Pew Project: Global Shark Conservation

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New regulations in Hong Kong will increase penalties for the illegal trade of products derived from a protected species, aiming to reduce sights like these shark fins drying on a rooftop.

I. Gains for Sharks

Many of the world’s shark populations are threatened or endangered, with some driven toward extinction by heavy fishing. But recent progress on conservation efforts is raising the hopes that these animals could have a healthy future.

In January, policymakers in Hong Kong—a bustling market for a huge range of illegal wildlife products and long the center of the global trade in shark fins—voted overwhelmingly to increase the penalties for anyone convicted of illegally selling or buying products derived from any species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

For the past four years, Pew has been working closely with Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department to hold workshops on how to identify fins and best enforce CITES listings for sharks. As a result, the department has confiscated over 8,800 pounds of shark fins since 2014.

Although Hong Kong still has some work to do—an estimated 50 percent of the global shark fin trade passes through its ports—the move by the city’s legislative council raises the maximum sentence for illegal trade in listed species from two years to 10 and increases maximum fines from $6,400 to $1.3 million.

At least 63 million and as many as 273 million sharks are killed every year, many solely for their fins, which are primarily used to make shark fin soup. Sharks are essential in the marine food web, and a growing body of research shows alarming imbalance in ecosystems where shark populations have declined.

Nearly 5,600 miles to the east of Hong Kong, the South Pacific island nation of Samoa in March designated its 49,421-square-mile (128,000-square-kilometer) exclusive economic zone as the world’s 17th shark sanctuary. The decision bans commercial shark fishing in the country’s waters, which are prime habitat for nearly 30 species of sharks and rays, and outlaws the possession, trade, and sale of any shark products, including fins. It also prohibits fishing gear typically used to target sharks, such as wire leaders.

The announcement came at the start of the two-day Pacific Shark Ministerial Symposium in Apia, Samoa’s capital, which was co-hosted by the Samoan government, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Pew, and Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.

Momentum to protect sharks began in the region in 2009, when Palau designated its waters safe for sharks, and continued to build through 2015, when the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary was created. The first-of-its kind sanctuary covers a swath of ocean larger than the European Union and includes the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Kiribati. In 2016, regional governments supported CITES listings for silky sharks, thresher sharks, and mobula rays. Last year, Samoa also led the push at the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals conference in Manila, the Philippines, to safeguard blue sharks, a highly migratory species.

“As Pacific Ocean stewards,” says Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, “it is our duty to protect sharks, and by doing this we are also protecting the livelihoods of our people.”

—John Briley

II. More Parents Living With Adult Children

Increasingly, American adults are sharing a home with other adults without any romantic involvement. This arrangement—“doubling up” or shared living—gained attention in the wake of the Great Recession. Nearly a decade later, the practice has continued to grow.

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While the rise in shared living during and immediately after the recession was largely a result of millennials moving back in with their parents, the longer-term increase has been partially driven by the reverse: parents moving in with their children.

In 2017, nearly 79 million adults (31.9 percent of the adult population) lived in a shared household—that is, a household with at least one “extra adult” who is not the household head, a spouse, or unmarried partner, or an 18- to 24-year-old student. In 1995, the earliest year with comparable data, 55 million adults (28.8 percent) lived in such a household. In 2004, at the peak of homeownership and before the onset of the foreclosure crisis, 27.4 percent of adults shared a household.

A shared household is defined differently than a multigenerational household (although the two can overlap), as shared households can include unrelated adults and adult siblings. More adults live in shared households than multigenerational ones: In 2016, 64 million Americans (including children) resided in multigenerational households.

The nearly 79 million adults living in a shared household include about 25 million adults who own or rent the home. While they don’t qualify the household as a “shared household,” an additional 10 million adults are the spouse or unmarried partner of the head of the household. Another 40 million, or 16 percent of all adults, are the “extra adult.” This portion of people living in someone else’s household is up from 14 percent in 1995.

Adults who live in someone else’s household typically live with a relative. Today, 14 percent of adults living in someone else’s household are a parent of the household’s head, up from 7 percent in 1995. Some 47 percent of extra adults today are adult children living in their mom and/or dad’s home, down from 52 percent in 1995. Other examples of extra adults are a sibling living in the home of a brother or sister, or a roommate.

—Demetra Aposporos

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam responds to a question during an appearance at Pew’s Washington offices in February.

III. Tennessee Leverages Data to Install Change

During his seven years in office, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) has been busy. His administration has created jobs, strengthened the state’s rainy day fund, decreased its debt, and driven gains in school test scores—accomplishments the two-term governor attributes to data-driven decision-making.

