Archive for the ‘Brookings Institution’ Category

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities

September 24, 2012 Comments off

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities
Source: Brookings Institution

The defining narrative of the United States of America is that of a nation where everyone has an opportunity to achieve a better life. Americans believe that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed through talent, creativity, intelligence, and hard work, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Our leaders share this support for opportunity. In a speech last fall, President Obama said that Americans should make sure that “everyone in America gets a fair shot at success.” Mitt Romney has repeatedly spoken about an opportunity society, where people can “engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy.”

Americans have an unusually strong belief in meritocracy. In other nations, circumstances at birth, family connections, and luck are considered more important factors in economic success than they are in the U.S. This meritocratic philosophy is one reason why Americans have had relatively little objection to high levels of inequality—as long as those at the bottom have a fair chance to work their way up the ladder. Similarly, Americans are more comfortable with the idea of increasing opportunities for success than with reducing inequality. When the American public is asked questions about the importance of tackling each, a far higher proportion is in favor of doing something about ensuring that more people have a shot at climbing the economic ladder than is in favor of reducing poverty or inequality.

One way of thinking about opportunity is in terms of generational improvement in living standards. Among today’s middle-aged Americans, four in five households have higher incomes than their parents had at the same age, and three in five men have higher earnings than their fathers. The extent to which this will be true for today’s children remains to be seen. More importantly, if everyone grows richer over time, but the economic fates of Americans are bound up in their family origins, then in an important sense opportunities are still limited. If a poor child has little reason to believe she can “grow up to be whatever she wants,” it may be of little comfort to her that she will likely make more than her similarly constrained parents. A better-off security guard may still have wanted to be a lawyer.

The reality is that economic success in America is not purely meritocratic. We don’t have as much equality of opportunity as we’d like to believe, and we have less mobility than some other developed countries. Although cross-national comparisons are not always reliable, the available data suggest that the U.S. compares unfavorably to Canada, the Nordic countries, and some other advanced countries. A recent study shows the U.S. ranking 27th out of 31 developed countries in measures of equal opportunity.

Africa Learning Barometer

September 17, 2012 Comments off

Africa Learning Barometer

Source: Brookings Institution

The Africa Learning Barometer is an interactive feature that analyzes the state of education and learning in sub-Saharan Africa through four indicators: school enrollment, school completion, quality of education and education inequality. The Barometer is a collaboration between the Brookings Center for Universal Education and This Is Africa, a publication of the Financial Times.

Big Data for Education: Data Mining, Data Analytics, and Web Dashboards

September 4, 2012 Comments off

Big Data for Education: Data Mining, Data Analytics, and Web Dashboards

Source: Brookings Institution

In this report, I examine the potential for improved research, evaluation, and accountability through data mining, data analytics, and web dashboards. So-called “big data” make it possible to mine learning information for insights regarding student performance and learning approaches. Rather than rely on periodic test performance, instructors can analyze what students know and what techniques are most effective for each pupil. By focusing on data analytics, teachers can study learning in far more nuanced ways. Online tools enable evaluation of a much wider range of student actions, such as how long they devote to readings, where they get electronic resources, and how quickly they master key concepts.

Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

September 4, 2012 Comments off

Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

Source: Brookings Institution

This paper aims to provide metro, state, and national policy makers with a better sense of the specific problems facing metropolitan labor markets. First, the analysis examines trends in the demand for educated labor and how a gap between education supply and demand is related to unemployment. Next, it attempts to distinguish between cyclical and structural effects before turning to an explanation of how an education gap might affect both by limiting job creation. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for public policy.

Tax Proposals by 2012 Presidential Candidates

August 30, 2012 Comments off

Tax Proposals by 2012 Presidential Candidates
Source: Tax Policy Center (Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

TPC has analyzed the distributional effects of tax proposals from President Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The following pages provide links to TPC research related to the 2012 candidates.

Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

August 29, 2012 Comments off

Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

Source: Brookings Institution

This paper aims to provide metro, state, and national policy makers with a better sense of the specific problems facing metropolitan labor markets. First, the analysis examines trends in the demand for educated labor and how a gap between education supply and demand is related to unemployment. Next, it attempts to distinguish between cyclical and structural effects before turning to an explanation of how an education gap might affect both by limiting job creation. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for public policy.

