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Stellar Recap | Re-envisioning Work & Auction Diving

Stella Min
Stella Min
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Explorations
Re-envisioning work. Around 4 million people quit their jobs in April, which is the highest rate ever recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first began publishing these data in December 2000. The quit rate was the highest among restaurant workers, followed by retail, professional and business services, and transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Among those who haven’t yet quit, surveys show that another 26% plan to. Estimates increase to as high as 42% if companies do not offer long-term options for remote work, which reflects a sentiment that has been observed internationally. Many reasons have been offered as an explanation for this mass exodus from work including child-care, pandemic-related burnout, concerns over career development, generous unemployment benefits although economists are uncertain and the evidence has been weak, low wages, and a strong economic recovery that has boosted worker’s confidence in their ability to find a better job. But I’m interested in what the future of work may look like given these trends. Surely, hybrid offices are here to stay, especially for those in white-collar occupations. Others may skip the job search altogether and become their own boss. New business applications are at an all time high. While some have interpreted this explosion in entrepreneurship as an indicator that we are ushering in a new era that will be heralded as the creator economy propelled by smart contracts like NFTs, it could just be a temporary blip driven by necessity as individuals learn new skills in order to shift to occupations in different industries. The latter has been described as the “take this job and shove it” phase of the economic recovery. There’s evidence for both. Although the number of students who enrolled in undergraduate courses decreased, enrollment in online courses increased particularly at the graduate level. The 19.7 million students enrolled in postsecondary programs last fall exceeds the 4.35 million new business applications that were submitted over the same period. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. Someone can form a business and enroll in school at the same time. Additionally, one person can register multiple businesses, which may lead us to over estimate the population of entrepreneurs. As for the rising class of creators, they may not be the same people who are registering businesses. There’s a growing number of platforms that enable creators to easily monetize their content without forming an LLC or corporation. Perhaps the platform that’s best known for this is YouTube, where top content creators are earning millions of dollars a year. I’ve also written extensively about newsletter platforms such as Revue, ConvertKit, and Substack that allow individual creators to earn money through paid subscriptions. Podcast creators can charge a subscription fee on Apple and Spotify. Facebook will offer this feature starting next week. Creators can even turn your Twitter feed into a subscription or accept tips. Some creators purely live off of tips. For example, certain musicians earn $8,000 to $11,000 a month in tips from their audience by livestreaming their performances on the platform Twitch. Others can simply ask fans to support them by sending tips through platforms like Ko-fi and Buy me a coffee. There are countless more examples of the opportunities that are available to entrepreneurial creators. While I’m optimistic about the growing potential to be your own boss, I question whether the creator economy is really an improvement. Content creators have and continue to experience high rates of burnout and the constant scrutiny and negative attention has been harmful to mental health. There’s also growing rift between the haves and the have nots which is no different than the current system. In some ways, the ideas that are touted by proponents of the creator economy seem worse for workers. In its current state and perceivable trajectory, the creator economy has the same pitfalls as the gig economy. Individuals may gain greater flexibility and control over their schedules but at the cost of a stable pay check and benefits such as health insurance. I say we collectively strive for something better. The pandemic forced many of us rethink how we work and live. Millions of us ultimately concluded that the current system isn’t working. This is an opportunity to improve it rather than continuing down the same path that led us here. It’s time to re-envision a system that provides economic stability for more workers along with the supportive infrastructure they need to return to work. One that is inclusive and equitable, enabling everyone to pursue meaningful careers and work with dignity, whether they are self-employed or not.
Discoveries
Auctions. Did you know that you can bid on crypto assets directly through a government-sponsored auction? I sure didn’t, until this week. On Friday, June 18, the General Service Administration (GSA) began auctioning 8.93 bitcoins and 150.2 litecoins that were seized by the IRS for nonpayment of taxes. Apparently, the Marshals Service has auctioned cryptocurrencies nine times since the first time it listed crypto assets in 2014. I have mostly ignore auctions until now. The idea of getting into a bidding war severely undercuts the amount of money I may save, although I’ve mostly been skeptical about this as well. Additionally, I often associate auctions with expensive art, like this banana that’s been duct taped to a wall or a $69 million NFT. This bias turned into a blindspot for me. After writing about a town in California that was sold twice on the auction site eBay and learning about the GSA, I realized that I’ve been undervaluing the items you can find at an auction. For example, government auctions may be a potentially affordable way to acquire land and real estate, like these parcels that are being auctioned by the IRS. Auctions are also a potentially affordable way to purchase vehicles and electronics that have been confiscated or are surplus items from the federal government, local municipalities, and police departments.
