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America’s Crisis of Confidence: Rising Mistrust, Conspiracies, and Vaccine Hesitancy After COVID-19

October 16, 2023

Key PointsPublic confidence in science has declined sharply in recent years, with only 69 percent of Americans in May 2023 expressing confidence in scientists to act in the public's best interest, compared to 86 percent in January 2019.Public confidence in science is starkly divided along partisan lines, but education, race, ethnicity, and religion also play significant roles.Climate change remains a divisive issue among Americans, but evolution appears less divisive today than it did a decade and a half ago.Party affiliation, age, education, media-consumption habits, and religious identity all influence Americans' views of vaccines, but institutional trust also plays an important role.

Could News Bloom in News Deserts?

July 12, 2023

Key PointsDue to the steady decline of print news in America, many Americans now live in news deserts, where there is no newspaper covering local issues. The absence of information on local news and local politics weakens our communities and our political process.Despite this trend, over 100 new papers or online local news sites have opened within the past several years. To stay in business, they have experimented with new approaches to staffing and funding.It may be time to expand the role of government or philanthropy in supporting local news, which produces countless benefits for communities but is rapidly disappearing.

Understanding Nontraditional Work Arrangements and the Policy Landscape for Self-Employed Workers and the Gig Economy

July 3, 2023

Across the United States, political leaders are wrestling with challenges caused by the growth in nontraditional work arrangements. Flexibility is a staple feature of this work, and it offers income opportunities for many working Americans who either desire or require more flexible forms of work. At the same time, these work arrangements have limitations; most notably, nontraditional workers do not have access to benefits afforded to traditional employees. One obstacle in designing appropriate policies for the nontraditional workforce is that there are misunderstandings about who these workers are and want they want. The first step to designing better policies for the nontraditional worker is to invest in better data to understand this workforce and to increase public knowledge about it.It's also important to emphasize that nontraditional workers are a wholly diverse set of people—spanning different income brackets, industries, and roles—who work as either primary or supplementary earners. This is partially why one-size-fits-all reclassification policies tend to be problematic; those efforts ignore the workforce's diversity. To better meet the needs of the growing nontraditional workforce, policymakers will have to think outside the box and implement sustainable solutions that may require more flexible and portable benefits that are decoupled from employment.

Light Touch Density and Filtering Down: City of Seattle Case Study

July 3, 2023

Key takeaways:In the City of Seattle, about 12 times as much land is zoned for Single Family (SF) than for Low-Rise Multifamily (LRM).In the mid-1990s, the creation of the LRM zone allowed property owners to use their land more efficiently. As a consequence, many single-family detached homes have been converted to mostly townhomes. This is light-touch density at its best.Since 2000, 18,000 new townhomes units have been built in the LRM zone. As a result, its housing stock increased by about 75% – or about 3% per year. The supply addition in the SF zone from new single-family homes is minimal.The new townhomes are generally starter homes, which has enabled homeownership for lower-income, younger, and more diverse households.Home values in the LRM zone have appreciated at the same rate as home values in the SF zone.Unfortunately, this success is now being derailed by Seattle's Mandatory Housing Affordability (MFA) program.This program will produce a small amount of heavily-subsidized "housing Ferraris" that will be sold to low-income households and destroy the progress LRM zoning has made in expanding  broad-based housing affordability.

The Cost of Thriving Has Fallen: Correcting and Rejecting the American Compass Cost-of-Thriving Index

June 22, 2023

The Cost-of-Thriving Index (COTI), developed by American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass, asks whether families can afford a middle-class lifestyle. It compares the costs of five goods and services to the income of a typical full-time male earner. Cass concludes that the cost of thriving has increased dramatically, from 40 weeks of work in 1985 to 62 in 2022. Our improvements to Cass's estimates indicate the cost of thriving rose by 10 weeks rather than 22. After accounting for the better quality of the goods and services he tracks, the increase was four weeks. The cost of thriving declines when we account for falling federal taxes or include all full-time workers. The after-tax cost of thriving for this broader group fell by 7.5 weeks. These improvements aside, we reject the COTI approach as inadequate for assessing changes in living standards. While Cass's estimates imply that male earnings have fallen by 36 percent relative to costs, conventional analyses indicate a rise of 19 percent, without accounting for taxes, and an increase of 34 percent after taxes. For the broader group including all full-time workers, the after-tax increase was 53 percent.

The Conservative Case for Public School Open Enrollment

June 15, 2023

Key PointsAmerica's school choice moment has finally arrived. More states are adopting private school choice programs that provide universal access to education savings accounts. But the traditional public system serves the vast majority of students and will for the foreseeable future; those students deserve more choice as well.Public school choice, which allows students to transfer to schools outside their zoned district, has shown great promise in increasing access to educational opportunities and spurring improvements across school districts.Few states, however, have implemented effective public school choice programs. Policymakers would be wise to learn lessons from the nation's most successful public school choice program—in Wisconsin.

