Papers: Effective Government
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Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes
In this policy memo, Scott Cody and Andrew Asher propose that federal, state, and local agencies conduct thorough needs assessments to determine if predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation can be used to improve the delivery of social services programs. This proposal aims to provide more effective services for individuals living in poverty by targeting services appropriately, and by identifying effective program improvements. This proposal is chapter fourteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Arindrajit Dube proposes that state and local governments consider median wages and local costs when setting minimum wages, index the minimum wage for inflation, and engage in regional wage setting. This proposal aims to raise the earnings of low-wage workers with minimal negative impacts on employment. This proposal is chapter thirteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman propose that the federal government subsidize state work-sharing payments during economic downturns, make work sharing a requirement for state unemployment insurance systems, change federal requirements to modify provisions of state work-sharing plans that may discourage employer participation, and provide states with adequate funding to administer work-sharing programs. This proposal, targeted at workers who would otherwise become unemployed during cyclical downturns, aims to reduce the number of layoffs during economic downturns. This proposal is chapter twelve of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
In this policy memo, Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk offer proposals to help disadvantaged adult workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the labor market. The authors call for an increase in funding in the Workforce Investment Act Adult program. They also propose a series of four steps that state and local workforce boards can take to better assist disadvantaged adult workers in obtaining skills. This proposal is chapter nine of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.
In this policy memo, Harry J. Holzer proposes the creation of financial incentives for public colleges and university systems to offer classes in high-return fields and for employers to offer more training to their employees. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have some academic preparation for higher education, aims to generate better labor market outcomes and wage gains. This proposal is chapter eight of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.
In this policy memo, Robert I. Lerman proposes a series of targeted federal and state-level initiatives to expand access to registered apprenticeship programs by creating marketing initiatives, building on existing youth apprenticeship programs, extending the use of federal subsidies, and designating occupational standards. This proposal, targeted toward at-risk youth and middle-skill adults in low-wage jobs, aims to improve human capital and raise earnings for apprentices. This proposal is chapter seven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.
In this policy memo, Bridget Terry Long proposes that school districts, community colleges, university systems, and state and federal governments reform the college remediation system by improving placement in remediation classes, providing better remediation services, and adopting measures to prevent the need for remediation. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged, academically underprepared students in high school and college, aims to reduce the need for college-level remediation and to better match underprepared students with effective resources to equip them with the skills they need to succeed in college and in the workforce. This proposal is chapter six of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Supporting Disadvantaged Youth.
In this policy memo, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Jacob Leos-Urbel propose that the U.S. Department of Labor distribute federal grants to states for municipalities to provide summer employment to disadvantaged youth, first through a pilot program and then through a nationwide expansion. This proposal, targeted at low-income youth who are enrolled in or have recently graduated from high school, aims to increase school attendance, improve educational outcomes, and reduce violent behavior and crime. This proposal is chapter five of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Supporting Disadvantaged Youth.
In this policy memo, Phillip B. Levine proposes that nongovernmental organizations—including nonprofits, foundations, and charitable organizations—as well as private-sector entities expand community-based mentoring programs, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, in accordance with a set of best practices. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have few or no adult role models in their lives, aims to improve educational and labor market outcomes for disadvantaged youth. This proposal is chapter four of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Supporting Disadvantaged Youth.
In this policy memo, Isabel Sawhill and Joanna Venator propose that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs, in conjunction with state governments, reduce unintended pregnancies through a social marketing campaign to encourage more young women to use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). This proposal, targeted at unmarried women between the ages of 15 and 30, aims to expand awareness so more low-income women use a LARC or other method of contraception, thereby reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and lowering the number of children born into poverty. This proposal is chapter three of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Promoting Early Childhood Development.
In this policy memo, Ariel Kalil proposes that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families create a task force supporting the collection of evidence to develop more-effective parenting interventions and to promote improved child development in early years. This proposal, targeted at low-income families with young children, will collect evidence on successful parenting interventions for young children through rigorous experiments, and will develop new interventions that are lower-cost and better-matched to families’ needs. This proposal is chapter two of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Promoting Early Childhood Development.
In this policy memo, Elizabeth U. Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach propose a framework for state and local governments calling for the establishment of high-quality programs in areas where preschool programs do not exist, improved preschool quality in states and localities with subpar programs, and expanded access in areas where high-quality programs already exist. This proposal aims to reduce the income-based gap in school readiness between disadvantaged and higher-income preschool-aged children, and to improve school outcomes for disadvantaged preschool children. This proposal is chapter one of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Promoting Early Childhood Development.
The introduction to The Hamilton Project’s new volume, Policies to Address Poverty in America, presents an overview of America’s poverty crisis, and makes the case for why poverty belongs on the national policy agenda. The introduction also frames the 14 policy proposals that are part of the volume, and the particular aspects of poverty they address. The proposals fall into four general categories: promoting early childhood development, supporting disadvantaged youth, building skills, and improving safety net and work support.
