When ‘Cancel Everything’ Means Disaster for the Arts

The poster for the music festival reads “la musica no se detiene, ni siquiera en tiempos tan duros como este.” The music does not stop, even in times as hard as this.

Over the next two weeks, a group of 30 musicians from Spain will livestream video performances from the confines of their homes. Instead of singing to their fans in person, they’ll meet them where they’re at in a nation under a coronavirus lockdown: In their bedrooms and living rooms. This is Cuarentena Fest, one of a growing number of global arts events born of quarantine.

Cello teachers are leading lessons via Skype and FaceTime, ballet teachers are choreographing over Instagram Live, and performers like Italian tenor Maurizio Marchini are finding resourceful ways of overcoming quarantine rules (he’s taken to singing opera selections on his balcony in locked-down Florence). The Berlin Philharmonic, which is closed to the public until April 19, offered a free stream of a rousing Béla Bartók concerto, which was performed for an empty concert hall.

Cultural programming was an early victim of the coronavirus crisis. After a series of increasingly stringent restrictions on public spaces and events in global cities, theaters, museums and libraries shuttered their doors and residents were urged to stay home. Over the past week, in-person music and film festivals like South by Southwest, Coachella and Tribeca were postponed or canceled, touring acts were grounded, film production halted. By the weekend, it became clear that the performing arts in general — in opera houses, rock clubs, concert halls and venues from Broadway to high schools — would be going on an extended hiatus in civic life.  

And in the most symbolically consequential blow, on March 12, one day after an usher who worked at two Broadway theaters tested positive for the coronavirus, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a ban of all events over 500 people — including a temporary end to all Broadway shows until the week of April 13.

The profound cultural loss of this mass silencing will be hard to quantify — escaping to new worlds will become only more vital as this one turns ever more grim; understanding others’ pain and joy more instructive as communities turn inward; laughing and listening more necessary to feel free as borders close.

To cities and the artists that sustain them, the financial damage, too, will be immediate and profound. Broadway is one of the largest economic engines for New York City, bringing in around $1.8 billion in ticket sales last season; a month-long closure could mean $100 million in losses, Bloomberg News reports. Across the U.S., museums bring in an estimated $50 billion in revenue, including the spending they stimulate at surrounding businesses, and directly employ more than 350,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Live music ticket sales and sponsorships could have been worth $29 billion in 2020, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated.

“If we can’t congregate and showcase art and culture — whatever that means — a lot of people aren’t going to get paid,” said Shain Shapiro, the founder and CEO of Sound Diplomacy, which promotes economic development through music and nightlife, and holds global events. “I can understand that when you have to prioritize public health over everything else, then music, art and culture are the first things to go. We’re seeing we’re not a priority right now and I understand.”

Some audiences can still enjoy art on screens. But the jobs associated with live, face-to-face entertainment are already drying up. When South by Southwest was cancelled, a third of its staff was laid off. Ten thousand union members of San Francisco’s entertainment and hospitality industry have been laid off, the San Francisco Labor Council told Time journalist Alana Semuels.

“The impact on workers across the entertainment industry is unfathomable at this time,” said Laura Penn, executive director of the Stage Director and Choreographer’s Union, in a statement. The union represents 3,000 theater workers across the country. (Disclosure: The reporter’s mother is the executive board president of SDC.) Since those workers are primarily freelancers, they “rely on stable ecosystems of employers to make their lives work,” Penn continued. SDC’s immediate concern is keeping coverage for those who lose health insurance along with steady employment. “Many more needs will emerge as we begin to grasp the full measure of this crisis, but right now it’s health insurance.”

Since so many workers in the entertainment industry string freelance gigs together instead of working for one employer year-round, closed shows mean both lost wages and gaps in health insurance coverage. The president and executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists called on federal, state and local governments to offer relief packages to artists around the country, few of whom would benefit from the payroll tax cut proposed by President Donald Trump. The coronavirus emergency aid package, approved by the House on March 14, would be more expansive for those who aren’t on company payrolls, offering two weeks paid sick leave, and increased unemployment benefit support.

“[I]t appears inevitable that many of our companies will be forced to close for an unforeseen amount of time in order to combat COVID-19,” wrote American Guild of Musical Artists in a statement. “This measure, while drastic, will undoubtedly help our nation combat the virus. But we cannot lose sight of the human cost.”

