Trust Magazine

Noteworthy

In this Issue:

  • Fall 2021
  • How a New Program Is Restoring Oyster Populations
  • A Framework for Success
  • A Worker Tends to the Ceiling Inside the Statue of Liberty Museum
  • African Descendants' Stake in Saving Southeast Salt Marshes
  • Beware the Moon's Wobble
  • Deep Divisions in Views of America's Racial History
  • Exploring Faith and Black Churches in America
  • How Denver Tackled Homelessness While Saving Money
  • Into the Deep to Study Krill
  • Investments Toward the Public Good
  • Land Use and Community Planning Strategies Can Promote Health Equity
  • Most Americans Believe in Intelligent Life Beyond Earth
  • Most Americans Have Traveled Abroad
  • Noteworthy
  • Return On Investment
  • Student Debt in the Time of COVID-19
  • View All Other Issues
Noteworthy
Row houses line a street in West Philadelphia, a neighborhood with a high percentage of tangled titles.
Row houses line a street in West Philadelphia, a neighborhood with a high percentage of tangled titles.
Lexey Swall for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Tangled Titles Trip Up Homeowners

Some Philadelphia residents have a knotty problem: The title to their home is “tangled,” meaning the property’s deed carries someone else’s name, perhaps that of a deceased parent or other relative. This can cause serious issues for individuals and families, who may miss out on the full benefits of homeownership, often their primary source of wealth. What’s worse, many residents don’t know there is an issue with their title, according to a report released in August by Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative.

The most common reason for a tangled title is when the owner of record dies, and a relative inherits the property but fails to record a new deed. Even if the owner left a will, his or her name remains on record unless the will goes through probate and a new deed is filed with the city records department.

Such was the case with Monique Spicer, 48, of North Philadelphia. “My mother passed away, and I had the house, but I never put the house in my name,” says Spicer, a mother of four. “I was her only heir. I was thinking it automatically went to me.”

Pew estimates that at least 10,407 properties in Philadelphia have such title issues, affecting some 2% of the city’s residential properties, often in neighborhoods with relatively low housing values, low-income populations, and high poverty rates. The hardest-hit areas have majority Black populations.

Residents with tangled titles can’t take out a home equity loan, can’t sell the property, and might not qualify for city programs that help low-income households. Yet as they lose out on these advantages of homeownership, they still must pay real estate taxes and maintain their properties. The problem threatens more than $1.1 billion in generational wealth.

“While the best remedy is prevention, including educating homeowners on the need to make a will, programs to support the cost and complexity of resolving tangled titles are receiving new attention and funding,” says Elinor Hader, who directs Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative.

Although untangling a title can cost thousands of dollars—an added burden for households of limited means—the city has established a Tangled Title Fund to help defray the costs, and works to educate people about the issue and how to avoid it. Philadelphia City Council is expected to hold hearings on the issue in the coming months.

—Carol Hutchinson

Most Nontraditional Workers Have Little Retirement Savings

Nontraditional workers such as Uber drivers, temp service employees, sole proprietors, and freelancers may appreciate the freedom their jobs bring from traditional 9-to-5 employment, or they may find nontraditional work fits flexibly around another job, or makes sense for their business. But a new Pew Charitable Trusts survey shows that a large proportion of these gig workers lack access to workplace plans to save for their retirement.

These workers—sometimes also called contingent, alternative, or independent—may have volatile incomes, lack job security, and are generally without employer-provided benefits such as health insurance or workplace retirement savings plans. Without adequate savings, many may face impoverished retirements or be unable to stop working.

Just more than half of these workers (58.4%) report having a defined contribution (DC) plan balance such as a 401(k) with a current or former employer, which means that 41.6% do not. By comparison, the Department of Labor reports that 64.9% of the total civilian labor force had a DC balance with a current or past employer in 2018.

Only 21.9% of nontraditional workers said they have savings in an individual retirement account (IRA). There is some overlap among savings categories: 18% of nontraditional workers said they have savings in both a workplace DC plan and an IRA.

Average balances tend to be relatively low: 31.1% said they hold $50,000 or less in a workplace DC plan, and 14.3% hold that amount or less in an IRA, though workers who were 50 or older, White, and have a college degree reported higher savings.

“Nontraditional workers need alternative and creative approaches to saving for their future,” says John Scott, who directs Pew’s retirement savings project, which commissioned the survey.

—Demetra Aposporos

A Majority of Americans Support More Technology Regulation

Growing shares of Americans think major technology companies should face more government regulation, and a majority say these firms have too much economic power and influence, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted in April. Still, there’s not a strong consensus among the public that having the government reduce the size of major tech companies would be a good thing.

Some 56% of Americans think major technology companies should be regulated more than they are now, and 68% believe these firms have too much power and influence in the economy. The latest survey represents a statistically significant increase of those who say there should be more regulation, up from 47% in June 2020 and 51% in May 2018.

Since this question was last asked in June 2020, there have been increases in support for more regulation across most of the political spectrum, particularly among liberal Democrats. (Partisan groupings include independents who lean toward either party.)

Liberal Democrats’ support for more regulation jumped from 52% to 70% since last year. The only group that did not see a statistically significant increase in the share calling for greater regulation is moderate or liberal Republicans.

The findings come as lawmakers are considering antitrust legislation to weaken major tech companies’ dominance of their markets. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission and 46 states filed a lawsuit to break up Facebook at the end of 2020, saying the firm’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp was unlawful. This case was dismissed in late June with the option to refile it in July. In early July, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that encourages the Federal Communications Commission to take several actions to promote greater competition in the tech sphere and limit the power of major technology companies, among other things.

In terms of what greater regulation might look like, 55% say that even if major technology companies follow the rules, the government should not allow them to grow beyond a certain size because it hurts competition. Congress is debating reforms along these lines. But 42% of the public believes the government should allow major technology companies to grow as large as they want as long as they follow the rules, even if this means there is less competition.

—Demetra Aposporos

Deep Divisions in Views of America's Racial History A Worker Tends to the Ceiling Inside the Statue of Liberty Museum
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America’s Overdose Crisis

America’s Overdose Crisis

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America’s Overdose Crisis

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