TIME Money

How the Sharing Economy Is Hurting Millennials

car-piggy-bank-top-driving
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Millennials are having to cope with an economy that is not delivering high-quality jobs

Coming of age in the wake of the Great Recession, the Millennial generation has had to accept an uncertain economic landscape as their new normal. One critical adjustment they’ve made is to enthusiastically embrace the upsides of the share economy. While their parents helped Craigslist and eBay become household names, today’s youth rely on crowdsourcing and funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Their collaborative ethos promotes a peer-to-peer approach that can cut out the broker and benefit both provider and consumer in the process.

By taking advantage of their collective connectivity, this generation shares information openly and at scale to (among other things) make best use of the excess capacity of goods and services. Examples of this approach are everywhere. Why buy a car—and pay money for a parking space— if you live in a pedestrian city where the vehicle will sit idle most days anyway? Instead, you can join Zipcar when you need wheels or use the Uber or Lyft app on your phone to get a ride across town. With so many shared resources, it makes sense to cooperate with others, especially if it means having access to assets that one wouldn’t be able to afford independently.

But as these economic arrangements gain popularity, there may be downsides for the rising cohort of young adults. Journalist Monica Potts offers a critical assessment of the “sharing economy” in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly that features a set of in-depth articles that focus on the relationship of Millennials and money (additional contributions are made by Phil Longman, Matt Connolly, and Jordan Fraade). Potts shows how Millennials have been creating virtues of necessity as a means of coping with an economy that is not delivering high-quality jobs.

Instead of following in the footsteps of their parents who married, bought homes, and had kids, Millennials are renting everything from homes to bikes, phones, and software, signifying a cultural shift that is radically altering their relationship to ownership. Instead of opting for the suburbs, Millennials are remaking the urban core of cities across the country, demanding improved transportation, more walkability, and better integration of technology into public services in order to benefit the collective rather than the individual. Some of these arrangements make sense over the long term, especially when the underlying assets are depreciating, but it also means that Millennials are missing out on recouping the gains from owning appreciating assets.

If we look at the balance sheet of young Millennials, and even Gen-Xers, we see declining incomes and lower levels of wealth, not merely vis a vis the rich, but compared to previous generations of Americans. In his piece, Phil Longman presents this as an emerging and consequential expression of inequality, arguing that perceptions of growing disparities might be best understood in generational terms. Rather than focusing on how exceedingly well the 1% is doing, it’s more instructive to recognize the decline of every generation of young adults born after the Boomers. In so much as the rise of the share economy is delaying a generational wealth-accumulating process, it is contributing to the pervasive downward mobility experienced by the Millennial generation. If people feel as though it is harder to get ahead than it used to be, it’s because it’s true.

One way that young people have traditionally been able to build up the assets side of their balance sheets is through entrepreneurship. However, Matt Connolly describes how Millennials are starting fewer businesses in recent years even as a seemingly endless wave of aspiring young Mark Zuckerbergs report in surveys and in the media that they want to do so. Without steady jobs, many of these young entrepreneurs take on temporary work, in effect creating a “Gig Economy,” characterized by a small, and less powerful, form of entrepreneurship that ends up supporting one job at a time and fails to spark the benefits we traditionally associate with small business creation.

Another impact of the Great Recession has been the delayed entry of young families into the economy as homeowners. Without savings to cover a down payment or the ability to qualify for a mortgage, Millennials are lagging behind previous cohorts in their rate of homeownership. Jordan Fraade sheds light on an innovative response, shared equity homeownership, which is gaining momentum in communities across the country. In shared-equity housing, the buyer gets a one-time subsidy that allows them to purchase a home that they would not be able to afford otherwise and in exchange, they are required to share the accumulated equity upon resale. This approach still offers the potential for wealth building but also provides access and stability for a generation desperately in need of both.