Performers and entertainers of all kinds are finding their livelihoods threatened. Paula Zimmerman is a Manhattan-based psychic — she makes a living doing palm and tarot card readings at parties and in private consultations. “January and February are usually my slow times, so I’ve already been behind on my rent,” she said. “It usually picks up when the weather starts to get warmer, but nobody is hiring now.”

The events she was supposed to work at are canceled or not scheduled at all. And at 71, Zimmerman is at a higher risk for catching a more serious case of Covid-19 herself; she understands that entering people’s homes ups her chances of getting sick, too. But she’s also struggling to pay the bills. Every month this continues, she expects to lose about $1,200 in income. For now, she’s been withholding her rent in case she needs cash for a medical emergency. Luckily, her landlord hasn’t bothered her for a check yet, so she can save while still paying for things she can’t go without: her medication, and the agency fee that connects her with jobs, and her cable and electricity payments.

Chris Griswold, who moved to Oakland in September to teach improv comedy in the Bay Area, is self-employed and doesn’t have a union to negotiate for him. Griswold has lived through disasters before: When Hurricane Sandy hit in New York, he was working at Trader Joe’s, which covered his pay for the week the store was closed. “I’m kind of missing having an employer like that right now,” he said.

As Griswold postpones classes and cancels performances, he worries that — depending on how long the state of emergency lasts — the city’s grassroots and institutional arts scenes will be seriously deflated. “A lot of performance organizations are shutting down,” he said. “Nailing boards over the windows, metaphorically, until this shadow passes over humanity.”

Griswold’s fears speak to a broader concern: That even after the moratoriums or immediate emergency measures end, the fabric of local arts scenes may be permanently damaged. “Small groups — string quartets, neighborhood dance schools, shoestring theater companies — operate on the thinnest of margins. Some will likely disappear,” wrote Justin Davidson in Vulture. “Audiences who are kept away for an extended period lose the habit and may not come back.”

Emery Schaffer, a playwright and producer in New York City, had to cancel future performances of her play A My Name Is Allison, which opened this March, and another short play as part of a series at the Brunch Theatre. She had paid the team for Allison upfront, so they’re not losing wages due to lost ticket sales, but worries that The Tank, the independent theater that was hosting it, might not survive the blow. She’s encouraging people who refund their tickets to donate the proceeds back, and is hopeful that once this all blows over, the production will be able to run in the future. After graduating from NYU a few years ago, these were the first plays of hers to premiere.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll get to do it again, but obviously that’s not the same for a lot of other people, and it’s a huge bummer,” she said. “Every time I open my phone, someone else’s dreams are crushed.”

Shapiro, who’s based in the U.K. and has been placed in mandatory isolation after a coworker tested positive for Covid-19, has a slightly more optimistic view — that the coronavirus blackouts will reinforce the importance of art in an increasingly distanced world.

“This may force us to really rethink why we do what we do and how we do what we do,” he said. “The one thing that I believe and I hope — as a human being and as someone whose life is made sense through music and culture — is that this will promote a different kind of localism, and get them to recognize the impact and value that local artists, whatever the discipline, play in their life.”

When it comes time for cities of all sizes to rebuild their cultural infrastructure, Shapiro says federal government incentive programs such as Opportunity Zones and Tax-Increment Financing should have clearer mandates to help support arts projects. “It’s so hard to access [that] financing for anything that’s not in the tens of millions,” he said, by way of example. “Why can’t you argue the economic benefit of something in 10 years’ time if it’s a recording studio or a dance company?”

Schaffer, whose other stream of income comes from nannying, has gone home to Philadelphia to be with her parents. Even while isolated from New York’s theater community, she’s inspired by the calls for virtual collaboration she’s seeing on Facebook — people in her network are swapping contact info via Google Doc to share their writing, and doing readings of scripts over Zoom.

“[It] really shows how strong the artist community really is, and how we want to do things even if we can’t,” she said. “It just shows the resilience of people who do this. It’s pretty amazing.”

Last week, to help bring in a little income, Zimmerman started doing socially distanced psychic readings: She’ll tell you your future remotely, charging $7 for an email message or $10 for a phone call.

“I hate to demean myself like that financially,” she said. “But I think a lot of people will have to start doing that: settle for less because of the circumstances.”

