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All Papers

Policy Books May 16, 2019

Recession Ready: Fiscal Policies to Stabilize the American Economy

Slowdowns in the economy are inevitable. While it may be tempting to rely on Federal Reserve policy as a lone response to recessions, this would be a mistake; we know that fiscal stimulus is effective. Rather than wait for a crisis to strike before designing discretionary fiscal policy, we would be better served by preparing in advance. Enacting evidence-based automatic stabilizer proposals before the next recession will help the next recovery start faster, make job creation stronger, and restore confidence to businesses and households.

Policy Proposal May 16, 2019

Increasing Federal Support for State Medicaid and CHIP Programs in Response to Economic Downturns

In the face of large declines in tax revenues and increased demand for state programs during and after recessions, state governments are often forced to raise taxes, cut programs, or both. In order to protect state Medicaid programs and counteract recessions, Matthew Fiedler, Jason Furman, and Wilson Powell III propose to automatically increase the federal share of expenditures under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program when a state’s unemployment rate exceeds a threshold level.

Policy Proposal May 16, 2019

Improving TANF’s Countercyclicality through Increased Basic Assistance and Subsidized Jobs

The design of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program prevents it from providing sufficient assistance to families with children during economic downturns and from serving as an effective stabilizer. In order to help TANF better deliver on both these fronts, Indivar Dutta-Gupta proposes ways to change the funding, design, and administration of the program.

Economic Facts Mar 15, 2019

Nine Facts about Monetary Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System

Interacting with the criminal justice system is an expensive proposition. Its reliance on bail to encourage return after pretrial release, on fines to punish and provide restitution, and on fees to fund the system implies that an individual’s economic means may determine how burdensome any interaction is. These nine economic facts characterize the current use of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system, highlighting the economic and social costs that they pose to defendants and society.

Policy Proposal Mar 15, 2019

Addressing Modern Debtors’ Prisons with Graduated Economic Sanctions that Depend on Ability to Pay

The use of monetary sanctions to punish crimes ranging from minor traffic or public order offenses to the most serious felonies is ubiquitous in the United States. Nationally, millions of people hold billions of dollars of criminal debt from past monetary sanctions, much of which is regarded as uncollectible because of the limited financial resources of the debtors. In this paper, Beth Colgan of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law describes the harms associated with unmanageable monetary sanctions as well as the evidence from day-fines pilot projects. Colgan builds on this evidence to propose a system for graduating sanctions according to ability to pay.

Policy Proposal Mar 15, 2019

Proposals for Improving the U.S. Pretrial System

On any given day, there are roughly half a million individuals in custody awaiting trial in the United States, nearly double that of any other country. This high rate of pretrial detention has contributed to concerns regarding the effectiveness and constitutionality of the current bail system. In this paper, Will Dobbie of Princeton University and Crystal Yang of Harvard Law School propose two broad sets of policy proposals that can both reduce our nation’s reliance on pretrial detention and improve pretrial decisions.

Policy Proposal Mar 15, 2019

A Proposal to End Regressive Taxation through Law Enforcement

In this paper Michael Makowsky of Clemson University describes how the reliance of local governments on fees, fines, and asset forfeiture for revenue generation shapes law enforcement activities. Makowsky proposes a set of reforms that would decouple the revenue collection from the public safety objectives of law enforcement. Breaking this link would realign the criminal justice system with its traditional public safety goals.

Economic Facts Jan 31, 2019

Nine Facts about State and Local Policy

Policy debates often focus only on major decisions made in Washington, DC. But for many Americans, the decisions made much closer to home have just as large, if not larger, effects on day-to-day life. These nine economic facts highlight the important economic roles of state and local governments, emphasizing how their budgetary and regulatory decisions affect access to opportunity. Transportation and land-use policy receive particular attention given their large impacts on the patterns of economic activity.

Policy Proposal Jan 31, 2019

Fact-Based Policy: How Do State and Local Governments Accomplish It?

Policymakers at the state and local levels tackle some of the toughest problems facing society. To make measurable progress in solving these problems, public policy needs to be effective, efficient, and evidence based. Justine Hastings of Brown University draws on her experiences founding Research Improving People’s Lives (RIPL), a nonprofit research–policy partnership in Rhode Island that aims to make state policy more fact based and more effective through the creation of an integrated database of state administrative data and derived tables. She provides best practices for creating the database and using it effectively to derive policy insights.

Policy Proposal Jan 31, 2019

Removing Barriers to Accessing High-Productivity Places

High regional inequality is driven, in part, by local land-use regulations that prevent low- and middle-income workers from accessing high-productivity places. In this paper, Daniel Shoag of Harvard Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve University discusses the problems with current housing policies and their effects on economic growth and mobility. To remove these barriers, the author outlines local, state, and federal policy initiatives that can boost housing supply in booming parts of the country.

Policy Proposal Jan 31, 2019

Local Transportation Policy and Economic Opportunity

There is broad agreement about the importance of transportation infrastructure, but disagreement about the goals of transportation policy and the appropriate means to achieve these goals. In this paper, Matthew Turner of Brown University examines the current state of U.S. infrastructure and discusses different reforms that focus on improving both access to opportunity and for the efficiency of the highway and bus transit systems.

Economic Analysis Oct 15, 2018

Work Requirements and Safety Net Programs

This paper characterizes the types of individuals who would face work requirements in SNAP and Medicaid, describes what their work experiences are over a two-year period, and identifies the reasons why they are not working if they experience a period of unemployment or labor force nonparticipation. The analysis concludes that proposed work requirements would put at risk access to food assistance and health care for millions who are working, trying to work, or face barriers to working. 

Economic Facts Oct 9, 2018

A Dozen Facts about Immigration

Immigration has wide-ranging impacts on society and culture, and its economic effects are no less substantial. This document provides a set of economic facts about the role of immigration in the U.S. economy, describing the patterns of recent immigration (levels, legal status, country of origin, and U.S. state of residence), the characteristics of immigrants (education, occupations, and employment), and the effects of immigration on the economy (economic output, wages, innovation, fiscal resources, and crime).