Shared-equity homeownership is just one example of the innovative policy solutions that we will need more of if we are to help the current crop of young families make the move up the economic ladder. Reversing their growing generational inequality is the new Millennial challenge and it will require a broad set of policies that can deal effectively with the numerous ways that inequality has expanded and grown more entrenched. Certainly, one set of policies should focus on limiting debt and bringing down the costs of accessing education and health care so liabilities don’t overwhelm the family balance sheet. But another set of policies is needed to assist young adults in building up their asset base over their life course and connecting them to productive ownership opportunities. It is our collective responsibility to make sure the emerging “share economy” doesn’t leave Millennials completely devoid of wealth.

Reid Cramer is director of the Asset Building Program at New America. He was a convener of the Millennials Rising symposium, which helped inform the articles described in this piece. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine,The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China-Backed Development Bank Holds Signing Ceremony in Beijing

China-led AIIB members ink accord for its inception by year's end
AP—Kyodo Delegates from more than 50 countries gathered to sign the articles of agreement that specifies the new lender's initial capital and other details of its structure.

Conspicuously absent from the ceremony was the U.S., which declined to join the bank

Delegates from 57 founding member states gathered in Beijing on Monday to finalize and ratify the terms of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the China-backed multilateral development bank seen by some as a strategic rival to the World Bank and similar international financial institutions.

The signing ceremony comes eight months after Beijing officially launched AIIB, which intends to “focus on the development of infrastructure and other productive sectors in Asia” and “promote interconnectivity and economic integration in the region,” according to its mission statement. It will begin with a $50 billion capital base, the BBC reports.

Of its founding members — which include Australia, Russia and Germany — China will be the largest shareholder, with 25% to 30% of all votes. Conspicuously absent from the roster is the U.S., which in October expressed concern over the bank proposal’s “ambiguous nature.” While World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has praised the new institution, citing the “massive need” for fresh investments in Asia, some critics see its establishment as a self-serving exercise in Chinese soft power.

TIME Netherlands

This Dutch City Plans to Give Residents a Universal ‘Basic Income’

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ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN—AFP/Getty Images A man cycles past a cafe displaying Tour de France items for sale, ahead of the upcoming Tour de France cycling race, in downtown Utrecht on June 23, 2015.

Residents will receive money to cover living expenses with no strings attached

A city in the Netherlands is planning a large-scale experiment to see what happens when a society sets a standard, baseline income for all its citizens.

Utrecht is partnering with a local university to provide residents with a “basic income,” which is enough to cover living costs, The Independent reports. The idea is to see whether citizens dedicate more time to volunteering, studying and other forms of self and community improvement when they don’t have to worry about earning money to survive. People who participate in the experiment won’t have any restrictions placed on how they choose to spend the money they receive.

During the experiment, researchers and city officials will study the people who are offered a basic income as well as a control group who continues earning money in the traditional way. Utrecht officials hope to launch the experiment this summer and are in talks with other cities to expand the experiment to other locations as well.

[The Independent]

MONEY Shopping

The Latest Sign That The Economy Is Getting Back on Track

A family uses the self-checkout at the Wal-Mart owned Sam's Club in Bentonville
Rick Wilking—Reuters A family uses the self-checkout at the Wal-Mart owned Sam's Club in Bentonville, Arkansas June 4, 2015.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of US economic activity.

U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May on strong demand for automobiles and other big-ticket items, further evidence that economic growth was gathering momentum in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday consumer spending increased 0.9% last month, the biggest gain since August 2009, after an upwardly revised 0.1% rise in April.

The sturdy increases suggested households were finally spending some of the windfall from lower gasoline prices, and capped a month of solid economic reports.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was previously reported to have been unchanged in April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.7% rise in May.

It was the latest sign that growth was accelerating after gross domestic product shrank at a 0.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter as the economy battled bad weather, port disruptions, a strong dollar and spending cuts in the energy sector.

From employment to the housing market, the economic data in May has been bullish. Even manufacturing, which is struggling with the lingering effects of dollar strength and lower energy prices, also is starting to stabilize.

The firming economy suggests the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates this year even as inflation remains well below the U.S. central bank’s 2 percent target.

Spending on long-lasting goods such as automobiles jumped 2.2 percent last month, while outlays on services like utilities rose 0.3 percent.

When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, the largest jump since last August, after being unchanged in April.