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What the Gentrification of Baltimore’s Chinatown Means

The remains of Baltimore’s once-thriving Chinatown are now so sparse that most who venture into the city might not realize it’s there. All but one Chinese restaurant along Park Avenue, the historic core of Chinatown, have closed, leaving behind deteriorating facades with the Eastern-architectural touches that have become synonymous with Chinatowns worldwide.

Yet after several decades of neglect, a renewed vibrancy has emerged: Many of the ornate facades have been supplemented with Ethiopian flags and Amharic lettering on storefront windows. A row of abandoned buildings is enveloped by a large mural of a Chinese dragon and an Ethiopian lion, signifying the neighborhood’s past and present communities. Over the course of a . “The Night Market proved that there could be something there that is more permanent.”

In January, the Collective made an agreement with an group of non-Asian developers who are planning a $30 million redevelopment of Chinatown. One of the developers, Vitruvius Co., plans to build an 80,000-square-foot apartment building on a vacant lot in the 400 block of Park Avenue, and with partners, has purchased nearby properties, some with existing historical buildings, for future projects. While a low-income housing shortage has led the state and city to commit to adding affordable units in Baltimore’s downtown, most of the units at the Vitruvius building will be market rate, with only 10 percent earmarked for affordable housing.

The Chinatown Collective’s partnership with the developers has drawn criticism from some who view the collaboration as an attempt to use the Chinatown brand as an engine of displacement, since, as part of its relationship with the developers, the Collective will consult on the design of the complex’s street-level shops and restaurants, ensuring that they hew to the neighborhood’s historical character.

“The ‘rebuilding’ of a Baltimore Chinatown would be an artificial attempt to conjure up some Orientalist exotic and Disneyfied fragment of what a true Chinatown community is,” said Andrew Leong, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who studies urban Chinatowns. As he views it, any attempt to rebuild Chinatown is inherently exclusionary of the Ethiopian community that currently exists. “The best way to honor what was Baltimore Chinatown is to allow for the growth, nurture, and protection of the current Ethiopian community. While there might remain certain markers of an earlier community, there might be now a new community that is worthy of fighting for its own existence.”

Stephanie Hsu, an organizer with the Chinatown Collective, doesn’t believe that the developments are negating the Ethiopian community’s claim to the space. She says that the ethnic transition of the area is in keeping with the history of Chinatowns: “The legacy of Chinatown is that they make space for more immigrant communities. We don’t like to say that Chinatown is dying or needs to be revitalized; there is very much an exciting commerce community that exists right now. Our effort to highlight the history of the space is by no means a statement of erasure of the community that exists there now.”

As to the Collective’s work with the developers, Hsu refused to define the relationship as consulting, saying that their role is only to ensure the project is in keeping with the Chinatown legacy. “We are not consulting. Consulting work would be if we got paid. What we are trying to do is find businesses that are culturally appropriate with the area.”

But Hsu also hopes that the Collective’s work will help to expand conversations about race in Baltimore. “The way we think about our place and our work here is largely in relation to the city: What does it mean to be not black and not white in a city that sees race in a very binary way?” she said. “I think it’s important to say that the conversations we hope to have are ones that … would add to the conversation and not detract from [it]. When we think about our future work in the city, what we are really thinking about is the sense of belonging, a sense of legacy in picking up where our elders left off.”

Since the development plans were announced, some of the Ethiopian business owners are feeling uneasy. Teklu is unsure how long his grocery store will be able to last. “When before, I first opened my store, the rent was $1,000; now it’s $1,200. Now I even hear that my landlord might sell the building.”

Yonis, a 29-year-old Ethiopian who owns a hookah lounge on Park Avenue, immigrated to Baltimore with his family when he was 16. He says he is proud of how the neighborhood has transformed in the past few years from a virtual ghost town to what it is today. However, Yonis can’t help but resent the recent development plans because as he sees it, it was his community that revived the neighborhood first. “Back in 2009, there was nothing here. You could not even walk out at night. We came through and opened businesses and fixed houses. So, I don’t know, but maybe now when they see what we have done they want to take it back and rebuild again.”

Councilman Eric Costello, who represents the Baltimore district that includes Chinatown, downplayed the worries about gentrification expressed by Ethiopian business owners, telling CityLab: “I can’t speak to that. There have been a number of Ethiopian business owners who have done some exciting things and I’m supportive of revitalizing the area. I’m going to be supportive of Ethiopian folks who are doing the work that they are doing and I’m also supportive of the work of the Chinatown Collective.”   

