10 things we learned at Brookings in May

The Communications team here at Brookings mined the over 220 new content items published on in May to come up with this vein of 10 very interesting findings. Visit to discover what interests you.

1. 60 percent of all births to unmarried women under age 30 are unplanned

Isabel Sawhill adds that close to half of these children will grow up in poverty. However, the new category of unmarried parents is single mothers by choice.

2. Despite its weakening economy, Russia “remains an essential supplier of oil and gas to Europe”

Sergey Aleksashenko makes the case that calling Russia “weak” after his invasion of Ukraine “is wrong and dangerously underestimates [Putin’s] power.”

3. The 2015 fighting season between the Taliban and Afghan security forces is “turning out to be the bloodiest on record since 2001”

Vanda Felbab-Brown examines in detail the state of affairs in Afghanistan, including the National Unity Government, continued U.S. military support in the country, President Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan, and more.

4. As a share of GDP, public infrastructure spending has been stagnant between 1979 and 2014

The Hamilton Project shows that public infrastructure spending from all levels of government totaled $416 billion in 2014. See five other economic facts about transportation infrastructure in the U.S.

5. Baltimore ranks 7th among 35 largest metro areas in per capital income

In the wake of recent civic unrest in Baltimore, Alan Berube and Brad McDearman examine key economic and social conditions in the city and other major American urban areas. “Baltimore is a typical American city,” they find, and “its level of concentrated poverty is average among cities in major metropolitan areas.” The problem is not that Baltimore is better or worse off than other urban places, but that the American norm is that “Stability and prosperity are distributed highly unequally across racial and community lines.”

6. Societal cost of obesity could exceed $1.1 trillion

New findings from the Center on Social and Economic Dynamics at Brookings, in partnership with the World Food Center of the University of California-Davis, estimate that if all 12.7 million U.S. youth with obesity become obese adults, the individual cost on average is just over $92,000, and “the societal costs over their lifetimes may exceed $1.1 trillion.”

7. Ukraine has over 1.255 million internally displaced people

The Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and HIAS examine the Ukrainian government’s response to its new and very large population displacement stemming from the internal conflicts in the eastern areas of Ukraine.

8. Firms located in areas with higher levels of average happiness have higher levels of investment, especially in R&D

Tuugi Chuluun and Carol Graham use surveys of reported life satisfaction at the metropolitan statistical area level to examine whether firms located in those places invested more. Although noting caveats, the authors “find a clear association between firm investment behavior, especially investment in research and development (R&D), and average happiness levels.”

9. Osama bin Laden had the writings of three Brookings scholars on his bookshelf

The Obama administration recently declassified a collection of documents captured by Navy SEALS during their raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Brendan Orino and Jeremy Shapiro and discuss why the writings of three Brookings experts were among the materials.

10. Opposition to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan cuts across red-blue lines

Philip Wallach and Curtlyn Kramer analyze state environmental agencies’ comments on the Obama administration’s signature climate change policy, concluding that “even in states with Democratic governors, state environmental agencies are reluctant to accept many aspects of the rule.” Opposition to the plan, they write, “is not simply an outgrowth of hyper-partisanship.”