Personal income increased 0.5 percent last month after a similar gain in April. Income is being boosted by a tightening

labor market, which is starting to push up wage growth. With households stepping up spending, the saving rate fell to 5.1 percent from 5.4 percent in April. Still, savings remain at lofty levels.

Inflation pressures remained tame last month despite the acceleration in consumer spending. A price index for consumer spending increased 0.3 percent after being flat in April. In the 12 months through May, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose only 0.2 percent.

Excluding food and energy, prices edged up 0.1 percent after a similar gain in April. The so-called core PCE price index rose 1.2 percent in the 12 months through May, the smallest gain since February 2014.

TIME society

How to Break the Millennial Debt Spiral

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Getty Images

'We need to go beyond financial knowledge'

Finding ways to increase an entire generation’s wealth is a messy business.

That’s probably been the case for decades, but this time around things are even more complicated because millennials—those born between the early 1980’s and early 1990’s—had the unenviable task of coming of age in the wake of the Great Recession. Despite having the distinction of being America’s largest working generation, millennials have been entering one of the worst job markets in recent history while carrying unprecedented levels of debt and are struggling to attain the same levels of wealth achieved by previous generations.

“Financial capability is the opportunity to put knowledge into practice,” noted Dr. Terri Friedline during a recent event at New America, where she spoke with Parker Cohen of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), Sunaena Chhatry of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Vox education reporter Libby Nelson about how millennials could change their financial fortunes for the better.

For Dr. Friedline, the best way to accomplish this is by giving millennials the chance to practice financial decision-making. In her research, she has found that “the combination of having received financial education and being financially included via a savings account” is the most effective way to improve outcomes and help millennials prepare for financial emergencies or work toward long-term purchases. “We see that savings accounts and credit cards perform pretty consistently [as tools for financial experiential learning],” Friedline explained.

The “financial capability as key to stability” argument is certainly an attractive proposal for a generation that has resorted to using the oft-mentioned “sharing economy” as a way of circumventing large expenses and unmanageable debt, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that knowing what an IRA is or having a small amount of savings will solve every financial struggle. Friedline acknowledged this tension by explaining that economic inequality adds enormous complexity to the goal of increasing financial capability because it creates larger burdens for people with lower incomes. When financial emergencies arise, millennials with access to higher incomes and family support are often able to use already-amassed savings to keep themselves afloat while their lower-income peers have to draw upon things like credit cards and payday loans just to get by. The discrepancy between high-income and low-income millennials’ access to resources shouldn’t mean that pursuing financial capability is a less worthy endeavor, but it does point to the need for a conscious effort to address the unique challenges lower-income individuals face in an economy where assets matter.

If financial capability is the gateway to financial well-being for lower-income individuals and families, how can financial knowledge be made accessible to the people that need it most? When asked this question, Cohen identified the education sector as the perfect breeding ground for increasing financial knowledge and opportunity. “That time when a youth is starting to get their first paycheck and make different sorts of financial decisions on their own is an excellent time to get them educated so they make informed decisions,” he noted, highlighting Live the Solution’s AZ Earn to Learn initiative (which supports high school students by using financial education in conjunction with matching funds in order to teach the importance of saving money up for college) and the financial coaching program at New Mexico Community College as examples of how educational institutions could leverage their influence to improve the financial futures of students.

But even the fact that education can be a very important step towards financial stability for lower-income millennials lacking an inherited stockpile of assets is itself a distraction from a paradoxical reality. Going to school isn’t simply a tool for reducing financial insecurity; it is oftentimes the very factor that exacerbates that insecurity.

“One of the things most people don’t realize is that although getting a bachelor’s degree is still a minority experience, going to college is actually an increasingly universal one,” Nelson explained, pointing out that “college is a major financial decision” for students and their families. Less-than-optimal systems of notifying students about their financial aid have only served to make concerns about rapidly accumulating student loans and appropriate borrowing amounts even more confusing, especially when they create scenarios where a student must drop out of school due to insufficient finances.