In February, Gov. Haslam spoke at Pew’s Washington office about using evidence-based policies to help strengthen his state’s fiscal position, maintain a balanced budget, and make smart investments with taxpayer dollars—and noted that other governors should also use data to make policy decisions.

Pew has collaborated with six governors, including Gov. Haslam, to use data as the foundation for fiscally sound policies with broad public appeal by identifying and sharing the best practices for collecting, managing, and analyzing data on tax incentives. This has helped states use the most effective strategies to improve their economic development investments.

Gov. Haslam focused much of his talk on education, noting that during his tenure, the state has raised education standards to increase accountability and tied teacher evaluations to student outcomes. He added that companies looking to relocate are primarily concerned about finding the right employees, and that he believes a better-educated workforce will attract more businesses to Tennessee and help bridge the long-standing divide between the state’s rural and urban residents—both challenges in many other states. “One of the reasons K-12 education matters is that most folks need postsecondary education a lot more than they used to,” he said.

To raise the state’s educational profile, in 2014 Gov. Haslam’s administration launched Drive to 55, an initiative designed to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025. The governor said the state is on track to achieve the goal two years ahead of schedule.

—Carol Kaufmann

IV. Consumers Struggle With Bank Overdrafts

Overdraft programs—which allow point-of-sale purchases and ATM withdrawals to go through, for a fee, when customers’ accounts lack the requested funds—are often marketed as a service banks provide to cover occasional budgeting errors. But the programs are not well-understood by consumers and often fail to meet their needs.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requires that banks receive affirmative consent (that customers opt in) before charging fees for overdraft coverage for ATM withdrawals and one-time debit payments, the most common types of transactions. Opting in greatly affects how much a customer pays in fees, and most of the largest U.S. banks typically charge about $35 per overdraft. (Consumers who do not opt in can still be charged overdraft fees for checks, certain electronic transactions, and recurring debit card transactions such as automatic membership renewals.)

To better understand the financial realities of consumers who use overdraft—how they think about and employ it, and what services they need to better manage their accounts—Pew conducted a survey of overdrafters: people who had overdrawn their account at least once in the past year and had been assessed a fee. The research found that most overdrafters do not know they have the right to avoid fees, and that some use overdraft as a form of credit, even though such transactions are not regulated like other consumer credit.

The study found that nearly 3 in 4 overdrafters don’t understand they have the right to have transactions for which they have insufficient funds declined without a fee and that 1 in 3 people treat overdraft as a way to borrow small amounts of money. It also found that most overdrafters face significant financial stress, with many lacking adequate access to safe and affordable credit products.

Pew’s research shows that these consumers could benefit from access to safe, small installment loans with lower costs, affordable payments, and more time to repay. Without such loans, many consumers will continue to use expensive overdraft programs—as well as high-cost nonbank credit, such as payday loans—to cover their expenses.

—Daniel LeDuc

V. In Philadelphia, Job Shifts Drive Poverty

Over the past 40 years in the Philadelphia region, the types of jobs available—and their locations—have shifted as the city’s poverty rate has increased, according to a recent Pew report.

In 1970, industrial production and other blue-collar occupations comprised the largest share of the city’s jobs. By 2016, the number of Philadelphians working such jobs had fallen by more than half—while the city’s poverty rate grew by more than 10 percentage points. In 2016 dollars, median annual earnings for male Philadelphians over age 16 were also down, dropping from $48,460 in 1970 to $36,210 today, while earnings for women increased from $26,420 in 1970 to $31,505 today.

During the same period, the number of Philadelphians in management and professional jobs grew by 85 percent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher, which 87 percent of the city’s poor residents lack. The service sector—which includes food preparation—grew by 56 percent over the same time frame, and most of this work does not require advanced education. The pay is also relatively low: The 10 sales and service job categories in the region with the most employees all had median annual earnings below $29,250 in May 2016.

“The movement of jobs from the city to the suburbs coincides with the growth in poverty in the city,” says Larry Eichel, who directs Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative. The number of jobs in Philadelphia has declined substantially since 1970, although it has increased somewhat in recent years. At the same time, total employment has more than doubled in the seven suburban Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties closest to the city. That combination—fewer jobs in the city and more in the suburbs studied—has made it harder for many city residents to find work, Eichel says. In addition, overall job growth in the region has been slow compared with the nation as a whole.

—Demetra Aposporos