Boosting post-secondary and career success

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 22nd, 2014

Navigating the higher ed landscape in Ohio can be daunting.  Read this guide for pointers and resources to help chart your course.

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Medicaid expansion benefits Ohio

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 21st, 2014

Medicaid expansion in Ohio delivers better care, broadens access.  Ohioans see improved health outcomes, lower costs; providers get reliable pay for delivery; Ohio economy sees $2.5 billion boost  Policy Matters Ohio reports on progress in Ohio’s Medicaid Expansion, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes problems in Indiana’s waiver program. 

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Weatherizing Homes of Ohio’s Low-Income Families

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 14th, 2014

Low income home weatherization pays big dividends for Ohio households – averaging over 20 percent home energy cost savings and returning $2.51 per dollar spent.  But the freeze and possible elimination of the clean energy standards threaten to squash investment by utility firms.

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Press Conference Call Advisory

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 9th, 2014

Big Impact of Weatherization Program Is Threatened

Policy Matters Ohio will hold a conference call for journalists on Tuesday, October 14 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss a new report that finds that Ohio’s Home Weatherization Assistance Program saves households over 20 percent in energy costs, reduces pollution, conserves energy, and creates jobs.  However, recent decisions by policymakers, particularly freezing the Clean Energy Standards, threaten this vital investment.

What: Press conference call

Who:  Lead author Amanda Woodrum, Researcher for Policy Matters Ohio,

           Dave Rinebolt of Ohio Partnership for Affordable Energy

           Mike Piepsny of Environmental Health Watch

When:  October 14, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: Call Number: 559-546-1000

              User code: 1005721#

After opening remarks, the panelists will take questions. The report, “Weatherizing Homes of Ohio’s Low-Income Families: Reduces pollution, cuts energy bills, creates jobs,” will be released on Tuesday, October 14 at 8:00 a.m.

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Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute

with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

What is statistical significance?

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 3rd, 2014

When we say that something is “statistically significant,” we mean that it passed a “confidence test” of how well we can trust the results of a survey we’ve taken to paint a picture of the wider world.  We need this test because we only have information about a small portion of the group we really want to know about.  So the test tells us whether it makes sense to extrapolate that to the whole group.

When we use a statistical test, we are looking for a change in one group, like foreclosure rates in Ohio from year to year, or a difference in two groups, say the median hourly wage of union versus nonunion workers.

Significance testing is all about confidence

A significance test should report just how sure we are, with a “confidence level.”  We might say that our results are “statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.”  That means there’s a 95 percent chance that our results mean something, and a 5 percent chance we just got them by chance.

How do we know that? 

Let’s take an example.  Say we ended March with a 6.0% unemployment rate, and now at the end of April, we want to know if unemployment went up or down.  We’re not going to ask everybody.  We (actually, the Census Bureau) ask a group of people, and we find that the unemployment rate for them, our “sample” was 6.1%.  So what we want to know is, did the unemployment rate really change?  Or did we just happen to talk to a group with a slightly higher rate?

We test this using the “null hypothesis.”  The null hypothesis always says “nothing changed,” “no news” “nothing to see here, folks.” 

The question we ask is, “if nothing changes or there were no difference, how likely would we be to get the results we’re seeing?”  The best way to show this is through a picture:

 

The zero in the middle shows no difference.  It’s like saying, “the difference between last month’s unemployment rate and this month’s is zero”.  But in our survey, we got a difference of not zero, but 0.1 percentage points.  So the question is, “if the actual difference were really zero, how likely would we be to get a difference that big in our survey?”  The white space under this bell curve shows that, assuming there really was no change, there’s a 47.5% chance we would get a difference that is bigger than zero, but smaller than some number.  If our 0.1 percentage points falls in that region, then we would say that that’s what we expected to happen, assuming no real change.

In other words, our survey results show a change that isn’t exactly zero, but we’re chalking that up to sampling variance.  We don’t have enough evidence to be confident that a real change took place, and our results are not “statistically significant.”

Survey data that indicate changes or differences but are reported as “not statistically significant” didn’t pass the test.  That means the researcher didn’t find enough evidence to conclude that a real change took place, or a true difference existed.

But if our 0.1 percentage points falls in the blue area, then we know there’s just a 5% chance that would have happened if the unemployment rate hadn’t really changed. Conversely, we are 95% sure that it did.  We can say that there was a “statistically significant” rise in the unemployment rate.