“I am a financially capable 28-year-old woman, and if someone had told me ‘I am going to give you your salary for the next six months now, good luck with that,’ I hope I would still have something to eat in December, but I don’t really know,” Nelson joked when commenting on the common higher education practice of sending students financial aid notifications only once a semester. She emphasized that finding ways to get financial information to students “at the right time” is an important step in ensuring that millennials can keep their heads above water. She commented that Indiana University came up with a particularly good way of accomplishing this task when it opted to notify students of their cumulative debt through an annual letter. While a letter may not seem like much, Nelson explained that the correspondence gave students a way of monitoring their borrowing and avoid the pitfall of crushing student debt.

Ultimately, the panelists agreed that sustainable solutions to debt will require a complete overhaul of how our society approaches financial education. Dr. Friedline’s report suggests that a universal system of child savings accounts could be a catalyst for vastly improving financial capability if account access were paired with financial education. The panelists were optimistic that building greater financial capability was possible with the right combination of early education and access.

“We need to go beyond financial knowledge,” Chhatry urged. “Young people are developing their understanding of financial matters very early on.”

P.R. Lockhart is an editorial intern at New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME conflict

We’re Remembering Napoleon’s Failure at Waterloo this Week. Here’s Another

Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and Emperor.Artist: Paul Delaroche
Print Collector/Getty Images Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and Emperor. Napoleon (1769-1821) From Harmsworth, History of the World, published in London, 1909.

Unable to defeat Great Britain on the high seas, new research shows that he tried and failed to win by sabotaging Britain’s economy

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Two hundred years ago British, German, and Dutch troops decisively defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. Historians have since studied and written about the great general and the Empire he established and lost. The majority of these studies explored military campaigns to explain Napoleon’s success and failure. In the last twenty years, an international community of historians has explored the nature and structure of the Napoleonic Empire to reveal nuanced perspectives on its supporters and its opponents. This approach helps us better understand why Europeans ultimately united against Bonaparte between 1813 and 1815, and why his Empire began to falter and to disintegrate even before the final military showdown took place at Waterloo.

Examining Napoleon’s Empire, in particular his Continental System, provides insights into the economic warfare that followed in the wake of French conquest and expansion. When Britain and Revolutionary France entered into military conflict in 1793, both states embraced economic warfare, including restricting the trade of neutral states. One year after the failure of the short-lived Peace of Amiens (1802-1803), Britain seized French and Dutch vessels in British ports, proclaimed a blockade of the Elbe and Weser rivers, and extended it to French ports a year later, as France undertook a range of policies to restrict British commerce on the continent. France and Britain alike targeted neutral shipping, which sought to continue trade with both belligerents.

Following the expansion of the Napoleonic Empire economic, warfare spread to the high seas, harbors and marketplaces across Europe and the Atlantic. In 1806 following the defeat of Prussia, the Berlin Decrees formalized Napoleon’s Continental System and generated a new level and intensity of trade disruption, when Bonaparte criminalized trade with Britain and British subjects in French-occupied areas. The British retaliated with their own Orders in Council in January and November 1807 that sought to tighten the blockade of France and its allies, deny French trade with neutrals and prevent Britain’s enemies from trading with their colonies.

As Napoleon gained more territory on the continent, and Britain exerted its muscle on the high seas, the Continental Blockade expanded: Russia, Prussia, Norway-Denmark (following a British invasion and bombardment of Copenhagen), and Portugal (following a French invasion) joined in 1807. Napoleon retaliated to the British Orders in Council with the 1807 Milan Decrees and expanded the blockade of continental ports to include neutral shipping that complied with the British directives. The economic disruption, hardships and declining standard of living caused by the dual blockade engendered widespread hatred of France and Britain. Merchants everywhere condemned their common practice of privateering and disregard of neutrality.

Too weak to win at sea, Napoleon sought to defeat Britain by attacking the vast capital and credit that made possible its sustained mobilization of financial assets for use in the war. Foreign trade financed Britain’s power, and Napoleon sought to damage British financial stability and balance of trade. He tried to reduce the British supply of gold and specie and weaken its credit, so Britain could not subsidize continental warfare against the French. Napoleon’s Continental Blockade was not a conventional naval blockade that endeavored to deprive its enemy of weapons, food and commodities; rather, it sought to deny Britain the financial ability to wage war.

