Effective Government

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Government plays a vital role in providing public goods and services that private markets fail to provide, and in implementing regulations that facilitate private market activity while protecting the safety of the food we eat, the air we depend on, and the our safety and well-being. These government functions help foster economic growth and improve our quality of life, while also providing a critical safety net and insuring against risks. The Hamilton Project explores innovative proposals for enhancing public goods and services and improving our regulatory system to promote broad-based economic growth and rising living standards.


Related to Effective Government

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Tomorrow’s Catch: A Proposal to Strengthen the Economic Sustainability of U.S. Fisheries

Papers • September 2014 • Christopher Costello

In this Hamilton Project discussion paper, Christopher Costello of the University of California, Santa Barbara proposes that certain fisheries conduct an analysis of alternative fishery management structures, including different forms of catch shares, to improve the economic value of U.S. fisheries.

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What’s the Catch? Challenges and Opportunities of the U.S. Fishing Industry

Papers • September 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney, Benjamin H. Harris, Brad Hershbein

In this policy memo, The Hamilton Project highlights the economic significance of U.S. fisheries, describes the current landscape of the industry and typical management practices, and explains the “tragedy of the commons” challenge facing this natural resource. The Project also explores possible approaches for improving the economic and ecological sustainability of U.S. fisheries by establishing better-defined property rights as an alternative to traditional management systems.

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Back to School: Hamilton Project Papers Aimed at Early Learning, K-12, and Higher Education

Papers • August 2014

At the start of a new school year, The Hamilton Project highlights an array of policy proposals, economic facts, and economic analyses articulating the importance of education for the advancement and prosperity of Americans. 

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Policies to Address Poverty in America, eBook Download

Papers • June 2014

The Hamilton Project asked academic experts to develop policy proposals confronting the various challenges of America's poorest citizens, and to introduce innovative approaches to addressing poverty. When combined, the scope and impact of these proposals has the potential to vastly improve the lives of the poor. The resulting 14 policy memos are included in The Hamilton Project's Policies to Address Poverty in America. The main areas of focus include promoting early childhood development, supporting disadvantaged youth, building worker skills, and improving safety net and work support.
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Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes

Papers • June 2014 • Scott Cody, Andrew Asher

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.

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Designing Thoughtful Minimum Wage Policy at the State and Local Levels

Papers • June 2014 • Arindrajit Dube

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.

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Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment

Papers • June 2014 • Katharine Abraham, Susan Houseman

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.

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Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

Papers • June 2014 • Hilary Hoynes

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.

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Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market

Papers • June 2014 • Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, Jillian Berk

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.

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Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students

Papers • June 2014 • Harry J. Holzer

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.

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Evolution of the “Jobs Gap” and Possible Scenarios for Growth

November 7, 2014 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of October 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.2 million jobs.

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Minimum Wage and Share of Workers Earning Equal to or Less Than 150 Percent of the Minimum Wage in 2012, by State

January 10, 2014 • Charts

Every state in the country has a substantial share of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the minimum wage. In 2012, Montana had the highest share of workers—37.2 percent—with wages equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage. Even in Alaska, which boasts higher wages compared to the rest of the country, 16.9 percent of workers had wages equal to or lower than 150 percent of the minimum. Not surprisingly, the 18 states with a higher minimum wage level than the federal benchmark tended to have higher shares of workers with wages within 150 percent of the minimum wage. However, in every state in the country, at least one in six workers had wages that were equal to 150 percent of the minimum wage or lower. This chart shows the share of workers earning equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage in every state in 2012. By hovering over a state, you can also see the minimum wage in 2012 in each state.

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Rate and Unemployment Rate, by Year

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP is a key program for providing assistance to Americans when they need support the most. This can be seen in the correlation between SNAP participation and unemployment rates; SNAP participation rises during economic downturns and falls during recoveries. In 2013, the average participation rate for SNAP was 19.4 percent of the U.S. population, serving 47.7 million individuals each month, compared to a pre-recession participation rate of only 11.3 percent in 2007. As shown in the figure above, SNAP historically has tracked rates of unemployment and economic downturns closely (denoted by the teal dotted line and gray bars, respectively). SNAP participation rates (as seen in the shaded blue area) are expected to fall as the economy continues to recover, as would be expected based on the pattern observed in previous recessions. By 2020, the participation rate is projected to revert to 2009 levels—about 14.3 percent of the population.

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Household Food spending as a Fraction of the Thrifty Food Plan Minimum Spending Target for Households under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP is designed to supplement recipients’ purchasing power so that through a combination of SNAP benefits and their own spending out of available cash resources recipients can afford to purchase enough food to feed their families under the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the TFP minimum spending target for food is based on outdated and inappropriate assumptions. In particular, the TFP implicitly assumes that households have unlimited time to prepare food, and therefore are able to cook meals primarily from scratch instead of using prepared ingredients. Over the past twenty years the majority of low-income families spent more on food than would have been suggested by the cost of a minimally adequate food budget that the benefit formula is based on. This difference in spending compared to the TFP target may indicate that some families face higher food prices than those assumed by the TFP.