Implications of Governor Romney’s Tax Proposals: FAQs and Responses

August 23, 2012 Comments off

Implications of Governor Romney’s Tax Proposals: FAQs and Responses
Source: Brookings Institution

Our recent paper examined the tradeoffs among competing goals in tax reform – including maintaining tax revenues, maintaining progressivity, and lowering marginal tax rates. As a motivating example, we estimated the degree to which individual income tax expenditures would have to be limited to achieve revenue neutrality under the individual income tax rates and other features advanced in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax proposals, and how the required reductions in tax breaks could change the distribution of the tax burden across households.

In this note, we summarize our earlier results and answer a number of substantive questions we have received about the study. We also discuss new estimates that incorporate into our analysis the taxation of interest income from municipal bonds and the taxation of inside buildup in life insurance vehicles.

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating?

August 16, 2012 Comments off

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating? (PDF)

Source: Brookings Institution

Whether a child is a proficient reader by the third grade is an important indicator of their future academic success. Indeed, substantial evidence indicates that unless students establish basic reading skills by that time, the rest of their education will be an uphill struggle. This evidence has spurred efforts to ensure that all students receive high-quality reading instruction in and even before the early grades. It has also raised the uncomfortable question of how to respond when those efforts fail to occur or prove unsuccessful: Should students who have not acquired a basic level of reading proficiency by grade three be promoted along with their peers? Or should they be retained and provided with intensive interventions before moving on to the next grade?

Several states and school districts have recently enacted policies requiring that students who do not demonstrate basic reading proficiency at the end of third grade be retained and provided with remedial services. Similar policies are under debate in state legislatures around the nation. Although these policies aim to provide incentives for educators and parents to ensure that students meet performance expectations, they can also be expected to increase the incidence of retention in the early grades. Their enactment has therefore renewed a longstanding debate about retention’s consequences for low-achieving students.

Critics point to a massive literature indicating that retained students achieve at lower levels, are more likely to drop out of high school, and have worse social-emotional outcomes than superficially similar students who are promoted. Yet the decision to retain a student is typically made based on subtle considerations involving ability, maturity, and parental involvement that researchers are unable to incorporate into their analyses. As a result, the disappointing outcomes of retained students may well reflect the reasons they were held back in the first place rather than the consequences of being retained.

Recent studies that isolate the causal impact of retaining low-achieving students cast further doubt on the conventional view that retention leads to negative outcomes. Much of this work has focused on Florida, which since 2003 has required that many third graders scoring at the lowest performance level on the state reading test be retained and provided with intensive remediation. Students retained under Florida’s test-based promotion policy perform at higher levels than their promoted peers in both reading and math for several years after repeating third grade; they are also less likely to be retained in a subsequent grade. Although it is too soon to analyze the policy’s effects on students’ ultimate educational attainment and labor-market success, this new evidence suggests that policies encouraging the retention and remediation of struggling readers can be a useful complement to broader efforts to reduce the number of students reading below grade level.

Japan’s Defense Policy: The View From Washington, DC

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Japan’s Defense Policy: The View From Washington, DC

Source: Brookings Institution

When it comes to Japan’s defense, the Japanese political system and the Japan Self-Defense Force independently decide the national policies as they are ultimately responsible for the country’s safety and security. However, due to the crucial nature of the U.S.-Japan alliance to Japan’s overall security, it is impractical not to take into account American thinking. As a result, it is important to better understand where and how American thinking on Japanese security is influenced.

The scope of this research goes beyond the official statements of the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government. The author sought to explore the role that experts and think tanks play in American discourse and opinion of Japanese security. This included extensive research of American media reports on Japanese security issues as well as interviews of key American experts and opinion leaders on Japan, mostly located in and around Washington, DC.

This project is therefore unique and novel in its approach to this key topic in Japan and the U.S. A number of Japanese reports have been published in the past about American experts’ views towards Japan, yet few incorporate both a survey of media and interviews with key current figures or focus exclusively on Japanese defense. Moreover, such viewpoints and thoughts are always changing; therefore, it is meaningful to spot the current status at such a crucial time of change, both in the U.S. and Japan, not to mention the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Ten Steps to Delivering a Successful Metro Export Plan

August 8, 2012 Comments off

Ten Steps to Delivering a Successful Metro Export Plan

Source: Brookings Institution

Many leaders in states, cities, and metropolitan areas across the country are exploring ways to help their firms tap into expanding markets worldwide to grow jobs at home. This brief serves as a how-to-guide for private, nonprofit, and government leaders in metro areas who are interested in developing effective action-oriented metropolitan export plans and initiatives customized to their region’s unique assets and capacities. It builds on lessons learned from a one-year pilot (2011–2012) where the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings collaborated with leaders in four metro areas to develop localized export plans.