Judge for yourself

The decision whether something is “statistically significant” is a subjective one, since results can be significant at the 90% level, the 95%, 99%, or even the 99.9%.  To judge for yourself whether information is significant, you need to know the confidence level that was used.[1] 

When results are reported that seem to show a difference, but the results are reported as “not statistically significant,” it means the figures didn’t pass the test at the confidence level the researcher picked. 


[1] There’s a trade-off involved in picking a confidence standard.  If we pick too low a bar, say 90%, we increase our odds of accepting a “false positive” result, and making a mistake.  But if we pick a very high bar, say 99.9%, we may be so skeptical that we dismiss something meaningful.  Both 95% and 99% are widely accepted standards, and many studies will report both.

Why isn’t Amazon collecting sales tax in Ohio?

by Policy Matters Ohio on September 25th, 2014
For immediate release
Contact: Zach Schiller, 216.361.9801
Download press release (1pg)
Full report

Amazon.com soon will be collecting sales tax on consumer purchases in 23 states, including all but two of those where the tax is levied and it has facilities. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority recently approved tax breaks valued at $81 million over 15 years for a subsidiary of the company, covering a possible new data center in Ohio. But the deal does not require Amazon to collect sales tax in the state on the online purchases that consumers make, according to a new brief issued today by Policy Matters Ohio.

“Ohio is losing tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue because Amazon doesn’t collect the tax, hurting our ability to finance needed public services,” said Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio. “This also gives Amazon a continued price advantage over Main Street Ohio retailers who must collect the tax.”

“Ohio has struck a bad deal,” Schiller said. “The state should go back and renegotiate it.”

Under a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, companies are not required to collect sales tax unless they have a physical presence in a state. The tax is still due on such purchases, however.    

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Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute

with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

 

Free tax program served 12,082 families this year

by Policy Matters Ohio on September 22nd, 2014
For immediate release
Contact: Amy Hanauer, 216.361.9801
Download press release
Full report

Brought $14.8 million to Cuyahoga County

The Cuyahoga Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition brought free, high-quality tax preparation services to 12,082 Cuyahoga County residents this year, according to a report released today by Policy Matters Ohio.

Most clients earned less than $25,000, and 3,948 received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  The Coalition and its partners helped residents obtain $14.8 million in federal refunds for the 2013 tax filing season, bringing $30 to Cuyahoga County for every dollar spent to provide services.  In the EITC alone, the Coalition filed claims that brought $5.5 million to Cuyahoga County. 

“Free tax preparation through the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition brings federal money to northeast Ohio and helps working families thrive here,” said executive director, Amy Hanauer.  Based on a survey of nearly 2,700 clients, Policy Matters Ohio found that low-income families that rely on their EITC refunds primarily use it to pay for basic needs.

The federal EITC helps low and moderate-income working families and individuals to keep more of what they earn. Because it is refundable, working families who don’t earn enough to pay income taxes still get an earned income credit to make up for the regressive nature of other taxes and to help make work pay.

Ohio lawmakers made positive changes to Ohio’s EITC this year, doubling it to 10 percent of the federal credit, but design flaws prevent the state credit from reaching many low-income workers.  In particular, Ohio’s EITC is not refundable, which means that the lowest income earners don’t get anything. One of the major goals of the EITC is to make up for regressive property and sales taxes, but the lack of refundability means that the state credit doesn’t help with that.

“The federal EITC is one of the main ways that we help working families avoid poverty,” said Hanauer. “We’re excited to work with policymakers to make Ohio’s state credit more effective.”

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Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute with offices in Cleveland and Columbus The Cuyahoga County EITC Coalition is led by Enterprise Community Partners and includes more than 40 partners.

Cuyahoga EITC Coalition Evaluation

by Policy Matters Ohio on September 22nd, 2014

Free tax program served 12,082 families this year, brought $14.8 million to Cuyahoga County.

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Opinion: State budget cuts hurt communities

by Policy Matters Ohio on September 22nd, 2014

Wendy Patton in the Cincinnati Enquirer: Cuts across Ohio have stifled recovery, slashed vital services.

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Coalition Sets Sight on Payday Lending, this Time at the Federal Level

by Connor on September 19th, 2014

Ohio CASH Coalition members reach out to congress memebers to sponsor the Durbin Cartwright bill. Read their letter below:

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