When asked whether he was concerned that the project includes so few affordable housing units, Costello replied: “It doesn’t concern me at all, considering there is a plethora of affordable housing that has been recently delivered or is in the hopper in that larger geographic area. We need mixed-income communities and that’s what we’re building in downtown’s west side.”

To critics, the entire redevelopment seems like an overt attempt to cash in on the Chinatown “experience.“ “The problem here is that Chinatown is being monetized for primarily affluent whites who want the authentic experience, and it’s a faux experience,” said Banks. “Most of the old buildings have been destroyed. God knows what they’re going to build, some kind of fake stuff, like a Chinatown gate?”

As Leong describes it: “Let’s string Chinese lanterns all over the street, and dragons to adorn the mailroom, and don’t forget the elevators could now have floor numbers in English and Chinese … how quaint and cultural. That will bring in all the hipsters and empty nesters since they, too, now can say that they are so cool that they are living in Chinatown.”

The gentrification happening in Baltimore’s Chinatown is not unique. Chinatowns across the country are under pressure from developers who exploit such neighborhoods’ rich cultural history as a marketing strategy, often resulting in the loss of either old or new communities. Yet, historians say, community support and strength were the elements that made Chinatowns so important in the fight against legalized anti-Asian racism and discrimination, and in the maintenance of Chinese immigrants’ beleaguered cultural heritage.

“The bottom line is that most gentrification battles taking place either in Chinatowns across the U.S. or other ethnic communities pits the developers, city hall, and gentrifiers on one side against the rights of those occupying that same space currently,” said Leong. “Food and music alone will not substitute for what was lost. Those two things are only superficial markers, since a true community speaks of and is defined by membership, belonging, and cultural celebration in all its forms.”

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What the ‘Battle of Seattle’ Means 20 Years Later

When Seattle police began tear-gassing peaceful protesters on November 30, 1999, John Sellers was supposed to be in jail.

A day earlier, he had rappelled off a crane to hang a giant banner emblazoned with two one-way street signs. One was labeled “WTO” and the other “Democracy,” with their arrows pointing in opposite directions.

Protestors hang a flag from a construction crane in downtown Seattle in protest of the 1999 World Trade Organization conference. (Reuters)

He was visiting Seattle that week as a member of the Ruckus Society, a Portland-based group specializing in high-profile “direct action” that calls attention to environmental and economic injustice. The focus of the group’s attention was the World Trade Organization, whose delegates were set to meet at the Washington State Convention Center to kick off global trade negotiations for the new millennium.

The delegates were met by an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 protesters who feared the ill effects of globalization—a coalition including environmentalists, labor unions, indigenous groups, international NGOs, and students. It was a nonviolent protest that blocked entrances to the convention center, but when the Seattle Police Department deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, a violent melee broke out downtown. Anarchist groups seized on the chaos to destroy cars and smash windows, causing an estimated $20 million in property damage and lost sales in the city.

The event became known as the Battle of Seattle, and while it was hardly the first activist effort to take on globalization, its scale and impact marked a defining moment in the evolution of activist tactics and law enforcement’s response. The mass street protests successfully shut down the WTO meeting and stalled trade talks that were criticized as detrimental to the developing world. An event that was supposed to mark Seattle’s arrival on the world stage instead became a cri de coeur for the global justice movement.

“Seattle saw the emergence of a new form of, and frame for, protest,” says York University sociologist Lesley Wood, author of Direct Action, Deliberation, and Diffusion: Collective Action After the WTO Protests in Seattle. “It marked a generation of political activism, and because it was successful in the actual shutting down of the meeting—which doesn’t happen that often—the story went viral pre-social media.”

Sellers was arrested for his crane stunt, as he expected. What he didn’t expect was for police to release him, a protest organizer, on the eve of a major international event—one that was bringing President Bill Clinton to town. But the Ruckus Society had previously left a credit card with a bailbondswoman just in case, and much to his surprise, he was allowed to post bail.

“I couldn’t believe they let us out of jail the night before the WTO. They had us,” Sellers recounted last week at a 20th anniversary panel discussion in Seattle hosted by the Northwest news outlet Crosscut.

