February 28, 2024

👋 Welcome back everyone, and hold on to your coffee mugs: Starbucks and the union representing some of its workers released nearly identical statements yesterday, signaling a willingness to work together toward a labor contract.

  • This comes a few months after we wrote that the Seattle-based company was softening its anti-union stance.

But enough coffee talk. Let's get into the world of billionaire giving. Today's newsletter is 937 words, 4 minutes.

1 big thing: A medical school gets $1 billion

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Ruth Gottesman has donated $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. The money will be placed in an endowment, the income from which will fund free tuition for all students in perpetuity, Felix writes.

Why it matters: No one but Gottesman, a pediatrician who spent her whole career at Einstein, would have made this particular donation. But philanthropy by its nature is idiosyncratic, and this gift in particular has the potential to have some very welcome second- and even third-order effects.

The big picture: Gottesman was bequeathed her fortune by her husband, Sandy, an early investor in Berkshire Hathaway, who died in 2022 at the age of 96.

  • At least by her telling, she had no idea the sum even existed until she was given instructions to "do whatever you think is right with it."

Between the lines: Berkshire Hathaway, famously, never pays a dividend, so the Gottesmans never paid any income tax on these shares. And because they never sold them, they never paid capital gains tax, either.

  • Eventually, substantially all of the $1 billion portfolio would have been subject to 40% estate tax upon Gottesman's death. But now that too has been avoided.
  • Because the college is a nonprofit, it can sell the Berkshire Hathaway shares without incurring any tax liability.

Winners: First and foremost, the beneficiaries of this deal will be the medical students at Einstein, none of whom will pay any tuition from August forward.

  • Medical students, especially those who choose to study in a very poor area of the Bronx, tend to be idealistic. If they're not forced by the weight of student debt to find high-paying jobs in rich neighborhoods, they're much more likely to stay where they're needed most.
  • Because Einstein is now genuinely needs-blind, it can also focus its own admissions even more on identifying and recruiting a truly diverse group of future doctors, many of whom grew up in the neighborhood they'll be serving. It's been doing that for a while, with its Bronx HOPE program.

Follow the money: The $1 billion endowment should enable Einstein, which has historically been cash-strapped, to provide a more well-resourced offering.

  • The college has always punched above its weight in terms of research, and a better-endowed medical school stands to attract more renowned teachers to the faculty and the associated Montefiore hospital system.
  • Money begets money: U.S. donors tend to prefer to give to rich and successful institutions rather than those that are struggling. As such, Einstein's new $1 billion endowment lays the groundwork for a significantly higher level of donations from elsewhere.

Reality check: In principle, a $1 billion investment could transform public health in the Bronx, if it was targeted at something like preventing and controlling diabetes.

  • Gottesman's gift won't create more doctors — the class size isn't increasing — and the immediate benefit will accrue mainly to doctors, who are solidly in the upper middle classes, rather than to their much poorer patients.

The bottom line: Philanthropic whataboutism is generally unhelpful. This is a simple and transformative gift, and it's likely to have significant positive and as-yet unforeseen consequences.

2. A jobs record to cheer

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

A record share of people with disabilities were working last year, finds a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Emily writes.

Why it matters: These are people who face huge obstacles in landing jobs; that more of them are employed is a sign of a strong labor market, post-pandemic changes, and the rise of remote employment.

Zoom in: BLS classifies a person as disabled if they're deaf or seriously hard of hearing; blind or seriously vision-impaired; or have difficulty doing things like walking, dressing or bathing; or have severe issues concentrating or remembering, among other things.

The big picture: The ability to work from home has been a boon to many disabled workers, who no longer need to contend with an arduous commute and have more flexibility to configure a work set-up that accommodates their needs.

  • The shift happened at the same time there's been an increase in the overall share of Americans who are disabled. 12.5% of Americans were disabled in 2023, up from 11.7% in 2019, according to BLS data cited in a report from the National Partnership for Women and Family.
  • Labor force participation rates, the share of people either working or looking for work, for disabled men and women have gone up a lot since 2019 (chart below).
  • For men aged 16-64, the rate was 41.5% in 2023, up from 36% in 2019 — participation rates for nondisabled men fell over the same period.

Between the lines: There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation here. It's not clear whether more workers have become disabled — or more disabled workers have entered the workforce.

  • It's likely a combination of both, says Marissa Ditkowsky, disability economic justice counsel at the National Partnership for Women & Families, which advocates for worker rights.
  • COVID was a "mass disabling event," she says. But some workers who became disabled, particularly those with long COVID, may have been better able to hang on to their jobs because of remote work.

Reality check: People with a disability are still far less likely to be working. They're also more likely to work part-time and earn lower wages.

  • The unemployment rate for disabled workers was 7.2% in 2023 about twice what it was for nondisabled workers. For Black workers with a disability, the jobless rate was more than 10%.

What we're watching: Whether the recent gains hold depends a lot on how the labor market holds up and if more employers insist on folks returning to the office.

Bonus chart: Disabled workers' big gains

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.

Axios Markets is edited by Kate Marino and copy edited by Mickey Meece.