10 things we learned at Brookings in 2018

Sep 15, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA;  USA midfielder Tobin Heath (17) celebrates her goal with midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) in the first half against Thailand at MAPFRE Stadium. The USA defeated Thailand 9-0. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports - 9541294

As we close out 2018, we are highlighting 10 of the most important and interesting things we learned from Brookings research this year.

1. Artificial intelligence is already impacting the world in significant ways

A visitor fist bumps a humanoid robot at the booth of IBG at Hannover Messe, the trade fair in Hanover

Brookings President John Allen and Darrell West, the vice president and director of Governance Studies, explored the extensive benefits of utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) in everything from law to smart cities. West and Allen weighed the regulations required to maximize AI’s value while protecting its human users and offered nine steps for maximizing AI’s benefits in the future.

2. Millennials are the most diverse generation in American history

metro_2018 jan_Millennials generation William H Frey_EVENT

Metropolitan Policy Program Senior Fellow William Frey analyzed the demographic makeup of the millennial generation, now America’s largest generation, which he believes will become a bridge to the country’s more diverse future. Racial and ethnic minorities comprise more than half of the millennial population in 10 states, and over 40 percent of millennials in an additional 10 states.

3. Challenges remain for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

A woman draws water from a well in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad March 30, 2015. REUTERS/Caren Firouz - GF10000043990

In a paper released in advance of the UN General Assembly in September, Homi Kharas, John McArthur, and Krista Rasmussen considered how many people are being left behind in the efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As part of their report, the authors examined which countries and regions will miss targets if current trends persist, noting that “independent of population size, countries like Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan, and Somalia will be furthest from the absolute targets in 2030.”

4. President Trump’s staff turnover rates are high (and we have a tool to track them)

U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RC1A0674C740

In a series of interactive features, Katie Dunn Tenpas, Elaine Kamarck, and Nicholas Zeppos are tracking the turnover rates of President Trump’s cabinet secretaries and the “A Team” (senior-ranking advisers in the executive office of the president). The interactives provide information on each staffers’ previous position, their successor, and the nature of their departure. They also allow readers to compare turnover in President Trump’s White House to prior administrations.

5. Keys for managing the U.S.-China relationship

Chinese and U.S. flags are set up for a meeting during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at China's Ministry of Transport in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. Picture taken April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee - RC187D978C20

According to Ryan Hass,  the relationship between the United States and China under Donald Trump and Xi Jinping has “deteriorated further and faster than at any point since the establishment of official ties in 1979.” Hass outlines potential principles for managing competition between the two countries, allowing each to pursue their strategic goals while preventing future conflict.

6. The U.S. remains the largest foreign aid donor

cover page of Brookings-Blum 2018 report

In August, Brookings and the Aspen Institute convened the 15th annual Brookings Blum Roundtable, an annual forum of global leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners to discuss innovative ideas and initiatives to alleviate global poverty. In the post-roundtable report, Brookings scholars observed that “U.S. leadership on development cooperation extends not just from the federal government in Washington, but also from the thousands of single and multi-tiered networks of individuals and institutions across the country.” However, they added, “changing from the frame of U.S. government leadership being in charge to American leadership building and guiding networks is important. It requires a web craft rather than a statecraft mindset.”

7. Homes in majority black neighborhoods are worth 23 percent less than those with few or no black residents


Researchers Andre Perry, Jonathan Rothwell, and David Harshbarger examine the real estate markets and homeownership in black neighborhoods, finding that “owner-occupied homes in black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses.” They note that “differences in home and neighborhood quality to not fully explain the devaluation of homes in black neighborhoods.”

8. There is no universal definition of the middle class

Olivia Caceras holds one of her children as she and other marchers prepare to start a 140-mile walk to the Mexican border, in solidarity with hundreds of hopeful asylum seekers who are currently traveling northbound in a caravan through Mexico, from central Los Angeles, California, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/David McNew - RC1E7A36A840

In a new paper and series of infographics, Economic Studies program experts describe the various ways academics define the middle class. Definitions tend to vary based on scholars’ backgrounds and what questions their studies try to address, but are typically based on one of three factors: cash (or, economic resources), credentials, or culture. The authors—Richard Reeves, Katherine Guyot, and Eleanor Krause—invite readers to submit comments and their own definitions by emailing [email protected].

9. Trump’s foreign policy is self-interested, perhaps at the cost of our allies

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC13889AA630
In his analysis of President Trump’s approach diplomacy, Senior Fellow Bob Kagan argues that this administration disregards the post-World War II security bargain the United States created with its allies, and in doing so, is ignoring America’s prior moral, political, and strategic commitments. He writes: “The United States as rogue superpower, neither isolationist nor internationalist, neither withdrawing nor in decline, but active, powerful and entirely out for itself.

10. Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson reflect on the government’s response to the financial crisis

Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson discuss "10 Years After the Global Financial Crisis" in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC14CF9B7250

Throughout September, experts from across and outside Brookings reflected on the government’s response to the financial crisis of 2007-2009, highlighted by a series of events hosted by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy and the Program on Financial Stability at the Yale School of Management. In one of several noteworthy panel discussions, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretaries Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson, three of the architects of the government’s response to the financial crisis, discussed the most challenging parts of the recession and the reasoning behind the decisions they made while in office.

See also, 10 things we learned at Brookings in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Banner image: USA midfielder Tobin Heath (17) celebrates her goal with midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) in the first half against Thailand at MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, September 15, 2016 (REUTERS, Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)