In addition to subduing Britain, the restructuring of the continental trade attempted to establish French industrial and commercial hegemony on the continent. Far from a constructive program for European industrial development and trade under French guidance, the Blockade represented an act of aggression against the continent. Intensified economic warfare altered the character of the Napoleonic conflict since both France and Britain pursed victory at the expense of the continent as both states targeted neutral, conquered, satellite and allied states alike.

The Continental Blockade and System are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct if related in origin. The Blockade was Napoleon’s economic weapon against Britain, whereas the Continental System encompassed the political organization necessary to enforce this Blockade on the continent. For example, Napoleon reorganized the political boundaries on the Italian peninsula to better implement the Blockade, ultimately annexing Tuscany, Parma and Piacenza in 1808 and Rome, Umbria and Lazio in 1809 directly into the Empire. Within a few years, commerce in Mediterranean ports was reduced to short-term coastal shipping.

In 1810 Imperial economic warfare reached a new level following the annexation of the Papal States, Illyrian Provinces, Holland and the north German coast into the Empire and the issue of three new decrees: Saint Cloud, Trianon and Fontainebleau Decrees. Napoleon sought to turn privateering to the advantage of the French Treasury, strengthen the already privileged position of French industry and commerce by raising imperial tariffs, increase the number of customs officials and imperial troops to enforce the Blockade, punish smugglers, and confiscate British goods. Imperial officials burned seized goods with ceremonial pomp in hundreds of towns and cities in the last months of 1810 and first months of 1811, creating a customs terror.

An overview of continental Europe reveals that Britain’s opponents and France’s satellites–Holland for example–suffered the most economic disruption. Relentless commercial warfare with virtually no recognition of neutral commercial rights meant that neutral states saw their peoples and economies become pawns in the great power conflict. Blocked from legitimate trade with Britain and colonial markets, such entrepôts as Amsterdam and Hamburg faced commercial, industrial and financial decline. The full impact of the Continental System, therefore, included the costs of imperial occupation, which ultimately discredited the French regime. By 1813 impoverishment brought on by economic warfare and exploitation generated an ever-growing anti-French sentiment that erupted in a range of riots, desertions from the Grand Armée, and even revolt in northern German states and across destitute western Holland. Burning custom houses and targeting toll collectors underscored the source of local grievances and popular hostility toward the Empire. The impoverishment attributed to Continental System provided anti-Napoleonic propaganda with examples of Gallic oppression and exploitation that resonated throughout Europe.

New research on daily life under French rule illustrates the hardships associated with economic warfare, the growth of illegal trade and new merchant networks, and tensions with neutral states generated by the Anglo-French conflict to reveal the contradictions inherent in the Napoleonic Empire–at once rational and progressive, but also coercive and exploitative. Transnational, regional and urban examples underscore the vulnerability and ingenuity of Europeans as they faced transformative social and economic challenges. The difficult years of economic warfare and new commercial networks and practices predisposed Europeans to openly associate peace with trade and prosperity and offered contemporary experience to support Adam Smith’s moral vision of free trade that emphasized a benign spirit of commerce and the interdependency between peace and prosperity that would reduce conflict. In the end, however, the British Empire emerged as the winner of the Anglo-French contest, positioning Britain as the preeminent global power throughout the nineteenth century. For this reason alone, it is not surprising that the British celebrate Waterloo as their own hard-won victory: one that resonated and ultimately marked new towns and city squares across its growing Empire.

Katherine B. Aaslestad is Professor of History at West Virgnia University and has published widely on the Napoleonic era, in particular its ramifications in German Central Europe. She recently co-edited Revisiting Napoleon’s Continental System: Local, Regional, and European Experiences with Johan Joor, released by Palgrave in November 2014. Just published: “Serious Work for a New Europe: The Congress of Vienna after Two Hundred Years” in ​Central European History (Vol. 48 Issue 02, June 2015), pp. 225-237.

