Publications

    BenePhilly, City of Philadelphia: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Betsy Gardner, January 2022 

    The American social safety net exists to meet needs for: unemployment assistance, supplemental money for food, help with health care costs and medical expenses, and more. However, the process of signing up for these services is often time-consuming, confusing, repetitive, and frustrating.

    To address these challenges, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Benefits Data Trust (BDT) developed BenePhilly, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Departments of Aging and Human Services, to inform people of their eligibility for benefits and assist them in quickly and efficiently enrolling. This paper is a case study of the BenePhilly program and will serve as a guide to replicate its success. By using proven, data-driven methods, the program connects high-need, eligible individuals with up to 19 different benefits, all while reducing overall poverty, providing a better application experience, and increasing trust in local government.

    BenePhilly is a network of government agencies, nonprofits, and community-based organizations connecting Philadelphians to benefits through targeted, data-driven outreach, referrals from a network of organizations, and in-person and telephone application assistance. The trained staff at both BDT and the nonprofit organizations embedded in the communities they serve help individuals easily find and enroll in benefits. According to BDT’s Chief Strategy Officer Pauline Abernathy, BenePhilly has helped more than 125,000 Philadelphia residents secure over $1.6 billion in benefits as of January 2021.

    Assessing the U.S. Treasury Department’s Allocations of Funding for Tribal Governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

    Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt, & Isabelle G. Leonaitis; November 2021  

    The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“the Act” or “ARPA”) has resulted in the single largest infusion of federal funding for Native America in U.S. history. The core of this funding is $20 billion for the more than 570 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. As required by the Act, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury” or “the Department”) devised and has now implemented a formula for allocating these monies. In this report, the authors find that the allocations that have been made are grossly inequitable and contrary to the policy objectives of Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Treasury Department itself.

     

    This study uses publicly available information to estimate enrollment and employment counts for tribes. These figures are only estimates created for the express purpose of analyzing the appropriateness of the US Department of the Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act allocations. Our estimates have not and cannot be verified against actual enrollment or employment data submitted to the Department of Treasury by each tribe.  We believe the estimates are as accurate as possible and reliable for the purpose of assessing the relative positions of tribes under Treasury’s ARPA allocations, but should not be extracted and used as accurate for any individual tribe or for any purpose other than how they are used here.

     

    Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes’ Recovery from the COVID‐19 Pandemic

    The COVID‐19 pandemic has wrought havoc in Indian Country. While the American people as a whole have borne extreme pain and suffering, and the transition back to “normal” will be drawn out and difficult, the First Peoples of America arguably have suffered the most severe and most negative consequences of all. The highest rates of positive COVID‐19 cases have been found among American Indian tribes, but that is only part of the story.

    Even before the pandemic, the average household income for Native Americans living on Indian reservations was barely half the U.S. average. Then the pandemic effectively shut down the economies of many tribal nations. In the process, tribal governments’ primary sources of the funding – which are needed to fight the pandemic and to meet citizens’ needs – have been decimated.

    As with the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act and other federal measures have helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. Yet this assistance has come to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes with litigation‐driven delay and counterproductive strings attached, and against a pre‐ pandemic background characterized by federal government underfunding and neglect – especially as compared to the funding provided and attention paid to state and local governments.

    Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act
    Henson, Eric C., Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 2021. “Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act”. Read the full report Abstract

    The federal response to the COVID19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months. For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year.

    This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socioeconomic starting points for their community members as compared to nonIndians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservationresident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or nonexistent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies2) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and nongaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

    Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Immigration Are Needed for the Middle Class

    David Dapice, June 2021 

    The US population aged 20–65, according to US Census projections, will grow by 355,000 a year this decade, and of that number, only 225,000 new entrants a year will likely be working and increasing the labor force. Yet, even after prepandemic employment is reached later this year or early in 2022, labor demand will continue to grow by millions of jobs far more than will be supplied by new entrants. If immigration policy and automation adjustments are not enough to make up for the deficit, there will be shortages and inflation, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and perhaps cause a recession. Such a recession hurts middle- and working-class families. 

    The US has indicated it wishes to compete with China. China has already formed a large trade bloc in Asia, and the obvious alternative—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—was negotiated by the US but was never even put up for approval, lacking support from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Given all this, it is worth asking: is the TPP actually bad for labor and the middle class?

     

    Recommendations for Allocation and Administration of American Rescue Plan Act Funding for American Indian Tribal Governments

    Eric C. Henson, Megan Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt; April 2021

    The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides the largest infusion of federal funding for Indian Country in the history of the United States. More than $32 billion dollars is directed toward assisting American Indian nations and communities as they work to end and recover from the devastating COVID19 pandemic – which was made worse in Indian Country precisely because such funding is long overdue.