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform

August 7, 2012 Comments off

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform
Source: Brookings Institution

This paper examines the tradeoffs among three competing goals that are inherent in a revenue-neutral income tax reform—maintaining tax revenues, ensuring a progressive tax system, and lowering marginal tax rates. As a motivating example, we estimate the degree to which individual income tax expenditures would have to be limited to achieve revenue neutrality under the individual income tax rates and other features advanced in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan, and how the required reductions in tax breaks could change the distribution of the tax burden across households. (We do not score Governor Romney’s plan directly, as certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail, nor do we make assumptions regarding what those components might be.)

The Implications of Military Spending Cuts for NATO’s Largest Members

July 25, 2012 Comments off

The Implications of Military Spending Cuts for NATO’s Largest Members

Source:  Brookings Institution
There have long been debates about the sustainability of the transatlantic alliance and accusations amongst allies of unequal contributions to burden-sharing. But since countries on both sides of the Atlantic have begun introducing new – and often major – military spending cuts in response to the economic crisis, concerns about the future of transatlantic defense cooperation have become more pronounced.
A growing number of senior officials are now publicly questioning the future of NATO. In June 2011, in the midst of NATO’s operation in Libya, Robert Gates, then US Defense Secretary, stated that Europe faced the prospect of “collective military irrelevance” and that unless the continent stemmed the deterioration of its armed forces, NATO faced a “dim, if not dismal future”. Ivo Daalder, the US Permanent Representative to NATO, and James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, have argued that “if defense spending continues to decline, NATO may not be able to replicate its success in Libya in another decade”. The alliance’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has warned that “if European defense spending cuts continue, Europe’s ability to be a stabilizing force even in its neighborhood will rapidly disappear”. While Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide has claimed that “exercises have shown that NATO’s ability to conduct conventional military operations has markedly declined. […] Not only is NATO’s ability to defend its member states questionable, it might actually deteriorate further as financial pressures in Europe and the US force cuts in military spending”.
In order to explore the validity of these claims, this report outlines trends in military spending across the EU since the onset of the economic crisis. It then analyzes the fallout of the downturn for the armed forces of NATO’s largest defense spenders – France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Public Security Challenges in the Americas

July 21, 2012 Comments off

Public Security Challenges in the Americas
Source: Brookings Institution

Kevin Casas-Zamora and Lucía Dammert are right to call for a comprehensive approach to fighting crime in Latin America. The need to incorporate well-designed socio-economic approaches into anti-crime strategies applies not only to policies toward social phenomena such as Latin American youth gangs, but also to fighting organized crime. This is because large populations in Latin America in areas with inadequate or problematic state presence, great poverty, and social and political marginalization continue to be dependent on illicit economies, including the drug trade, for economic survival and the satisfaction of other socio-economic needs. For many, participation in informal economies, if not outright illegal ones, is the only way to assure their human security and provide any chance of their social advancement.

The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

July 18, 2012 Comments off

The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Source: Brookings Institution

An analysis of the geography of H-1B visa requests — particularly in the metropolitan areas with the highest demand between 2001 and 2011 — reveals that:

Demand for H-1B workers has fluctuated with economic and political cycles over the last decade and reflects a wide range of employers’ needs for high-skilled temporary workers.

Employer requests have exceeded the number of visas issued every year except from 2001 to 2003 when the annual cap was temporarily raised from 65,000 to 195,000. Employers requesting the most H-1B visas are large companies subject to the cap specializing in information technology, consulting, and electronics manufacturing. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations account for almost two-thirds of requests for H-1B workers; healthcare, finance, business, and life sciences occupations are also in high demand. Over the last decade the federal government has distributed about $1 billion from H-1B visa fees to fund programs to address skills shortages in the U.S. workforce.

One hundred and six metropolitan areas had at least 250 requests for H-1B workers in the 2010–2011 period, accounting for 91 percent of all requests but only 67 percent of the national workforce.