Out on bail, Sellers absorbed the fleeting carefree hours as tens of thousands of people thronged the streets before the violence on N30, as the last day of November became known in protest parlance. He watched as Teamsters square danced with environmentalists in sea turtle costumes, college students boogied down to late-’90s rave music, and Infernal Noise Brigade sparked a generation of radical marching bands.

Two women protest the WTO’s environmental impact on the global ecology in downtown Seattle, November 29, 1999. (Reuters)

“It was the best protest party I’ve ever been to,” Sellers said. Following relatively milquetoast social movements in the ’80s and early ’90s, Wood said the WTO protests marked a moment when organizers realized that “protest doesn’t have to be boring anymore.”

A street party was not what Washington Governor Gary Locke and Seattle Mayor Paul Schell had in mind. Earlier that year, they were tickled when the White House had selected Seattle to host an event whose first two rounds had taken place in two alpha global cities, Singapore and Geneva. Washington state likes to tout itself as the most trade-dependent state in the nation and civic leaders thought Seattle was a poster child for free trade. “Choosing Seattle was a huge strategic error,” said Sellers, recalling the post-grunge city as a hotbed of political radicalism and a stronghold of the labor movement.

Releasing Sellers was just one of many errors the Seattle Police Department made during the event. They allowed the protesters to block intersections at the front door of the convention center, and then used heavy-handed riot police tactics to disperse them. Big-city police have since learned from the Seattle Police Department’s failures 20 years ago: It’s a big reason why protesters today are quarantined in “free speech zones” miles away from their targeted event.

Seattle riot police ride an armored vehicle through downtown streets during the November 29, 1999, protest. (Reuters)

If police learned from their counterparts in Seattle, protesters did too. The 1999 WTO protests loom large in the activist imagination. Tactics deployed in Seattle spread through nascent online listservs and message boards, leading to the global proliferation of now standard urban protest practices, including carnivalesque costumes and floats, on-site real-time media, and bodies-on-the-line direct action, as well as more controversial components like black bloc anarchists. While the black bloc tactic traces its roots to West Germany in the 1980s, the bandana-obscuring-the-face anarchist gained mainstream attention with media coverage of the WTO protests. Today the black bloc has resurged in antifa groups fighting the far right.

Conversely, activists can thank the global justice movement for pioneering the organization of simultaneous worldwide events. When this year’s Global Climate Strike in September saw some 4 million people in 4,500 cities and towns demand action to address the climate crisis, organizers were building on a legacy that began with solidarity protests in the late 1990s. According to Wood’s research, there were protests in 54 cities in June 1999 against the G8 meeting in Cologne; activists took to the streets in 97 cities in November 1999 against the WTO.

One of the more mundane but enduring aspects of the WTO protests was their democratic organizing techniques. “The Occupy movement and the Indiganados in Barcelona inherited a lot, from spokescouncils to general assemblies,” Wood says. To this day, the Movement for Black Lives and radical environmentalists continue to use spokescouncils to efficiently find consensus among large groups.

Central to the whole event, of course, were the issues of trade and globalization. Twenty years later, these issues play a leading role in national and geopolitical affairs, in ways that don’t break down neatly along traditional party lines and don’t seem to have a clear trajectory going forward. That wasn’t the case in 1999, Wood says: “Trade agreements were accelerating and there was a sense that the WTO was going to incorporate the whole planet” into a global trade deal.

Protesters put on gas masks as riot police moved in to clear a downtown intersection in Seattle on November 30, 1999. (Reuters)

But she credits the protests with empowering delegates from developing countries to walk away from a deal on agriculture that the U.S. and EU were foisting upon them. “The stakes were very high because at that point countries from the global south and NGOs felt like it was a done deal and there was no way to stop it,” she says.

Even if free trade remains a central issue in the political arena, today’s protest movements have become more insular than they were 20 years ago. Instead of targeting global institutions, there’s more focus on national issues. As a result, activists are arguably less connected today than they were in 1999. Rather than coordinating action through international networks, there’s a greater focus on sharing tactics. “Chileans apparently learned from Hong Kongers that you can use laser pointers to take down drones,” Wood says.

