retirement decisions.
How the Government Can Solve the Housing Crisis (Commentary)
|Posted to Web: April 10, 2012||Publication Date: May 23, 2011|
Foreclosed homes are a major drag on the housing market and a reason why housing prices continue to fall and new housing construction is stalled. Institute fellow Robert Lerman and Brooklyn College's Robert Cherry explain, in a commentary for CNN.com, an innovative way a million of these properties could provide families with housing instead of sitting empty, take pressure off rental rates, and boost construction jobs.
A Jobs Plan We Can Afford (Commentary)
|Posted to Web: November 07, 2011||Publication Date: November 04, 2011|
This brief lays out a feasible, cost-effective strategy for job creation. It would create 4 million new jobs at a budget cost of less than $60 billion and is far more affordable and effective than President Obama’s $448 billion proposal to create up to 2.1 million jobs. Lerman’s five plan components include expanding energy development, increasing demand for owner-occupied housing through homeownership vouchers and refinancing, a generous tax credit for expanding employment, an expansion of apprenticeship training, and direct job creation. These components would likely stimulate enough jobs to reduce the unemployment rate from 9.1% to 5.5%.
Improving Home Affordability through Low Interest Rates: How Much Would Homeowners in Low-Income Areas Save? (Article/Opportunity and Ownership Facts)
|Posted to Web: September 19, 2011||Publication Date: September 19, 2011|
Using data from the Making Connections Cross-site Survey, this fact finds that, on average, families would save about $276 per month in mortgage payments with a new five percent interest rate, 30-year mortgage. Lower interest rates both increase housing affordability and allow families to accumulate equity in their homes more quickly. This fact highlights the importance of improving financial literacy, information and education around mortgage pricing, and of helping families build good credit. Families included in the data live in selected low-income neighborhoods in six cities and were surveyed as part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections initiative.
Expanding Apprenticeship: A Way to Enhance Skills and Careers (Commentary)
|Posted to Web: June 27, 2011||Publication Date: June 20, 2011|
Apprenticeship is a time-honored method for preparing workers to master occupational skills and achieve career success. Young people reap many developmental benefits from engaging in apprenticeships. It is important to expand the scale of apprenticeship training to increase skills and help more workers enter rewarding careers. Despite substantial benefits, federal support for apprenticeship training is meager. Promoting more apprenticeship training will not only expand the effectiveness of education and training and enhance productivity, but it will also integrate many workers who prefer learning-by-doing and the earning-when-learning aspects of apprenticeship training.
Will We Ever Learn? What's Wrong With the Common-Standards Project (Opinion)
|Posted to Web: October 08, 2010||Publication Date: October 01, 2010|
A one-size-fits-all approach to high school standards, exemplified by the new Common Core State Standards Initiative, will hurt many kids and lead to more unmet education goals, Institute Fellow Robert Lerman and colleague Arnold Packer stress in an Education Week commentary. Such an approach won't reduce, and might increase, the already high rate at which students drop out of school, or graduate without the skills and social behaviors required for career success.
|Posted to Web: April 29, 2010||Publication Date: April 21, 2010|
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