In this policy memo, James P. Ziliak proposes converting the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit from a nonrefundable tax credit to a refundable one, capping eligibility at $70,000 and making the credit a progressive function of income, child age, and use of licensed care facilities. This proposal, targeted at low- and middle-income families with children under the age of twelve, aims to increase labor force participation, disposable income, and the use of higher-quality child care. This proposal is chapter ten of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
This Hamilton Project policy memo provides ten economic facts highlighting recent trends in crime and incarceration in the United States. Specifically, it explores the characteristics of criminal offenders and victims; the historically unprecedented level of incarceration in the United States; and evidence on both the fiscal and social implications of current policy on taxpayers and those imprisoned.
The United States incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country in the world. Large increases in the U.S. incarceration rate over the past three decades have decreased crime but generated substantial costs. In this paper, Steven Raphael and Michael Stoll propose reforms that would reduce incarceration while maintaining a low crime rate.
Previewing a forthcoming event and paper series, The Hamilton Project highlights the disproportionate burden of crime and incarceration on America’s poor. For too many Americans, that means living in a community in which opportunities are limited, and fear of violence has shaped daily lives and altered childhoods.
Unlocking Spectrum Value through Improved Allocation, Assignment, and Adjudication of Spectrum Rights
In a new Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, J. Pierre de Vries and Philip J. Weiser propose further reforms to move spectrum regulation away from its “command-and-control” regime to allow for a more-efficient allocation of spectrum resources. De Vries and Weiser propose three distinct but complementary lines of reform.
In a new policy memo, The Hamilton Project highlights four policy challenges hampering the economic potential of wireless spectrum and opportunities to address these challenges through innovative, evidence-driven approaches to reform.
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke of a “breakthrough year for America” and foreshadowed a “year of action.” He focused on ways to expand opportunities for Americans by enhancing employment and education options for low-and middle-income citizens, developing more robust worker training programs, investing in America through infrastructure investments and energy innovation, the importance of making progress on immigration reform, and more. Since its launch in 2006, The Hamilton Project has released a range of targeted policy proposals that provide innovative, evidence-based approaches to addressing many of the policy priorities set forth in the Presidents address.
In this month’s Hamilton Project employment analysis, we consider the “ripple effects” of a minimum wage increase on near-minimum wage workers, finding that a minimum wage increase could benefit up to 35 million workers.
In the absence of congressional action to extend unemployment insurance, 1.3 million Americans will immediately lose their benefits on December 28th. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project reexamines unemployment insurance and highlights evidence suggesting that extended benefits provide a sizable boost for workers and the economy.
These economic facts focus on two key challenges facing lower-middle-class families: food insecurity and the low return to work for families who lose tax and transfer benefits as their earnings increase.
The current tax system hampers low- and middle-income families who add secondary earners to the workforce to augment their primary breadwinner’s income. In a new Hamilton Project discussion paper, Melissa Kearney and Lesley Turner propose a secondary earner tax deduction that would help make work pay for dual-earner families.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food Stamp Program—is an essential part of America’s social safety net. In a new Hamilton Project discussion paper, Diane Schanzenbach proposes five reforms that could strengthen SNAP, including incentives for participants to purchase healthier foods and improvements to the benefit formula.
In this month’s economic analysis, The Hamilton Project focuses on two critical issues related to SNAP: (1) the widespread existence of both food insecurity and obesity among low-income children in the United States, and (2) the role of SNAP in fighting poverty during times of weak labor markets. SNAP participation rises and falls in lockstep with the unemployment rate, highlighting SNAP’s role as a safety-net program that bolsters family resources when employment and wages are low.
The lack of clear information about the widening gap in perceived and actual costs of college can act as an impediment in students' decision-making process. In his new Hamilton Project proposal, Phillip Levine proposes a way to simplify and improve the transparency of college cost estimates based on a pilot program currently underway at Wellesley College.
The current federal student lending system requires students to repay loans during the first decade after college, when their incomes are relatively low and variable. In a new Hamilton Project paper, the University of Michigan's Susan Dynarski and Daniel Kreisman propose a strategy to improve student lending through the adoption of an income-contingent repayment plan.
The structure of the Pell Grant program has remained fundamentally unchanged since its inception in 1972. In a new Hamilton Project paper, Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute and The George Washington University and Judith Scott-Clayton of Columbia University propose three major structural reforms to fit the needs of a twenty-first-century economy and student population.
On October 21st, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum focusing on the evolving role of higher education in American society and released three new policy proposals by outside experts on how changes in student lending and financial-aid policies can help improve college outcomes. Key findings from each of the papers are outlined here.