TIME Money

What Happened When the U.S. Decided to Put a Woman on Currency in 1978

Portrait Of Susan B. Anthony
GraphicaArtis / Getty Images Profile portrait identified as Susan B Anthony in her 30s by SouthworthHawes (Albert Sands Southworth 1811-1894 and Josiah Johnson Hawes 1808-1901, American) (from a daguerreotype in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), c 1850.

There were lots of suggestions for who it should be, but the end result was a disappointment

The U.S. Treasury Department has announced that an upcoming redesign of the $10 bill, which features the likeness of Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury, should include the image of a woman. In a statement, the Treasury said it should specifically feature one “who was a champion for our inclusive democracy.” The note would be unveiled in 2020, a century after women were given the right to vote. But in the mean time, the Treasury is asking Americans to voice their opinions about the change on social media.

This won’t be the first time the Treasury decided it would be a good time to make the nation’s currency a little less male. As TIME reported in 1978:

Susan B. Anthony, the celebrated suffragist (1820-1906), is the front runner, but Amelia Earhart is closing fast, well ahead of Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt. Harriet Tubman, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Fanny Farmer, Grandma Moses. Martha Mitchell, Sara Lee, Anita Bryant. Shirley Temple and Whistler’s Mother. All are candidates in a campaign to put a woman’s face on a dollar coin that the Government plans to issue, probably in mid-1979. Since word became known of the plan, the Treasury has been receiving 700 to 800 nominations a day.

The Treasury’s official suggestion, meanwhile, steered away from historical women. The Statue of Liberty was their pick. (Which didn’t go over well: “We have real birds and real buffalo on our coins; it’s time we had a real woman,” said Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado congresswoman.) It was expected that the chosen face would be one that Americans would get very used to seeing. The new coin worked in vending machines! It didn’t fall apart! If you kept it in your pocket in the laundry, no big deal! Plus, its unique shape would be a help for the vision-impaired.

A year later, however, it was clear that those hopes were misplaced. More than 750 million of the coins had been minted, but only about a third were in circulation. Congress had acted to make sure that introducing the coin didn’t mean phasing out bills, and the public didn’t seem interested in making the switch voluntarily, especially because many felt that the coin was too easily confused for a quarter.

It wasn’t in production for very long—minting was “postponed” in August of 1980—but it did go through a brief resurgence in 1999, when it was reissued for a little while in order to meet demand as vending-machine change in the time between depletion of reserves and the issuance the following year of the Sacagawea coin, which has stuck around but similarly failed to inspire the nation to put away their notes.

Now, however, it looks ever like those who want to see a woman on currency won’t have to ditch their billfolds.

Read all about the 1979 decision to put Anthony on the dollar coin, here in the TIME Vault: Numismatic Ms.

TIME Economy

Asia Now Has More Millionaires Than the U.S.

HONG KONG-ECONOMY-PROPERTY
Alex Ogle—‚AFP/Getty Images This long exposure picture shows apartment buildings and office blocks clustered tightly together in Hong Kong's Kowloon district, with the famous skyline of Hong Kong island in the background, on October 28, 2013.

The one percent are eastward bound

The population of newly minted millionaires across Asian-Pacific nations has swelled to 4.69 million, bringing the grand total a hair above North America’s millionaires club, according to a new survey of the world’s high net worth individuals.

Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management surveyors estimate that the global economy produced 920,000 newly minted millionaires last year, who they define as anyone with investable assets exceeding $1 million in value. Asia-Pacific led the world with 8.5% growth in the population of millionaires, followed by North America’s 8.3%.

While the cumulative wealth of North America’s millionaires still led the world with $16.23 trillion in holdings, the study estimates that Asian-Pacific millionaires will hold a greater sum by the end of this year.

TIME Research

Rising Birth Rates a Good Sign for the Economy

Large Group of Babies
Getty Images

First increase since the recession

The number of children born in the U.S. increased in 2014 for the first time since the Great Recession, a sign that some women may be feeling financially stable enough to start a family.

The National Center for Health Statistics released a study Wednesday showing that both the number of births and the fertility rate in the U.S. increased by 1% in 2014, the first rise since 2007, when both demographic markers began dropping.

