13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


10 things we learned at Brookings in February

An soccer fan holds a number 10 before the Italian Cup final soccer match.
Editor's note:

Fred Dews and Leah Korn contributed to this post.

February is over already, and though there were only 28 days Brookings experts had plenty of time to publish research on everything from to student debt to Russian aggression and worldview. Here are 10 things we learned from their work in the past month.

1. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is driven by a zero-sum worldview

Putin attends a meeting with members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in Moscow

From Russia’s takeover of Crimea and continued incursions in Ukraine, to its intervention in Syria, to its cyberattacks on political processes in the U.S. and Europe, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is increasingly aggressive against the liberal international order. Recently, a group of Brookings experts convened to discuss an effective U.S. strategy for countering Russian aggression and deterring future offenses, while also finding appropriate ways to cooperate on certain issues of common interest.

2. Black Panther has lessons for overcoming the resource-curse

Actor Chadwick Boseman arrives at the premiere of the new Marvel superhero film 'Black Panther' in London

In response to Marvel Studio’s recent box office hit “Black Panther,” Amadou Sy and Mariama Sow from Brookings’s Africa Growth Initiative compared the depiction of Wakanda (a fictional African country in the movie), and their management of vibranium (a valuable, non-renewable resource in Wakanda) to how real African nations such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Angola manage their own resources. They argue that not only could the blockbuster movie pave the way for an increased number of movies painting Africa in a positive light, but also that Wakanda can provide an example of the prosperity and technological advancement available to well managed resource-rich countries.

3. The repeal of the FCC’s Open Internet Rule is weakening cybersecurity  

An analyst looks at code in the malware lab of a cyber security defense lab at the Idaho National LaboratoryAccording to Tom Wheeler, an expert from the Governance Study program, the Federal Communications Commission has neglected its cyber responsibilities. The Trump administration’s “laissez faire” attitude toward cybersecurity is creating widespread risk for a cyber-attack due to the increasing connectedness of our digital world.

4. Inclusive economic development has not reached all metropolitan areas

2018.02.13_metro_Metro Monitor 2018_Cover photo Cincinnati

In their Metro Monitor 2018 report, experts from the Metropolitan Policy Program analyze communities’ progress in inclusive economic growth and prosperity and find that America’s development remains uneven. Using their report’s Inclusive Growth Index and 2016 data, the authors claim that out of the 100 largest metro areas “only 11 metro areas—Cincinnati, Des Moines, Detroit, Greenville, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, Spokane, and Washington, D.C.—achieved improvements on each of the core measures under growth, prosperity, and inclusion.”

5. Student loan debt is the largest source of consumer debt after housing

A student reads on campus.

A rapidly increasing cohort of students are taking out student loans they cannot repay, potentially creating economic distress not only for borrowers, but for the taxpayers who are left to repay the debt. Adam Looney, senior fellow in Economic Studies, explained the demographics of the types of students taking on more student debt, and shared his risk-sharing student loan proposal as a means to promote high-return educational investments.

6. Millennials with college degrees tend to live in a series of states on the East coast


In his research on the millennial generation, demographer and Senior Fellow Bill Frey examines the geographic dispersion and educational attainment of millennials across the United States.  Frey finds the most educated millennials typically live in states in the Northeast and on the Eastern seaboard, while states in the Deep South, Southwest, and Appalachia had some of the lowest shares of millennials with college degrees along with the mountain states, South Dakota, and Alaska.

7. Cuba’s private economy has soared despite a sluggish state economy

A Cuban flag decorates a subsidised state store, or "bodega", where Cubans can buy basic products with a ration book they receive annually from the government, in downtown Havana

Raúl Castro steps down as Cuba’s president after a decade of rule, during which the country’s economic growth has been stagnant. Yet the private economy employs nearly 40 percent of working-age Cubans, and the international tourism sector is booming. Richard Feinberg examines this “tale of three worlds” in Cuba’s economy, and recommends reforms to attract foreign investment, add dynamism to the energy and agriculture sectors, and address income and opportunity inequalities.

8. Amazon Go poses a threat to the 3.5 million U.S. workers employed as cashiers

Rows of cameras installed in the ceiling keep track of customers as they browse the new Amazon Go in Seattle

Vice President and Director of Governance Studies Darrell West and Research Analyst Jack Karsten analyzed the role the new Amazon Go convenience store could present in reducing job opportunities in stores and in shifting job responsibilities for store employees. In their blog post, they discuss how Amazon Go will increase data collection in retail by uniquely combing e-commerce in a brick-and-mortar store.

9. Global poverty reduction is leaving some countries behind

The Wider Image: A daughter's freedom weighed against her siblings' lives

In a new report, Brookings experts Homi Kharas and Geoffrey Gertz explain how despite the world making dramatic progress toward ending extreme poverty by 2030—one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals—there are many countries that are falling behind. The authors estimate that in 2030, 4 out of 5 people living in extreme poverty will be in just 31 countries that they call severely off track.

10. Harvard’s endowment is over $37 billion

A man walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University.

Harvard’s endowment is more than half of the total spending each year by America’s 1,462 community colleges. Economic Studies fellows Aaron Klein and Richard Reeves claim the endowment tax included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs act of 2017, if applied correctly, could serve as a wake-up call to elite universities to focus more on providing opportunity and enhancing enrichment for low-income students.