For many Americans, the high cost of higher education provides a substantial barrier to college entry and ultimate completion. In this economic analysis, The Hamilton Project provides a snapshot of today’s higher education student, illustrating how the current generation of students are older and more financially independent than in the past, and highlights three forthcoming Hamilton Project papers that address the complicated landscape of higher education financing through innovative policy proposals.
Despite the consistent pattern of modest jobs growth over the last several years, the nation’s goal of a full recovery from the Great Recession remains elusive. One factor contributing to this outcome is an unclear definition of what “recovery” means, as policymakers have suggested a wide variety of economic goals. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs the economy would have to add to offset the effects of the Great Recession, which we offer as a useful target for economic recovery. The analysis discusses how changes in population and labor-force participation rates will affect the time it takes to close the gap and how we measure progress toward our economic recovery.
The role of education in improving social mobility is well-known, and new evidence identifies promising ways to help more low-income students improve their educational opportunities. In a new blog post, The Hamilton Project compares a range of interventions aimed at boosting college attendance and completion among low-income students.
Following the last five recessions in U.S. history, the economy added government jobs—an average of 1.7 million, in fact—that helped spur our economic recovery. In contrast, during our recovery from the Great Recession, the economy has shed more than 500,000 government jobs. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the trajectory of public-sector employment since the Great Recession. The findings show that if the policy response to this recession had been similar to the response after other recent recessions, the economy would have about 2.2 million more jobs today.
Workforce training programs have the potential to improve the lives and incomes of millions of Americans by lifting many into the middle class and preventing others from falling out of it. Despite their promise, however, too many workers enroll in courses that they do not complete or complete courses that do not lead to better jobs, reducing the benefits to workers and the economic return to workforce investments. Louis Jacobson of New Horizons Economic Research and Robert LaLonde of the University of Chicago propose a competition to increase the return on training investments by developing the data and measures necessary to provide the information prospective trainees need, by presenting the information in user-friendly “report cards,” by providing help for prospective trainees to use the information effectively, and by creating incentives for states to implement permanent information systems once they prove cost-effective.
Over the past decade, and particularly over the past five years, new government strategies have begun to emerge—at the federal, state, and local levels—that offer the potential of simultaneously making better use of taxpayer dollars and speeding up progress in addressing serious social problems. Jeffrey Liebman of Harvard University discusses several of these strategies and outlines five steps that policymakers can take to better inform their work with evidence. He also proposes a grant competition that identifies and encourages innovation in ten social policy priority areas as well as federal support for state and local Pay for Success initiatives.
There is significant pressure facing policymakers at all levels of government to fund programs that provide the best results for the best value. Worker training programs provide one example of where better use of evidence could dramatically improve outcomes for many Americans. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores how the use of evidence and data could help workers determine which training programs can most effectively help them find employment and increase their earnings.
In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project looks at current poverty trends in the United States, the important role of government support programs, and how sequestration could remove critical aspects of the safety net in the midst of continued labor-market weakness. The Project finds sequestration could throw many American families back into poverty during this sensitive period of economic recovery by cutting the very programs that are helping them stay above water.
Changes in the government’s role in housing finance could contribute to budget savings. Phillip Swagel’s proposal to increase the role of private capital in housing finance improves incentives for risk taking and investment, reduces taxpayer exposure to risk, and fosters competition and innovation in housing finance.
David Conrad and Ed Thomas explore how the National Flood Insurance Program and other federal disaster relief programs could be reformed to better align the costs and benefits of living in disaster-prone areas and help put the budget on more sound footing. This proposal aims to reduce budget costs of natural disasters and reduce risk to life and property of Americans living in disaster-prone areas.
Diane Lim’s approach to individual income tax expenditures would raise revenue more efficiently and progressively by reducing tax expenditures, limiting potential negative impacts on subsidized sectors by preserving certain tax incentives, and equalizing implicit subsidies across middle- and higher-income taxpayers.
Tax reform discussions often center on tax expenditures. Alan Viard proposes to replace the mortgage interest deduction with a refundable credit as a way to reduce the artificial incentive for the construction of high-end homes by better targeting the tax breaks for housing.
As policymakers work to find solutions to reduce the federal budget deficit, The Hamilton Project presents 15 pragmatic, evidenced-based proposals that would both reduce the deficit and also bring broader economic benefits from leading experts from a variety of backgrounds.
In response to likely cuts to the defense budget, Gary Roughead and Kori Schake propose restructuring the force to improve the military’s ability to respond to modern challenges, making military procurement of assets more efficient and competitive, and creating benefits packages more in line with troops’ preferences.
Cindy Williams proposes measures for sustaining a strong military while reducing future annual defense expenditures, mainly through addressing growing internal costs in the defense budget and reshaping military forces in a way that reduces future budgets while preserving strong and ready military capabilities.
Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone and Policy Director Adam Looney preview The Project’s forthcoming budget report, which includes fifteen pragmatic, evidenced-based proposals to reduce the deficit and achieve broad-based economic benefits.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious second-term agenda focusing on policies to help strengthen America’s middle class through broad-based economic growth. Since its launch in 2006, The Hamilton Project has released a range of targeted policy proposals that provide innovative, evidence-based approaches to address many of the priorities set forth in this year’s address, which we offer as a resource to policymakers in response to specific ideas mentioned by the President this week.
As Americans prepare to cast their ballots for president, many voters are pausing to assess the state of the economy. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project reviews the available data to explore whether America’s economic future looks brighter today than it did four years ago and finds that the data clearly indicate a much rosier future for the United States than was the case in 2008.
There is ongoing debate about the rising cost of college and whether that investment is still worthwhile in today’s economy. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines the rising cost of college over the last 30 years and finds that while college costs are growing, the increase in earnings one receives from a college degree—and, by extension, the cost of not going to college—are growing even faster.
The Hamilton Project examines the short- and long-run impacts of public-sector job cuts since the Great Recession. If the share of government employment to population had remained at historical levels, the unemployment rate would be approximately 7.1 percent.
The Hamilton Project examines the relationship between government spending and unemployment, finding that states that spent more during the Great Recession experienced a smaller increase in their unemployment rate.
To ensure funds are available for clean-up when natural gas accidents occur, Lucas Davis of UC Berkeley explores new approaches to bonding requirements for producers, including increasing federal minimum bond amounts and encouraging states to adopt similar minimum bond amounts for drilling on non-federal land.
To provide an economic context for tax reform, The Hamilton Project has a new paper focusing on the role of our tax system in the long-run budget deficit, global competitiveness, and rising income inequality.
Ted Gayer proposes three reforms addressing several problems that undermine the role played by cost-benefit analysis in environmental regulation: 1) agencies should use a check list of good empirical practices for using cost-benefit analysis; 2) regulators should presume that consumers can make their own energy-saving decisions and focus on regulations addressing harm people impose on others; and 3) a six-month, early regulatory review process should be established for particularly important regulations.
America’s energy choices are built on the prices we see at the pump and our utility bills. Yet these prices mask the social costs arising from those energy choices, including shorter lives, higher health care expenses, a changing climate, and weakened national security. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney provide four principles for reforming America’s energy policies to help level the playing field for all energy sources — moving away from a system that favors energy sources with lower prices at the pump but higher costs to society through health impacts and our ongoing reliance on foreign oil.
Eduardo Engel, Ronald Fischer, and Alexander Galetovic propose a series of best practices for state and local governments to follow when using public–private partnerships to provide infrastructure.
Matthew Kahn and David Levinson propose a reorganization of our national highway infrastructure priorities to preserve, maintain, and enhance existing infrastructure and the creation of the Federal Highway Bank to meet these goals.
Andrew Ang and Richard Green propose the establishment of CommonMuni, a not-for-profit advisory firm designed to reduce borrowing costs for municipalities by overcoming the difficulty individual municipalities and investors have coordinating with one another.
Potential students and their families must navigate a labyrinth of incomplete and uncertain information when deciding where to go to college, what to study, or what career to pursue, resulting in an arrrray of poor choices being made every day. This proposal calls for the federal government to expand the types of information that are available and allow users to compare indicators like cost, financial aid, student debt, employment outcomes, and average salaries following graduation, across peer institutions.
Bringing Jobs to People: How Federal Policy Can Target Job Creation for Economically Distressed Areas
This paper proposes three solutions to bring jobs to distressed areas: customized job training programs for businesses and employees, advice and consulting services through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, and a package of grants for local services and tax breaks through a reformed and revitalized Empowerment Zone program.
This paper proposes a national prisoner reentry program whose core element is up to a year of transitional employment available to all parolees in need of work.
This paper develops a new framework for understanding the mortgage markets based on behavioral economic insights and proposes a ‘sticky’ opt-out mortgage system.
Dorothy Robyn argues that there are fundamental problems with the way the federal government manages the air traffic control system and proposes policy changes to improve the system’s safety and reliability.
Mending the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit: Improving Consumer Choices and Restructuring Purchasing
This paper proposes a series of reforms to address the challenges facing Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit. These reforms include creating a standardized set of plans, increasing competition, and lowering prices paid for drugs.
This paper analyzes the federal student aid system and finds that the level of complexity makes it ineffective at increasing college enrollment. The paper then outlines a simplified system to address this issue.
In this paper, Austan Goolsbee proposes a program known as the "Simple Return," which would make it much easier for the millions of taxpayers with a relatively simple tax status to file their taxes.
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A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.