    In this policy brief, we set out recommendations which we hope will promote the wise and productive allocation of ARPA funds to the nation’s 574 federally recognized American Indian tribes. We see ARPA as a potential “Marshall Plan” for the revitalization of Indian nations. The Act holds the promise of materially remedying at least some of the gross, documented, and long-standing underfunding of federal obligations and responsibilities in Indian Country. Yet, fulfilling that promise requires that the federal government expeditiously and wisely allocate ARPA funds to tribes, and that tribes efficiently and effectively deploy those funds to maximize their positive impacts on tribal communities.

    Cunningham, Edward, and Philip Jordan. 2020. “Our Path to “New Normal” in Employment? Sobering Clues from China and Recovery Scores for U.S. Industry.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

    Edward Cunningham and Philip Jordan, July 2020 

    The US National jobs reports for May and June exceeded expectations, and for many, this signaled that April was the true peak of American job losses and real recovery may be underway. Yet mounting evidence suggests that a job recovery is a long way off and that many jobs may not return.

    Part of the analytic disconnect stems from the fact that the global pandemic is a novel challenge for policymakers and analysts. We lack current, useful benchmarks for estimating the damage to the labor market, for estimating what recovery would look like, and for measuring an eventual recovery in jobs. Given this paucity of models, one place to look for patterns of potential recovery – particularly relating to consumption and mobility – is China.

    The Chinese economy is driven largely by consumption, urban job creation is driven by small and medium-sized companies, and China is several months ahead of the US in dealing with the pandemic’s economic and labor impact. An analysis of China’s experience may, therefore, offer important clues about our recovery here at home, and inform new models of thinking about American job recovery.

    Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt; May 2020 

    This study dissects the US Department of the Treasury’s formula for distributing first-round CARES Act funds to Indian Country. The Department has indicated that its formula is intended to allocate relief funds based on tribes’ populations, but the research team behind this report finds that Treasury has employed a population data series that produces arbitrary and capricious “over-” and “under-representations” of tribes’ enrolled citizens.

    Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt; May 2020 

    Title V of the CARES Act requires that the Act’s funds earmarked for tribal governments be released immediately and that they be used for actions taken to respond to the COVID‐19 pandemic. These may include costs incurred by tribal governments to respond directly to the crisis, such as medical or public health expenditures by tribal health departments. Eligible costs may also include burdens associated with what the U.S. Treasury Department calls “second‐order effects,” such as having to provide economic support to those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to pandemic‐driven business closures. Determining eligible costs is problematic.

    Title V of the CARES Act instructs that the costs to be covered are those incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. Not only does this create the need for some means of approximating expenditures that are not yet incurred or known, but the Act’s emphasis on the rapid release of funds to tribes also makes it imperative that a fair and feasible formula be devised to allocate the funds across 574 tribes without imposing undue delay and costs on either the federal government or the tribes.

    Recognizing the need for reasonable estimation of the burdens of the pandemic on tribes, the authors of this report propose an allocation formula that uses data‐ready drivers of those burdens.  Specifically, they propose a three‐part formula that puts 60% weight on each tribe’s population of enrolled citizens, 20% weight on each tribe’s total of tribal government and tribal enterprise employees, and 20% weight on each tribe’s background rate of coronavirus infections (as predicted by available, peer‐reviewed incidence models for Indian Country).

    William H. Overholt, December 2019

    This is an extensively edited, updated and expanded text of a lecture given for the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School on October 31, 2019. From the origination of “one country, two systems” in 1979 to today, this paper analyzes the history of the unique relationship between Hong Kong, Beijing, and the world.

    Transparency for Development Team, June 2019 

    This paper assess the impact of a transparency and accountability program designed to improve maternal and newborn health (MNH) outcomes in Indonesia and Tanzania. Co-designed with local partner organizations to be community-led and non-prescriptive, the program sought to encourage community participation to address local barriers in access to high quality care for pregnant women and infants. This paper evaluates the impact of this program through randomized controlled trials (RCTs), involving 100 treatment and 100 control communities in each country, and finds that on average, this program did not have a statistically significant impact on the use or content of maternal and newborn health services, nor the sense of civic efficacy or civic participation among recent mothers in the communities who were offered it.

    David Dapice, November 2017

    How rapidly will or could demand for power grow in Vietnam? What will interest rates be? Will the cost of generating plants go up or down, and by how much? What will the cost of each fuel be? Will the cost of carbon or other pollution begin to enter into investment decisions?