Recap
Self-reflection and the one thing project
  • What’s one of the kindest complements you’ve ever received?
  • What’s one bias that you have and how might it impair your judgment?
  • Which country would you choose to move to if you had to leave the country you’re currently living in for an undisclosed amount of time?
  • What’s a topic that you wish more people would discuss more openly?
  • What’s one thing you could spend less time doing?
Digital Gems
  • Between 2011 and 2019, National Parks saw a 17% increase in visitation while also losing 16% of its staff. The ability to retain staff has become even more challenging as the influx of remote workers has increased the price of housing in towns near national parks. (WSJ)
  • More than 5,800 postal employees were attacked by dogs in the United States in 2020 (USPS). Top 5 cities for dog attacks were Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Denver, respectively (The Sassyologist).
  • The lowest wage that workers without a college degree would be willing to accept for a new job rose $10,000 to an all-time high of $61,483 (NY Federal Reserve).
  • The average price paid for a new vehicle reached a record high of $38,255 in May. Households own more cars than they did 10 years ago but they’re also holding onto them longer, which is why the average age of U.S. vehicles rose to 12.1 years last year. (WSJ)
  • Lumber prices have fallen 41% after reaching record highs on May 10 (Yahoo! Finance).
  • Between this year and last year, nearly 200,000 US Army soldiers used the new ArmyIgnitED system to enroll in college courses. The program provides college tuition assistance of $250 per semester hour up to $4,000 in a given year, but the system experienced technical failures and now these soldiers are being denied their degrees or can no longer enroll which has eroded their faith in the institution. (NBC)
  • A new study shows that only 22% residents in Colorado’s mountains and wilderness believe that their property is at high risk of wildfires, wheres professional ratings showed 61% of households were at high risk (CU Boulder).
  • Tennessee’s Jobs4TN portal lists 257,000 jobs but only around 8,500 jobs (3%) pay more than $20,000, which is below the $22,000 poverty level for a family of three (WZTV Nashville).
  • Between July 2015 and August 2017, Airbnb’s Smart Pricing algorithm widened the earnings gap between Black and white hosts in the US by 20% (SSRN). The anti-discrimination team currently has zero Black members and just five full-time workers. The average product team at Airbnb has 10 to 15 members (Emerging Tech Brew).
  • Cross-border bitcoin transfers in El Salvador increased 300% from $424,000 to $1.7 million once the country began accepting bitcoin as legal tender in May 2021 (Reuters).
  • A study of two million patients who contracted the coronavirus found that nearly 1 out of 4 sought medical treatments for new conditions about one month later (NYT).
  • The US housing market is short at least 5.5 million units and that it would take more than a decade to close the gap (NAR).
  • Glassdoor released its Top 100 CEOs list and two notable people were excluded: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon. Five CEOs were women, down from seven in 2019.
  • An analysis of rates charged on Cameo, a service where celebs can sell personalized messages directly to fans, found that male celebs charged more for their time than women. Among the top-20 highest-priced active actors on the platform, men charged $626 for a cameo while women charged $326. Among musicians, men charged $590 while women charged $362. (Quartz)
  • Prior to the pandemic, about 3% of Amazon’s hourly workers left the company every week, resulting in a 150% turnover rate per year (NYT).
  • Around 50 million people consider themselves to be “creators” (SignalFire).
  • Maintenance costs for a battery-electric vehicle average around $0.06 per mile versus $0.10 per mile for a conventional car with an internal combustion engine (US Dept. of Energy).
  • The new delta coronavirus variant represents 4 out of 10 cases in Colorado compared with 1 in 10 cases nationally. The delta variant appears to be about 64% more transmissible than the B.1.1.7 (or Alpha variant first found in the U.K.) which is roughly 50% more transmissible than previously identified strains (CDC).
  • Between 44% and 53% of the global river network run dry at least one month per year. This information is important for managing water resources and conserving species that have adapted to these ecosystems (Nature).
  • Researchers at the University of California-Santa Barbara and Georgia Institute of Technology developed a soft robot that mimics plant roots to burrow nearly 16 feet per second through sand (Science Robotics).
  • A new study suggests that we probably cannot slow the rate at which we age because of biological constraints. In other words, the gain in life expectancy over the past century has mostly been driven by reductions in mortality at younger ages. (The Guardian)
  • A great breakdown of the controversies and implications of the FDA’s decision to approve Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug, called aducanumab (The Weeds podcast; 66 min.).
  • Black Americans collectively earn $220 billion less a year because of disparities in economic opportunities (McKinsey & Company).
Demographic Fact A Day
In the US, more than 70% of men born in the 1920s served in the military. The decline after that was steep, except for an increase for the cohorts who served in the Vietnam War (born in the 1940s). Now it's less than about 3%. https://t.co/jytwDasP3k
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Wishing you a productive week
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Stella Min
Stella Min @OhhStellar

Stellar Recap is my personal newsletter where I share digest of interesting media that I've come across during the week, along with any personal updates.

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