Last year, the U.S. birth rate had fallen to a 15-year low, according to NCHS data, with the number of births decreasing from 4.3 million in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2013, a 9% drop. Based on 2007 birth rates, University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson estimates that there were 2.3 million fewer babies born between 2008 and 2013 than there would have been if the birth rate remained stable.

The falling birth rate has been one of the indirect consequences of the recession and of particular concern for demographers. Low birth rates over the long term, barring an influx of immigrants, can mean a population decline that leads to a smaller tax base and fewer people to financially support programs like Social Security and Medicare as the population ages.

Demographers have been trying to determine whether the economy forced women to merely delay childbirth or forego starting a family altogether. The latest numbers, while preliminary, suggest that women may just have been delaying.

The birth rate for women aged 30-34, many of whom were graduating from college and looking for jobs when the recession hit, rose 3% in 2014 and has steadily increased since 2011. The rate for women aged 35-39 increased by 3% while the rate for those aged 40-44 rose 2%.

For women aged 20-24, however, the birth rate decreased by 2%, and it remained steady for those aged 25-29, suggesting that many millennials are still putting off starting a family.

“We won’t know how significant this is unless it continues for the next few years,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, of the overall rise in birth rates. “But it’s a glimmer of hope that demographic responses are reacting to an improving economy.”

TIME White House

Will New Overtime Rule Create—or Cost—Jobs?

U.S. President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum for overtime protections for workers during an event in the East Room at the White House, on March 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum for overtime protections for workers during an event in the East Room at the White House, on March 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Debate plays out along familiar lines

The Obama Administration hasn’t released the details of its proposed changes to overtime pay, but the public reaction is playing out along familiar lines: Union leaders are full of praise, while corporate groups are raising red flags.

Under the current law, salaries workers making more than $23,660 are not eligible for overtime. Under the proposed change, the Department of Labor could raise the maximum eligible salary to more than $50,000—giving millions of workers a boost in pay.

The change would be a major overhaul of the rules, which last received a slight update in 2004 but have otherwise not been touched since the 1970s. It came about after Obama ordered the agency to revamp the rule in 2014 as part of a second-term effort to boost middle-class workers without going to Congress.

The National Retail Federation, which represents retailers across the globe, warns that the rule could have unforeseen consequences. In a recent report, it argued that retailers would likely avoid paying overtime by simply hiring more lower-paying part-time workers. They argued that would reduce the money for other jobs, like low-level supervisors, operations managers, clerks and chefs.

“If the stated goal of the administration is the pathway to the middle class it makes no sense to have regulation that would eliminate managerial positions and supervisory positions and replace them with part time and hourly,” says David French, the group’s senior vice president of government relations.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also issued a dire warning earlier this year, saying in a letter to the Department of Labor that the pending rule could have a “significantly disruptive effect on millions of workplaces.” On Wednesday, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the Chamber before a House subcommittee on Education and the Workforce said that the the entire Fair Labor Standards Act should be updated instead.

Some economists say the change is overdue, however.

Ross Eisenbrey, the vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, says when the rule was adjusted in 1975 more than 60% of salaried employees were eligible for overtime. According to his most recent calculation, he says, less than 10% of workers are currently eligible. The institute previously found only about 11% of workers were eligible in 2013.

“Today, about 50% of children are raised in a family where both parents are working,” Eisenbrey says. “Having them work overtime is a particular strain on children and families with children. We need this rule more than ever.”

Daniel Hamermesh, labor economist and professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that while the total amount of hours worked per employee will go down, the number of workers will go up. “It’s a job creator,” he says.

“Americans now work more than any other country,” he adds. “Anything that diminishes that a little bit, I think is good.”

In Congress, the debate is playing out along party lines. Democrats have urged the President to take a bold step on the rule—in January, 26 Democratic Senators sent a letter urging the president to raise the threshold for overtime pay to $56,680—double the current level. Republicans, on the other hand, recently reintroduced a bill that would give workers the option of using hours they accrue working overtime to take time off for family or medical leave instead of getting paid time and a half.

But Congress will likely be a sideshow to this debate. Even if Republicans passed a bill to block the change, Obama would likely veto it.

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