10 things we learned at Brookings in August

Number 10, in neon

Brookings experts slowed down a little in August but not enough to thwart another compilation of 10 interesting findings from their research. So long, calendrical summer …

1. The vast majority of people deported from the U.S. have committed no violent crime

A U.S. Border patrol agent opens a gate on the fence along the Mexico border

The Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings has assembled key statistics on immigration in the context of President Trump’s insistence that undocumented immigrants cause crime, and that a border wall is necessary. Of 170,000 deportation proceedings held through May of FY 2017, only 1.76 percent were cases of aggravated felonies and another 4.24 percent other criminal activity. Over 86 percent were for immigration violation alone.

2. Forty percent of employers around the world find it difficult to recruit workers with the necessary skills

cue-essay-page-banner-14In an essay for the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, Distinguished Fellow Julia Gillard examines how to build better education systems to avoid a mismatch between the supply and demand of skilled labor. “If education in much of the world fails to keep up with the changing demand for skills, if it remains behind 21st century standards,” she explains, “then there will be a major shortage of skilled workers in both developing and developed economies, as well as large surpluses of workers with poor skills.

3. The U.S. debt limit originated when the Treasury Dept. started selling War Bonds for World War I

Hutchins Center Explains promo image

The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary policy explains the origins of the debt limit—the amount of money the U.S. Treasury is authorized to borrow to pay the government’s existing obligations—and why raising it has become so controversial. A default on some payments, the Center notes, “is likely to damage the way the markets view U.S. government debt, perhaps increasing the interest rates that investors demand when they buy Treasury bonds.”

4. Only 8 of 35 major U.S. industries experienced export growth between 2014 and 2016


Joseph Parilla and Nick Marchio from the Metropolitan Policy Program detail goods and services exports for 381 metropolitan areas in the United States. They find that the overall export decline was linked to manufacturing declines, particularly in the industrial Midwest. “The rise of services exports [e.g., travel & tourism, tech, management & legal services] and the decline of goods exports,” they note, “accelerated a longer-term industrial transition occurring in U.S. metro areas.”

5. Remittances from Mexican workers in the U.S. to families in Mexico account for about 3 percent of Mexico’s GDP

Immigrant farm workers harvest spinach near Coachella, California. Getty Images

In her Brookings essay on the true costs of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown documents a variety of costs beyond the construction price. Among these: Mexican workers in the United States send $20 billion to $25 billion annually to families back home, amounting to about 3 percent of Mexico’s GDP.

6. Kenya ranks high in financial and digital inclusion

FDIP 2017 cover image

The Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) report evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services by underserved people across 26 geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries. “For the third year in a row,” the report’s authors find, “Kenya ranked at the top of the FDIP scorecard, driven by its robust commitment to advancing financial inclusion, widespread adoption of mobile money services among traditionally underserved groups, an increasingly broad range of mobile money services (including insurance and loan products), and an enabling regulatory environment for digital financial services.”

7. Twenty-four million women and men are out of the U.S. labor force

Workers on the assembly line replace the back covers of 32-inch television sets.

In new research, the Hamilton Project at Brookings examines the nation’s labor force participation rate—the fraction of adults either employed or are searching for work. The rate has steadily declined since 1999. The Hamilton Project studied the reasons why 24 million prime-age (25 to 54) women and men who are not employed or searching for work, and how they are making ends meet. One finding: nearly 40 percent of all prime-age nonparticipants are caregivers (and most of these are women).

8. Afghanistan’s government controls about 60 percent of its territory

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with military officers as he departs after announcing his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS1CQRT

Experts John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon offer their recommendations for U.S. policy in Afghanistan, including increasing U.S. troops by several thousand to help more Afghan units in the field, and help the Kabul government fight corruption. “If we need to mini-surge by a few thousand troops now, and then stay with a more modest presence through much of the 2020s,” they write, “that is preferable to seeing another sanctuary for ISIS or al Qaeda develop on the eastern flank of the broader Middle East region.”

9. Investing in youth is the best way to improve U.S. social mobility


Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin of the Centennial Scholar Initiative examine city-, county-, and metropolitan-area efforts to improve outcomes for children and youth. “For local leaders,” Katz and Tilchin argue, “ensuring that children have access to meaningful opportunities is more than a social responsibility—it is an economic imperative for their communities.”

10. America’s trade deficit accounts for about 2.5 percent of the GDP

Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into the U.S. at the Otay border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes - RTX2ZF8Q

Dany Bahar, fellow in Global Economy and Development, says President Trump’s focus on bilateral trade deficits—such as that between the U.S. and Mexico currently under review in the NAFTA renegotiations—is “very unsophisticated” because it fails to take into account the bigger picture of U.S. trade relations with other countries. “[I]f the Trump administration wants to really improve the lives of Americans, those that were or were not affected by NAFTA,” Bahar writes, “there is one thing to focus on in the renegotiations: how to make North America more competitive as a block toward the rest of the world, instead of trying to create more barriers to trade within it.