The Industry of Ideas: Measuring How Artificial Intelligence Changes Labor Markets

June 9, 2023

Key PointsFederal investments in new and emerging technologies—such as in artificial intelligence—have transformed the labor market. New "idea industries" that don't fit neatly into traditional measures of industries and scientific fields have emerged.This report describes a new, rapidly implementable, conceptual, and empirical approach to tracing how ideas move from investments in research to the marketplace and developing early warning indicators of potential workforce and education impacts.This report proposes a new evidence-based foundation to support US national growth strategies and ensure investments have the greatest chance of success for workers and employers.

How Long Do States Let Children in Foster Care Wait for Permanent Families? Timely Permanency Report Cards

March 23, 2023

Children need safe and permanent families for healthy development. Therefore, states are tasked with moving children in foster care to permanency through reunification with the family of origin, adoption, guardianship, or other custodial arrangements with relatives. Federal laws that guide states emphasize timely permanency, but states exercise substantial discretion in implementation.This report summarizes a new analysis of states' performance on four permanency measures—overall, by the child's age at entry, and by race or ethnicity. Performance across measures is summarized by an overall ranking, from 1 to 51. Complete project results are available at The analysis demonstrates that children's chances of permanency, especially through adoption, depend largely on where they live.

Community Colleges and Workforce Development: Are They Achieving Their Potential?

March 21, 2023

At the roughly 1,000 public community colleges in the US, millions of students enroll in courses and programs that prepare them for either academic pursuits (such as transferring to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor's degree) or direct entry into the workforce. Those in the latter category gain occupational skills and credentials that include associate degrees and certificates; cer-tificates can be for academic credit or not and for varying lengths of time, and certificates and associate degrees can be for fields with diverging skill needs and varying amounts of regional demand for labor at any time. Employers in key regional industries generate this labor demand, and meeting their skill needs is an important workforce development role for community colleges.While community colleges meet a wide range of student and industry needs, are they meeting their potential—in terms of serving as an accessible point of entry to good jobs in the labor market and generating opportunities for high-quality skill development and workforce preparation at scale? For whom do they work more or less effectively? And what might be done to improve opportunities and outcomes there? What is the role of short-term versus long-term and for-credit versus noncredit programs? And how can we make sure that they adapt when labor markets evolve and are shaped by technological and global factors?In this report, we argue that community colleges provide millions of students, including people of color and those from low-income backgrounds, with the skills to prosper in the US labor market. At the same time, improvements are clearly needed on several dimensions. Community colleges are experimenting with a range of innovations to improve student performance and their programs' labor market value, and many such efforts are being rigorously evaluated. College administrators should implement the most promising practices broadly, while policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels should support their implementation.

Reimagining Labor Market Information: A National Collaborative for Local Workforce Information

March 9, 2023

Key PointsThe economy is changing rapidly, constantly, and differently across the country. Workers, employers, and government agencies need to be prepared to respond.The US needs a new workforce information structure that provides timely, local, and actionable data and evidence.This report proposes the creation of a National Collaborative for Local Workforce Information that would be federally funded but state-managed, with states initiating projects designed to become products and ultimately put into practice.

Farm Animal Treatment in the United States: What Role Is There for Additional Federal Regulations?

March 6, 2023

Key PointsThe federal government mostly leaves policy about the housing and treatment of farm animals to the states, but there is increasing interest in a more active federal role, perhaps through the next farm bill.Many states regulate in-state farm animal housing and treatment, and some regulate interstate marketing of animal products based on farm animal treatment elsewhere.One argument for federal legislation is to preempt state-by-state rules to help assure national consistency. Another is to impose federal regulations that would raise standards in laggard jurisdictions and perhaps set more restrictive regulations for animal agriculture generally.This report argues for more recognition of buyers' willingness to pay to satisfy their individual preferences, more transparency about public policy goals, and better clarity about the nature of the public good related to on-farm treatment of farm animals.

Continuity of Government: Presidential Succession

December 5, 2022

Questions about the continuity of our key institutions have arisen at pivotal moments throughout our nation's history. Watershed events such as the Cold War, the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy brought continuity-of-government issues into sharp public relief. Ultimately, these events led to significant reforms, including the 25th Amendment and a new Presidential Succession Act.A decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the 9/11 attacks forced continuity issues back into the public consciousness. One result was the creation of the first Continuity of Government Commission, the predecessor to the current commission. More than two decades after 9/11, we still have to ask ourselves, Do we have the legal and constitutional framework in place to ensure that our key institutions of government could recover from a catastrophic event?America has in place legal and constitutional provisions that address presidential succession. These provisions serve us well in the straightforward case of a president's death while in office. However, the current system does not adequately address less straightforward scenarios, such as a mass attack on multiple people in the line of succession, the simultaneous incapacity of the president and vice president, and unique succession issues that could arise between Election Day and Inauguration Day.In this report, the Continuity of Government Commission recommends several changes to the Presidential Succession Act that address these vulnerabilities. These recommendations would not require constitutional amendments; they are achievable through simple legislative changes.