    This paper will examine these questions. It will begin by looking at demand projections and investments in efficiency – getting more output per kilowatt hour used. It will then try to estimate the costs of building and running various types of generating plants in Vietnam over time. It will also use various costs of carbon to see if including these both as a source of global warming and as an indicator of local pollution changes the calculation. Changes in the domestic supply of gas will also influence the set of potential solutions, as will the declining costs of solar electricity and battery storage. In all of this it is the system or mix of investments that need to work, not any single investment.

    Arthur N. Holcombe, June 2017

    In this paper Holcombe discusses lessons from successful poverty alleviation in Tibetan areas of China during 1998–2016. In the period between 1978 and 2015, the World Bank estimates that over 700 million people have been raised out of poverty based on a poverty line of $1.50 per capita. It also estimates that about 48 percent of residual poverty in China is located in ethnic minority areas where top-down macroeconomic policies to reduce poverty have been least effective and where strategies to target poor ethnic minority households with additional financial, technical, and other support were not successful in overcom- ing cultural and other barriers to greater income and food security.

    Stephen Goldsmith, January 2017  

    This report discusses how the private sector should be deployed to help deliver and maintain the United State's crucial water infrastructure in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. To achieve this end, it is imperative to remove deep-seated obstacles and biases at the federal level that impede the use of private financing modalities, such as P3s. As discussed in this report, policies and legislative barriers need to be thoughtfully modernized and amended in order to enable the Nation to transfer risk, accelerate delivery, and secure life-cycle efficiency in the delivery of critical water resource infrastructure. 

    Muhamad Chatib Basri, June 2016

    In this paper, Dr. Muhamad Chatib Basri, who was Indonesia’s Minister of Finance during the Taper Tantrum (TT) period, analyzes the response to the TT of the five hardest-hit countries, dubbed the “Fragile Five” (Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey), and describes how Indonesia was able to mitigate the negative effects of the TT so quickly and effectively. Dr. Basri’s account provides many insights in the realm of macroeconomic management amidst external shocks that should be quite useful to emerging markets as the Fed now contemplates raising interest rates, which could have the same impact as the TT. Dr. Basri wrote this paper while a Senior Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and is now in the Department of Economics at the University of Indonesia. 

    John Chung-En Liu, June 2016 

    China is in the process to establish its national cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Besides the top-tier market design (cap-setting, auction rules, etc.), Chinese policymakers need to pay attention to how the new carbon market embed in the larger social contexts.This brief highlights that the Chinese government needs to engage seriously with three less-concerned actors—the carbons, the business, and the marginalized—to realize the full potential of the carbon market.

    David Dapice, May 2016  

    Kachin has just over 3% of Myanmar’s population but a much larger share of its natural resource wealth, notably in the form of large jade deposits and significant hydropower potential. Research findings indicate that currently most of that wealth is going to private and foreign interests, depriving both Kachin state and the nation of resources they need and should have. The author argues that if Myanmar is to remain united, grow stronger and richer, and attract the states so they wish to belong in the Union, it will be necessary to capture a fair share of this wealth and use it for nation-building purposes, especially in Kachin state. Options for sensible approaches to hydropower, jade revenue sharing, and the state’s development more generally are discussed.

    David J. Bulman, April 2016 

    Meritocratic promotions based on local economic achievements have enabled the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to achieve not only economic growth, but also improvements in local governance, as local governments have implemented institutional reforms in pursuit of GDP growth. However, not all regions of the country have adopted GDP growth as the key priority; those that have instead prioritized social stability have experienced not only slower growth, but also worse local governance outcomes. These findings have important implications for the adaptability and resilience of the CCP.

    Kyle A. Jaros, April 2016 

    Amid booming urban growth in China, leaders have weighed the goal of building globally competitive metropolises against concerns about sustainable and inclusive development. This brief looks at the experience of similar Chinese provinces that have pursued different spatial development models, highlighting the hard choices policymakers face and the political conflicts that unfold.

    Over 40 hydropower projects are under consideration in Myanmar. While past hydro investments score poorly on environmental impact mitigation and locally shared economic benefit, this paper argues that the country’s domestic electricity demand cannot be met adequately by other renewable energy sources alone. The paper makes the case that emphasis should be placed on developing a transparent, productive and meaningful review process which embeds mechanisms for balancing national and local interests and for securing appropriate expertise to ensure comprehensive assessments. The issue of weighing domestic need versus export markets is also considered. Click to read the Burmese version

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