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Breakdown of Family Characteristics, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

Household composition of families in the struggling lower-middle class varies substantially from the household composition of families in poverty. Of families with income below the federal poverty level (FPL) (approximately 7.1 million families), 70 percent are headed by a single parent (61 percent are single female parents), 24 percent are headed by a married couple with one or two earners, and 6 percent are headed by a married couple with no earners. The composition of the struggling lower-middle class—defined here as working-age families with children under age eighteen whose income places them between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL—is markedly different from families in poverty in terms of marriage and presence of earners.

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Low-and Middle-Income Families See Little Benefit from Adding a Second Earner

December 19, 2013 • Charts

This figure displays the percentage of income generated by the addition of a secondary earner’s income that a family takes home after accounting for payroll and federal income taxes, SNAP benefits, and the cost of child care. Each set of bars represents a family of four (two adults, two children) headed by a full-time worker that earns between 100 and 250 percent of the federal minimum wage (i.e., $15,080 to $37,700 annually). The green and purple bars represent the take-home earnings generated from adding a part-time and full-time secondary earner, respectively, with the same hourly wage. In all eight scenarios represented, a family ultimately keeps less than half of the earnings generated by the secondary earner.

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Highest Educational Attainment of Family Head, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

College attainment differs markedly by poverty status. 33 percent of household family heads below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) attended at least some college, although just 6 percent of those family heads have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among household family heads with income between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL, 48 percent have attended some college, and 14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In stark contrast to those living at or below 250 percent of the FPL, 77 percent of household family heads above 250 percent of the FPL attended at least some college, and about half have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only a very small share of this group (4 percent) did not earn a high school diploma.

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Marginal Tax Rates under 2012 Law, by Earnings Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (2012)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

Marginal tax rates—the tax collected on an additional amount of income or earnings—are often highest for families at or just above the federal poverty level (FPL). 10 percent of families with earnings between 100 and 149 percent of the FPL have marginal tax rates of 60 percent or higher—meaning that these families keep 40 cents or fewer of each additional dollar they earn. For the poorest families and for those with incomes above 250 percent of the FPL, the top 10 percent of marginal tax rates fall around 35–45 percent. High marginal tax rates for some low-income families are a byproduct of safety-net programs that aim to provide means-tested benefits—benefits aimed at low-income families—to the most vulnerable households. An unfortunate consequence is that some low-income households have little incentive to work because they risk losing significant benefits as they move up the income distribution.

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Income Distributions For Working-Age Families with Children Under 18

December 19, 2013 • Charts

More than half of America’s working-age families with children under age eighteen (approximately 20.1 million families) have annual incomes of $60,000 or below. This is true whether we consider only earned wages and salary, or if we use a broader definition of pretax, pretransfer income, which also includes some unearned sources of income, such as investment income and alimony payments. The blue and green dotted lines in the figure, corresponding to the right axis, show the cumulative share of families with income under various thresholds. Around 40 percent of families earn $40,000 or less each year, 54 percent of families earn $60,000 or less (demonstrated by the black dotted line), and 76 percent of working-age families earn $100,000 or less. For working-age families with children, earning over $100,000 is the exception, not the rule.

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Child Food Insecurity and Obesity Rates in 2011, by State

November 21, 2013 • Charts

In a new chart, The Hamilton Project shows the child food insecurity rates in every state in 2011. 

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The First Step to Cutting the Red Tape: Better Analysis

April 30, 2014 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Michael Greenstone testified before the Joint Economic Committee. His testimony focused on how to design a regulatory structure that protects the well-being of our citizens without imposing unnecessary costs on American businesses and society as a whole.  

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Testimony of Melissa S. Kearney

January 16, 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney

The Hamilton Project Director, Melissa S. Kearney testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on income inequality in the United States.

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Testimony of Michael Greenstone

June 25, 2013 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone testifies before the Joint Economic Committee about strategies to improve the government’s regulatory system.

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Testimony of Adam Looney

May 22, 2013 • Adam Looney

Hamilton Project Policy Director Adam Looney testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on the role of tax reform in supporting broad-based economic growth and fiscal responsibility.

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Strengthening the Safety Net

April 17, 2012 • Robert Greenstein

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Bob Greenstein testified before the House Committee on the Budget on the social safety net.

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Improving Regulatory Performance

November 16, 2011 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone testified before the Senate Budget Committee’s Task Force on Government Performance on how we can improve the government’s system of regulatory review.

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Preliminary Thoughts on Reforming Financial Regulation

October 21, 2008 • Alice M. Rivlin

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Alice Rivlin testified before the House Committee on Financail Services on reforming financial regulation.

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Testimony of Lawrence H. Summers

September 9, 2008 • Lawrence H. Summers

In recent testimony before the House Budget Committee, Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Lawrence Summers makes a strong case for the prompt enactment of further timely, targeted, and temporary fiscal stimulus measures.

