Lloyd Dixon and Noreen Clancy for the RAND Corporation: Even though the full extent of Hurricane Harvey's devastating impact is still becoming apparent, one thing is for certain: Thousands of Houston-area homeowners will face massive, uninsured losses due to flood damage. It is likely that only 25 to 45 percent of the flooded one- to four-family homes had flood coverage, though precise figures for Houston are not yet available ...
There are multiple reasons why homeowners do not buy flood insurance voluntarily. Research has shown that people tend to ignore low-probability risks. People may also expect government assistance. And, some people think that they have flood insurance when they do not. Our recent work in New York City found that 16 percent of homeowners who thought they had flood insurance actually did not — and that is in an area that recently experienced massive flooding. Finally, some households may find it difficult to afford flood insurance. We found that flood insurance is financially burdensome for a quarter of homeowners in the high-risk flood zones in New York City. ...
With this in mind, what can be done if policymakers want to increase the number of households with flood insurance? We would argue that in that case, the most effective strategy would be to extend the mandatory purchase requirement, perhaps expanding the requirement to all homes in the high-risk flood zones, regardless of mortgage. Policymakers also could consider extending the mandatory purchase requirement to the 500-year flood zone, perhaps with lower requirement on the amount of coverage that needs to be purchased. We've seen catastrophic flooding outside the high-risk flood zones in Houston again and again, a problem that likely will only increase in coastal areas as sea levels rise, land subsides in coastal Louisiana and Texas, and development weakens natural protections against flooding.
Rural America looks for upward mobility
Fred Dews for the Brookings Institution: There are some clear differences between high-mobility [rural] counties and those that might be considered "mobility traps" in terms of education, work experience, family stability and out-migration. Rural counties in the Southeast tend to have much lower upward mobility scores than those in the Great Plains, which generally perform quite well. These regional differences might be explained by disparities in things such as investments in primary education and patterns of family structure we witness at the county level.
The counties that exhibit the highest rates of upward mobility share many features. In particular, K-12 educational quality and family structure are strongly associated with upward mobility in rural areas, even more so than across all counties.
Though many of these metrics are merely descriptive, their relationship is compelling and reveals how some counties are successfully preparing young residents for success in adulthood.
Don't punch tickets for re-regulation, President Trump
Ian Adams for the R Street Institute: Congress was able to achieve ... substantial railroad deregulation with the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which eliminated costly rate controls and regulatory review processes that needlessly drove prices upward.
The law was an important step to ensure that privately operated railroads could sustain themselves in a competitive manner. In fact, in the decade following the law's passage, the rail industry was able to cut its costs and prices by half. By some estimates, shipping rates have dropped 51 percent since reforms went into effect.
But that could change. Shipping interests who are reliant on moving their goods by rail are seeking a rule that would force railroads to lend their tracks to other railroads. This so-called "reciprocal switching" rule is based on a pair of faulty assumptions.
The first incorrect assumption is that rail lines are public property and should be treated the same as roads. They aren't, and they shouldn't be. For the most part, rail lines are owned by private companies. The second bad assumption is that railroads can't coordinate use of each other's rail lines on their own, even though they do it all the time.
President Trump hasn't made public his choices for the two Surface Transportation Board seats that are set to be filled. It is vital that new members of the board, whoever they may be, understand that a reciprocal switching rule would effectively re-regulate our nation's rails. It is up to the Senate to ensure the nominees understand not only the details of the Staggers Act, but also its intent: to keep U.S. rails free and competitive.
Compiled by Joseph Lawler from reports published by the various think tanks.