World
The Tiger Mom Tax: Asians Are Nearly Twice as Likely to Get a Higher Price from Princeton Review
One unexpected effect of the company’s geographic approach to pricing is that Asians are almost twice as likely to be offered a higher price than non-Asians, an analysis by ProPublica shows
 
Read our methodology.
 
Every year, thousands of high school students get ready for the SAT (a general test of verbal and quantitative reasoning accepted for US college admissions) by using The Princeton Review’s test preparation services.
 
But few, if any, realize that the prices for The Princeton Review’s online SAT tutoring packages vary substantially depending on where customers live. If they type some ZIP codes into the company’s website, they are offered The Princeton Review’s Premier course for as little as $6,600. For other ZIP codes, the same course costs as much as $8,400. 
 
One unexpected effect of the company’s geographic approach to pricing is that Asians are almost twice as likely to be offered a higher price as compared to non-Asians, an analysis by ProPublica shows. 
 
The gap remains even for Asians in lower income neighborhoods. Consider a ZIP code in Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. Asians make up 70.5 percent of the population in this ZIP code. According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in the ZIP code, $41,884, is lower than most, yet The Princeton Review customers there are quoted the highest price.
 
The Princeton Review said in a statement that its pricing is based on the “costs of running our business and the competitive attributes of the given market,” and that the company charges the same price everywhere in New York City. Although the test prep service markets its service as “24-hr Online Tutoring,” the company says the tutoring is done in one-on-one sessions in person or online and that the tutors typically live in the same areas as their students.
 
“The areas that experience higher prices will also have a disproportionately higher population of members of the financial services industry, people who tend to vote Democratic, journalists and any other group that is more heavily concentrated in areas like New York City,” The Princeton Review’s statement said
 
These types of price differences are not illegal, and the consequences are not intentional, but researchers say they are likely to become more common in the age of services like Uber, which set prices by computer algorithms. The Princeton Review says its prices are simply determined by geographic region.
 
Last year, a White House report on “Big Data” cautioned that the “algorithmic decisions raise the specter of ‘redlining’ in the digital economy – the potential to discriminate against the most vulnerable classes of our society under the guise of neutral algorithms.”
 
In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that the online office retailer Staples was varying prices by ZIP code. Staples appeared to be calculating prices based on the user’s distance from a rival store, but the inadvertent effect was that people in lower-income ZIP codes saw the higher prices. 
 
In 2014, researchers at Northeastern University found that top Web sites, such as Home Depot, Orbitz and Travelocity, were steering some users toward more expensive products. And this year, another study found that users who were identified by Google as female received fewer ads for a high-paying job.
 
Offline, the practice of offering different prices for the same product in different places is fairly common – gasoline or a gallon of milk can be priced differently just a few blocks apart. But as long as there is no intent to racially discriminate, it is generally legal, says Andrew Selbst, an attorney who co-authored a paper on the biases that can be inherent in Big Data
 
“If you are open for business, you can’t discriminate against certain protected classes,” Selbst said. 
 
Unintentional racial discrimination is illegal in housing and employment under the legal doctrine known as “disparate impact,” which prohibits inadvertent actions that hurt people in a protected class. 
 
But the disparate impact doctrine does not apply to the online world, where it’s often difficult to determine how and why different prices are being offered. 
 
Earlier this year, Harvard undergraduate Christian Haigh stumbled on The Princeton Review’s variable prices doing research for a class he was taking called “Data Science to Save the World.” 
 
Haigh had been looking for price differences in hotel rooms if he booked from different locations around the world. But he wasn’t finding much. So he looked for websites that required entering a ZIP code.
 
“We thought maybe if you have to put in the ZIP code, they were trying to discriminate,” Haigh said. Today, Haigh and three fellow students are publishing their findings that The Princeton Review’s higher prices correlate to areas with higher income. 
 
ProPublica reviewed the code that one of Haigh’s fellow students posted on a public web site and collected its own data in July, and again on Monday. The data showed that The Princeton Review offered four different prices for the same “Premier Level” online tutoring package.
 
Many of the prices are regional. For instance, the entire New York City area, including Long Island, receives the highest possible price, $8,400. Much of California, except San Diego, is offered the second-highest price, $7,200, while ZIP codes in San Diego are charged the lowest price.
 
Because the pricing regions are large… Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica
 

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COMMENTS

Ralph Rau

1 year ago

If one on one tutorials are involved this will require hiring premises - the rentals of which will be affected by location or pin code ?

Smoking Out E-cigarette Ad Claims
TINA.org review of more than 150 e-cigarette sites finds a wide variety of questionable claims
 
If you are searching for electronic cigarettes online, be wary. A TINA.org review of more than 150 websites found a host of questionable claims being made on numerous sites that show up in a routine Google search for e-cigarette companies.
 
It’s been more than a year since the FDA signaled it was going to regulate e-cigarettes. But while the agency works on specific regulations — including banning sales to underage youth — many online e-cigarette companies are taking advantage of the regulatory gap to market their wares with a variety of suspect claims. The most frequent? Half of the sites reviewed note a health benefit, such as that e-cigarettes are safe, and/or a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, even though the FDA currently maintains that the risks associated with e-cigarettes have not been fully studied and some key reports have found harmful chemicals.
 
Further, while the FDA has not approved any e-cigarette as a smoking cessation therapy, TINA.org’s review also found that almost one-third of sites indicated in some way that vaping products can help smokers quit tobacco. Other questionable claims include that the products can be smoked anywhere and are cheaper. About two-thirds of the sites reviewed made one or more of these claims and 40 percent made three or more of the claims. (See infographic.)
 