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Reducing the Likelihood of Financial Crisis

May 14, 2008 • Douglas W. Elmendorf

Hamilton Project Senior Scholar Doug Elmendorf testified before the Joint Economic Committee on principles to guide reform of financial markets.

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Options for Fiscal Stimulus

January 24, 2008 • Jason Furman

In a testimony, Jason Furman discusses a timely, temporary and targeted fiscal stimulus as a solution in stabilizing the economy.

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The Economic Costs of Climate Change

September 22, 2014 • Washington, DC

There is growing public debate over whether, when, and to what extent policymakers should take action to stem climate change. On September 22nd, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum to explore the economics of climate change, and the potential costs of inaction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. U.S Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will give keynote remarks, followed by a roundtable discussion with Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Michael Greenstone, The Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management

September 10, 2014 • Washington, DC

The fishing industry contributes about $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and over one and a half million jobs for American workers. Many coastal communities depend on the fishing industry to sustain their local economies. On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry.
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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market

July 17, 2014 • Washington, DC

On July 17, THP hosted CEA Chairman Jason Furman to discuss a new report on opportunities & challenges in the U.S. labor market. Furman was joined by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and economist Alan Blinder of Princeton University for a roundtable discussion.
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Day Two: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 20, 2014 • Washington, DC

On Friday, June 20, The Hamilton Project continued its two-day anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis. Day two of the summit focused on policies to improve the safety net and work support, including the role of work-share and minimum wage policies to support American workers.

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Day One: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

Day one of Addressing America's Poverty Crisis opened on Thursday, June 19, with discussions around policies to build skills, promote early childhood development, and support disadvantaged youth. The day kicked off with a CEO-level discussion on the importance of apprenticeship and skill training, followed by three roundtable discussions featuring academic scholars and experts. 

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

On June 19–20, The Hamilton Project hosted a summit to discuss a range of policy approaches for combating poverty in the United States.  The Hamilton Project released 14 proposals from experts around the country, each intended to tackle a specific challenge related to poverty, including new approaches to building skills, promoting early childhood development, and supporting disadvantaged youth. The authors of the new proposals were joined by public and private sector experts to discuss these ideas as part of our two-day event.

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The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States

May 1, 2014 • Washington, DC

On May 1st, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum and release three new papers focusing on crime and incarceration in the United States. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will deliver opening remarks, and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will join the forum to discuss the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, which was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support.

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Wireless Spectrum and the Future of Technology Innovation

March 24, 2014 • Washington, DC

On March 24th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum addressing key challenges with the allocation and regulation of wireless spectrum. The event featured keynote remarks by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler.

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Supporting America’s Lower-Middle-Class Families

December 4, 2013 • Washington, DC

More than half of American families earn $60,000 or less a year -- outside of poverty but with limited economic security. Many of these families rely on government programs for support and one major setback could throw their lives into chaos. On December 4th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum to highlight two new proposals for aiding America’s lower middle class families featuring a diverse range of experts.

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Improving College Outcomes: A Modern Approach to Financing Higher Education

October 21, 2013 • Washington, DC

On October 21st, THP hosted a forum and release three new policy proposals by outside experts focusing on the evolving role of higher education, and how changes in student lending and financial aid policies can help improve college outcomes. Thought leaders in higher education from around the country—including Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill; LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow; University of North Carolina President Thomas Ross; Wesleyan University President Michael Roth; and Brookings’ Brown Center for Education Policy Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst—joined the discussion to comment on the proposals, and provided their thoughts on the future of higher education in American society.

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Evolution of the “Jobs Gap” and Possible Scenarios for Growth

November 7, 2014 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of October 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.2 million jobs.

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New Directions for U.S. Water Policy: Featured Remarks by Governor Jerry Brown Video

October 20, 2014 • Video

The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment joined forces on October 20th to gather experts on the topic of water policy, drought and climate change in the United States. California Governor Jerry Brown gave featured remarks on the landscape of water in the West, and emphasized his comittment to making water a "key issue." 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Audio

September 10, 2014 • Audio

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Video

September 10, 2014 • Video

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Photo Gallery

September 10, 2014 • Photo Galleries

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Photo Gallery

July 17, 2014 • Photo Galleries

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural, and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project for a forum in Washington, DC to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Following Furman’s featured remarks, he was joined by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Princeton University economist Alan Blinder for a roundtable discussion. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Introduction

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Featured Remarks by Jason Furman

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Roundtable Discussion with Blinder, Furman, and Rubin

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, The Hamilton Project hosted Jason Furman, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), to discuss the release of a new CEA report about the change in labor force participation. Following his featured remarks, Furman was joined by Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Alan Blinder, Professor of Economics & Public Affairs at Princeton University and a former Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair, for a roundtable discussion. 
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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Introduction (Audio)

July 17, 2014 • Audio

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum.

Hamilton Project Updates

A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.