10 things we learned at Brookings in February

The number 10 on the door of the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street, London.

The first full month of Donald Trump’s presidency is now past, and it feels like spring has already arrived in the nation’s capital. Here are 10 things we learned from the research and analysis from Brookings experts over the past month. To receive daily updates on new Brookings research, commentary, and events, subscribe to our newsletters.

1. Job loss in U.S. trade with Mexico under NAFTA is about 0.1 percent of the U.S. labor force

Josh Meltzer and Dany Bahar examine claims of manufacturing job losses due to trade with Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement.  They say that increases in productivity and technology are larger drivers of job losses in this sector. “Instead of bemoaning such job losses,” they write, “the administration should instead focus on better assisting people who lose their jobs—whether due to trade, technology, or productivity gains—to find new work.”

2. Two tax code provisions for low-income taxpayers lowered the national poverty rate by 3 percentage points

Elizabeth Kneebone and Cecile Murray discuss new data on the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, noting that “the tax credits effectively boost the take-home pay of low- and moderate-income working families.” Without these tax credits, the poverty rate in some states, including Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, would have been nearly 5 percentage points higher.

3. Brigham Young University ranks last of Division I research universities in its “mobility rating”

Michael Hansen looks at why his alma mater ranks nearly at the bottom of over 2,100 U.S. colleges in its “mobility rating,” a measure of how well institutions of higher learning enable students from low-income backgrounds to access and realize the benefits of college. While “success has never been BYU’s problem,” Hansen writes, “the problem is access for low-income students.”

4. An increase in monthly supplemental food assistance (SNAP) is associated with families purchasing more nutritious foods

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach testified to the House Agriculture Committee on research about the effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), utilized by over 22 million U.S. households. She observed that in 2014 the program lifted nearly 5 million people out of poverty, and offered data that even a $30 increase in monthly benefits “would increase participants’ consumption of nutritious foods such as vegetables and healthy proteins, while reducing food insecurity and consumption of fast food.” She added that banning some foods, like soda and certain luxury foods, “will raise the administrative burdens and cost of the program, but is unlikely to change consumption.”

5. Two-thirds of the world’s 21.3 million refugees live in cities

Bruce Katz and Bruce Jones comment on the “enormous” responsibilities facing cities with refugee populations—including providing housing, education, job training, health care, and public safety—but say that the “urban concentration of refugees … raises opportunities” as well. Cities are “hubs of economic activity” and afford more opportunities for employment, integration, workforce development, and health care.

6. The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage has saved contraceptive users an average of $250 annually

Eleanor Krause and Isabel Sawhill explain how Affordable Care Act regulations “have made it a little easier to prevent unintended pregnancy,” including by covering all FDA-approved forms of birth control. “Prior to the ACA,” they write, “women using birth control would spend between 30 and 44 percent of their total health care expenditures on contraceptives.”

7. Since 1960 annual federal spending has increased fivefold, while the federal civilian workforce has remained level

John J. DiIulio, Jr. examines data on America’s “big government.” Among other issues, he shows that while annual federal spending doubled between 1960 and 1975, and doubled again from 1975 to 2005, and has increased since then, the size of executive branch civilian, non-postal worker employment has remained about the same. So who is doing all the extra work? DiIulio points to “three species of administrative proxies:” state and local government workers, contractors, and non-profit organization employees.

8. Two billion more people could join the global middle class by 2028

Homi Kharas observes that it took about 150 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to 1985, to create the first 1 billion middle class consumers; 21 years to create the next billion; and nine years to create the third billion. With growing competition for energy, food, and other goods and services, “The fundamental issue, then, is how to reconcile this massive middle class expansion with a healthy planet.”

9. While 4 percent of the urban population lacks access to basic fixed broadband, 39 percent of the rural population does

President Trump has hinted at, and congressional Democrats have proposed, a massive infrastructure program.  Blair Levin and Carol Mattey argue that Congress should set aside some part of this “for a one-time rural broadband acceleration fund” to enable the FCC to meet its congressional mandate of universal access.

10. 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S.

Josh Meltzer and Mireya Solís review the foregone gains from U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which President Trump has withdrawn. In addition to undercutting leverage with China, they write that “Withdrawal from the TPP is a blow to U.S. global leadership in determining the rules for international trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.”