The claims come in varied forms, such as in blogs, social media, testimonials, links to studies or media reports displayed on the sites. Some are blatant while others are subtle, craftily-drafted veiled claims. TINA.org’s database and criteria for those highlighted as questionable can be found here
 

Expanding market

E-cigarettes are battery-operated electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that contain flavored liquid solutions (e-liquids or e-juice) that are vaporized and inhaled as an aerosol mist. Nicotine content varies depending on the product.
 
The industry has been rapidly expanding since the products were first introduced in 2007 and it is now estimated to be a $1.5 billion market. There are now more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes and more than 7,000 flavors of e-liquids. And with the growth has come a rapid rise in e-cigarette advertising, which jumped more than 1,200 percent between 2011 and 2013. The marketing has yielded significant results. E-cigarette use among adults more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, and teen use of e-cigarettes nationwide surpassed the use of tobacco cigarettes in 2014.
 

Safety in question

Last year, a TINA.org review of about 600 complaints filed with the FTC about e-cigarette companies found that a majority were from consumers who said they responded to offers of free trials but were instead repeatedly charged for monthly supplies they didn’t want and had difficulty canceling. Continue Reading…
 

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COMMENTS

Bee

1 year ago

England Public Health released an independent study that shows how safe e-cigarettes are and how effective they could be for smoking cessation. All the FDA people that brought the lawsuit to ban e-cigarettes in 2009 are now gone. Those that didn't leave on their own accord were fired for conflict of interest. Tom Frieden of the CDC along with his lab monkey UCSF Stan Glantz should go and retire. The American public shouldn't have to wait until 2016 for Tom to leave. The long running and well funded demonizing campaign at this point is going to kill people.

Strike cripples banking operations in metros
Except SBI and IOB, banking operations in about 75,000 branches across the country is affected due to the nationwide strike called by trade unions
 
The nationwide strike in the banking and insurance sector on Wednesday has begun on a very encouraging note signifying total success, a top leader of the All India Bank Employees' Association (AIEBA) said.
 
"The strike has started on an encouraging note across the country as per initial information we got. Employees of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), nationalised banks, old private sector banks, cooperative banks, regional rural banks are participating in the strike," AIEBA general secretary CH Venkatachalam told IANS.
 
According to him, the strike is a success in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
 
Across the country around 500,000 bankers - workers and officers - would be participating in the strike. Around 75,000 branches will not work. The strike was called in support of the 12-point charter of demands of the 10 Central Trade Unions. The unions in the banking and insurance sectors are participating in the strike in support of the 12-point charter, as well as, pressing the issues in their sectors.
 
Complaining of increasing attacks on the rights and privileges of workers and concessions being extended to the employers, Venkatachalam said there are open attempts to amend labour laws in favour of the employers and to the detriment of the workers. The neo-liberal economic policies are only aggravating the problems of the workers and common masses.
 
Venkatachalam said in the banking sector, there are continuous attempts to push through the reforms agenda aimed at privatisation of banks, consolidation and merger of banks and others.
"More and more private capital and foreign direct investments are being encouraged. Private sector companies are being given licences to begin banking business," he said.
 
According to him, Regional Rural Banks are sought to be privatised and a bill has been passed in parliament despite protests from employee unions. The real problem of increasing bad loans is not being effectively handled by the Government but on the other hand, crore of rupees are being written off from profits of banks, Venkatachalam said.
 
"Deliberate and wilful default of bank loans should be termed as criminal offence and money recovered but no action is being taken on them," he added.
 
 
"As on 31 March 2015, there are 7,035 cases of wilful defaulters involving bad loans of Rs58,792 crore. 
 
"The bad loans in the Banks as on 31 March 2015, has risen to Rs2,97,000 crore in addition to another Rs4,03,004 crore of bad loans of 530 corporate companies shown as rescheduled and restructured loans under CDR (corporate debt restructuring) scheme," Venkatachalam said.
 
According to him bad loans struck up in top 30 borrowal accounts of public sector banks as on 31 March 2015, is Rs1,21,162 crore.
 
Unions in State Bank of India (SBI) and Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) are not participating in the strike.
 
"Perhaps, it shows their imperial attitude," a union official told IANS preferring anonymity and punning on SBI's earlier name Imperial Bank.
 
"All the major recognised unions representing Class III and IV employees in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and four government owned non-life insurers are participating in the strike," J.Gurumurthy, vice president, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) told IANS.
 
Specific to Maharashtra and Mumbai, which is the capital of Maharashtra, it is estimated that a staggering 300 million workers have joined the strike. It is a day's token strike protesting what they alleged was the government's 'anti-employees' policies here on Wednesday, a top organiser of the strike said.
 
The strike which started at daybreak mostly hit the finance and business sectors on which the entire commercial capital of the country is dependent on, as large sections government, ports, college professors, state transport and other sectors enthusiastically joined in.
 
"The strike in the banking and financial services sector is near-total. State transport buses are virtually off roads, as also work at the Mumbai Port Trust. Maharashtra's 1.50 million government employees are also joining in. Some private sector companies and offices affiliated to major unions are also close," said All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) Vice-President V. Utagi.
 
However, public buses and suburban local trains were not hit but their unions are lending moral support to the striking umbrella unions. A section of cabs and autorickshaws also joined the strike, which Utagi described as "a major success".
 
He said that is the first ever all India major action by farmers and employees since the NDA-II headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. Later in the day, thousands of employees, their unions and representatives shall hold a mega rally in south Mumbai to highlight the success of Wednesday's agitation. The strike has been peaceful with no reports of any untoward incidents from anywhere in Mumbai or Maharashtra.

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