Considerable variation exists among these metro areas in the number of workers requested and the ratio of requests to the size of the total metro workforce. On average, there were 3.3 requests for H-1Bs per 1,000 workers in these 106 metro areas, compared to 2.4 for the nation as a whole.

Metropolitan areas vary by the number of employers using the H-1B program and the cap status of the employers.
Demand in corporate metro areas (such as Columbus, IN and Seattle, WA) comes predominantly from private employers subject to the annual visa cap, while in research metro areas (such as Durham, NC and Ann Arbor, MI), the demand is driven by universities and other research institutions exempted from the cap. In mixed metro areas (such as Atlanta, GA and Trenton, NJ), a variety of employers are demanding temporary highskilled foreign workers.

In 92 of the 106 high demand metropolitan areas, STEM occupations accounted for more than half of all requests.
Computer occupations were the most highly requested occupation group in all but 11 metros of the 106 high-demand metros, where engineering, healthcare practitioners, and postsecondary teachers were more requested. Metropolitan areas also vary on occupational concentration, ranging from 74 occupation groups requested in the New York metro area, to 15 groups requested in Bloomington, IL.

H-1B visa fees designated for skills training and STEM education have not been proportionately distributed to metro areas requesting the highest number of H-1B workers.
Metropolitan areas with a high demand for H-1B workers are only receiving $3.09 on average per working age person 16 years or older of the technical skills training grants compared to $15.26 for metros that have a lower demand for H-1Bs from 2001-2011. STEM education funds are similarly distributed with the high H-1B metros receiving only $1.00 per working age person 16 years or older compared to $14.10 in the low H-1B metros.

Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit

July 11, 2012 Comments off

Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit

Source: Brookings Institution

An analysis of data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas reveals that:

Over three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service. Western metro areas like Los Angeles and Seattle exhibit the highest coverage rates, while rates are lowest in Southern metro areas like Atlanta and Greenville. Regardless of region, city jobs across every metro area and industry category have better access to transit than their suburban counterparts.

The typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less. Labor access varies considerably from a high of 64 percent in metropolitan Salt Lake City to a low of 6 percent in metropolitan Palm Bay, refl ecting differences in both transit provision, job concentration, and land use patterns. City jobs are consistently accessible to larger shares of metropolitan labor pools than suburban jobs, reinforcing cities’ geographic advantage relative to transit routing.

The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit’s ability to connect workers to opportunity and jobs to local labor pools. Fortunately, some metro areas exhibit near ubiquitous transit coverage rates and enable their jobs to access over half of their local labor pools, proving that expanded transit networks and integrated land use decisions can improve transit’s utility to employers. As metro leaders continue to grapple with limited financial resources, it is critical for transit investment decisions to simultaneously address suburban coverage gaps as well as disconnected neighborhoods. Those decisions should be made in concert with actors from other public agencies and the private sector.

This brief combines detailed data on employment, transit systems, and household demographics to determine transit accessibility within and across the country’s 100 largest metro areas. The data provide a “supply side” model of how well transit connects employers to potential workers. It builds off the data, analyses, modeling, and nearly all of the same methodological specifi cations as Brookings’ “Missed Opportunity” report.

Give Me Liberty or at Least Your Votes: A Study of Governors’ Altruism on Health Care

July 9, 2012 Comments off

Give Me Liberty or at Least Your Votes: A Study of Governors’ Altruism on Health Care
Source: Brookings Institution

“Give me Liberty or give me Death,” proclaimed Patrick Henry in defense of revolution. In many ways, more than a few Republican governors over the past several months have embraced this mantra in criticizing the president’s health care law. They view the law as an affront to basic liberty, and while it would deliver assistance to their constituents that could prevent illness or death, liberty is of greatest import.

Elected officials have the choice of representing the needs or views of those who put them in office or stand on principle to do what they believe is right. Officials often frame their views of the health care law in terms of the latter. Democrats and progressives view the law as a means of opening access to affordable health insurance for more Americans. Republicans and conservatives describe the law as a government overreach that threatens the basic liberties that all Americans enjoy and must retain.

Regardless of the needs of constituents, elected officials’ values appear to be a driving force. In a basic way, states with lower rates of uninsured often have Democratic governors or are traditionally blue states, and states with higher uninsured rates more commonly have Republican governors or are traditionally red states.