In Seattle, global solidarity hasn’t disappeared. On Black Friday, the eve of N30’s 20th anniversary, the Puget Sound Anarchists are calling for a one-day fare strike to protest the rising cost of living in Seattle. While public transit might seem like an odd target in “America’s bus-lovingest town,” the organizers cite the turnstile-jumping Chilean high school students as their inspiration. They also extol a list of recent social unrest, from France to Hong Kong to Ecuador to Haiti.

The world might be a different place two decades later—Seattle certainly is—but echoes of the WTO protests can be heard all over.

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What Early-Career Income Volatility Means for Your Middle-Aged Brain

You’re allowed to be a bit of a mess in your 20s, right? You thought it would be character-building to chase your dream of being a musician and pick up catering work to make ends meet. Or maybe you came of age during a recession and couldn’t find a steady job after getting laid off in your early 30s. Well, the bad news is that in addition to the hits your wallet took, by the time you reach middle age, the income volatility you experienced might have created negative consequences for your brain health.  

A new study published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, finds a correlation between an unstable income in your 20s and 30s and brain integrity in midlife.

Researchers at the University of Bordeaux; University of California, San Francisco; University of Miami; University College London; and Columbia University, found that greater income volatility and income drops, defined by the authors as decreases in income of 25 percent or more, were associated with worse performance in processing speed and executive functioning in midlife, as well as worse micro-structural integrity of total brain and total white matter. White matter coordinates communication between different brain regions and affects learning and other brain functions.

This, of course has ramifications far beyond the middle-class college grads who spend their early years “finding themselves.” Racism, educational opportunity, and regional economic depressions contribute heavily to income volatility for young working people.

The study drew subjects from four cities: Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oakland, California. Over the period assessed—1990 to 2010—these cities generally had a high unemployment rate, averaging about 22 percent, compared to the national average of 3.6 percent, according to data from DataUSA.io. For 2019, the average minimum wage across the four cities is about $12 per hour, as per numbers pulled from the Economic Policy Institute’s minimum wage tracker.

Researchers collected income data from 3,287 black and white people of varied educational backgrounds (no other races or ethnicities were measured) who were age 18 to 30 when the study began. They are still tracking the participants who are all now in late midlife, making this one of few studies in the world that has measured nearly 30 years of repeated income information on a sample of the American population. A total of 1,780 (about 54 percent) participants did not have an income drop, while 1,108 (about 38 percent) had one drop of 25 percent or more from the previous reported income, and 399 (about 12 percent) had two or more income drops.

“By studying the sample over many years, we’re able to understand the life course,” said one of the authors on the study, Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology, and epidemiology at UCSF. “We didn’t just want to look at people as a snapshot later in life.”

The brain health and functioning of the participants in the study were not measured when the study began in 1990, so it cannot be ruled out that low cognitive functioning might be a cause of income fluctuations for the subjects. But the study notes: “All findings were similar when restricted to those with high education, suggesting reverse causation may not explain these findings.”

It is well-documented that low socio-economic status has negative health consequences, like higher risk of dementia and cognitive problems. This study posits that the effects of income volatility early in life, which can have a measured outcome on brain functioning in midlife, present a growing health threat in the U.S., where more than a third of households experienced a 25 percent or more change in income between 2014 and 2015, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

As Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, study author and an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told CityLab via email: “Cognitive impairment, decline, and ultimately dementia are public health priorities with tremendous health care costs.” And income volatility is likely to get worse as a quarter of American jobs will face high exposure to automation in the coming decades, according to a recent Brookings Institution report.

The Pew study also found that American families crave stability even more than upward mobility. As the 2020 presidential election draws near, candidates are attempting to address income inequality and income volatility in their platforms.

Democratic candidate Andrew Yang has been promising a Universal Basic Income (UBI) that guarantees a certain amount of money to every citizen without the rigamarole of passing tests, fulfilling work requirements, or dealing with bureaucracy. And to address income inequality, senator and candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed an “ultra-millionaire tax plan” that aims to tax the richest households in a country where the top 1 percent of individuals hold 29 percent of the wealth, with plans to put the money generated towards universal healthcare and free college education.

Volatility has effects on the economy at large, according to a report by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, because consumption of goods like food and clothing drops after workers lose their jobs. National health spending is projected to rise to almost a 20 percent share of the economy by 2025, thus making the relationship between something like brain health and income instability a bit of a vicious cycle.

“To me, it’s just another example that economic disadvantages have very far-flung consequences, including things we don’t think about, like the health of your brain,” said Yaffe.

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