Walk this Way:The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

May 25, 2012 Comments off

Walk this Way:The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Source: Brookings Institution
An economic analysis of a sample of neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area using walkability measures finds that:

  • More walkable places perform better economically. For neighborhoods within metropolitan Washington, as the number of environmental features that facilitate walkability and attract pedestrians increase, so do office, residential, and retail rents, retail revenues, and for-sale residential values.
  • Walkable places benefit from being near other walkable places. On average, walkable neighborhoods in metropolitan Washington that cluster and form walkable districts exhibit higher rents and home values than stand-alone walkable places.
  • Residents of more walkable places have lower transportation costs and higher transit access, but also higher housing costs. Residents of more walkable neighborhoods in metropolitan Washington generally spend around 12 percent of their income on transportation and 30 percent on housing. In comparison, residents of places with fewer environmental features that encourage walkability spend around 15 percent on transportation and 18 percent on housing.
  • Residents of places with poor walkability are generally less affluent and have lower educational attainment than places with good walkability. Places with more walkability features have also become more gentrified over the past decade. However, there is no significant difference in terms of transit access to jobs between poor and good walkable places.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Pricing Carbon in the U.S.: A Model-Based Analysis of Power Sector Only Approaches

May 11, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Brookings Institution
In June 2010, as the prospects in the U.S. Senate for an economy-wide cap-and-trade bill dimmed, some proponents of climate policy began to push for a more limited-scope approach. One proposed way to limit the scope of the bill was to apply the cap-and-trade program only to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity generation. This paper uses an intertemporal computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of the world economy called G-Cubed to compare a power-sector-only climate policy with economy-wide measures that either place the same price on carbon or achieve the same cumulative emissions reduction as the program limited to the power sector.
We first model a power-sector-only scenario (the Core Scenario) that broadly represents the emissions reduction ambition of a proposal offered by Senator Bingaman in July 2010. We calculate a linearly declining series of emissions caps for U.S. electricity generation from 2012 to 2030 that fall to 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and 42 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. We calculate the Hotelling price path that achieves cumulative emissions equal to the sum of the caps, and we assume that all tax revenues are distributed lump sum to U.S. households. We then model a second scenario (the Same Price Scenario) in which the carbon price from the first scenario is applied to all fossil CO2 emissions in the US economy, not just CO2 from the power sector. Comparing this with the Core Scenario shows the incremental emissions reductions and incremental costs of expanding the policy from the power sector to the entire economy. The third scenario (the Same Emissions Scenario) calculates the Hotelling CO2 price path applied to all fossil CO2 that achieves the same cumulative reductions as the Core Scenario. Comparing it with the Core Scenario shows the consequences, for both carbon prices and economic costs, of using a narrow rather than a broad-based policy. To isolate the effects of U.S. policy, we assume the U.S. alone adopts these climate policies, with no comparable efforts abroad.

Full Paper (PDF)

Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant Programs

May 10, 2012 Comments off

Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant ProgramsSource: Brookings Institution

Rising college tuition levels—accelerated by cuts in state funding for public universities— have combined with today’s tough economic realities to make financing a postsecondary education even more difficult for students and their families. State grant programs are more important than ever to make college possible for many students who could not otherwise afford to enroll.

For these dollars to make as much difference as possible in the lives of students and in the future of state economies, state grant programs must be designed to produce the largest possible return on taxpayers’ investment. In this report, the Brookings Institution State Grant Aid Study Group, chaired by student aid expert Sandy Baum, examines the variety of state grant programs currently in place and makes policy recommendations based on the best available research.

The group proposes moving away from the dichotomy between “need-based” and “merit-based” aid and instead designing programs that integrate targeting of students with financial need with appropriate expectations and support for college success.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Individual state reports also available.

Paying Too Much for Energy? The True Costs of Our Energy Choices

May 9, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Brookings Institution

Energy consumption is critical to economic growth and quality of life. America’s energy system, however, is malfunctioning. The status quo is characterized by a tilted playing field, where energy choices are based on the visible costs that appear on utility bills and at gas pumps. This system masks the “external” costs arising from those energy choices, including shorter lives, higher health care expenses, a changing climate, and weakened national security. As a result, we pay unnecessarily high costs for energy. New “rules of the road” could level the energy playing field. Drawing from our work for The Hamilton Project, this paper offers four principles for reforming U.S. energy policies in order to increase Americans’ well-being.

Full Paper (PDF)


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