Online resources from the Brookings Institution for teachers and students

A classroom sits empty ahead of the statewide school closures in Ohio in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, inside Milton-Union Exempted Village School District in West Milton, Ohio, U.S., March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot    REFILE - CORRECTING NAME OF SCHOOL

The Brookings Institution is offering content for teachers and students on economics, social policy, politics, government, and international relations. Please feel free to download, link, embed, print, or use these materials however works best for your educational needs. For questions or to ask a Brookings expert to speak to your class, please send an email to [email protected].


The Federal budget

The federal debt is higher than at any time since World War II and continues to climb. Play the Fiscal Ship game to learn about the federal budget and put it on a sustainable course. We’ve put together this Fiscal Ship teaching guide to go with the game.

For more materials on tax and spending, see:

Shapes of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery

An alphabet soup describes how economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic could play out: L-, V-, W-, or Z-shaped, or even a “Nike swoosh.” What do these mean? David Wessel explains the scenarios and their likelihood in this short video.

Primers on economic policy


The Hutchins Center produces concise explainers of economic concepts in the news. Examples include:

Check out all the explainers from the Hutchins Center.

Understanding the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve system has a “dual mandate” to target maximum employment and to control inflation. Janet L. Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 2014-2018, discussed the “inflation puzzle” and employment.

Janet Yellen

See also:

America’s changing demographics

New racial demographics are remaking America. Demographer WIlliam H. Frey shows the U.S. is becoming a more multiracial country. What does this diversity mean for the future? Watch the video to learn the basics about the demographics of race in America.

For more materials on demographics, check out these up-to-date analyses:

Social mobility and income inequality

In this engaging and unique video, Richard Reeves uses LEGO blocks to illustrate how inequality affects the American Dream, revealing dismal prospects for underprivileged Americans to move up the socio-economic ladder.

In another video using LEGO blocks, David Wessel explains whether changes in the U.S. tax code can alter income inequality in America.

In America, the 1 percent are the villains. Everyone else—the 99 percent—are the good guys, right? Not so, argues Richard Reeves in his book Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It. The real class divide, he says, is not between the upper class and everyone else; it is between the upper middle class and everyone else. To illustrate his argument, Brookings created a short, interactive game to help you determine whether or not you are hoarding the American dream.

Image from Dream Hoarders game

When considering proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to reduce inequality, fund programs benefiting lower income households, and mitigate the amount of dynastic wealth in the U.S., how should we differentiate wealth-off Americans from the really rich? What would federal policies – like a wealth tax – could be implemented? And what negative consequences do critics believe these policies entail? David Wessel explains:

Race and discrimination in America

Housing is just one area where Black Americans suffer from discriminatory public policies. Throughout the United States, homes in Black neighborhoods are priced around 23 percent less than those in white neighborhoods, a difference of nearly $50,000 per home which totals to about $156 billion in lost assets. In this video, Andre Perry, author of Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities, explains how there is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve, and why we must work to overcome inequalities by countering the policy-based devaluation of the Black community.

Devaluation of black homes

Homeownership is central to achieving the American Dream, yet racist federal housing policy (redlining) shut out too many Black Americans from the chance to buy homes and build wealth.In this report and interactive infographic, Brookings researchers examine the true cost of racial bias. The interactive component compares home values in majority Black neighborhoods in 113 metropolitan areas with at least one Black majority neighborhood.

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Today, the average white family has about 10 times the wealth as the average Black family. White college graduates have more than 7 times more wealth than Black college graduates. No wonder the American Dream seems out of reach for so many Black Americans. In their essay, Rashawn Ray and Andre Perry argue that the U.S. government should pay reparations restore the wealth deferred to Black citizens due to slavery and racial policies designed to deny wealth-building opportunities.

Also, watch this discussion between professor William Darity and writer Kirsten Mullen on reparations for Black Americans.

Politics and GovernANCE

Brookings’ Elaine Kamarck unpacks the origin and causes of gerrymandering and explains how states can reform the process for better results.

Senators on Capitol HillMolly Reynolds explains the history of the Senate filibuster and the possible, but politically unlikely, ways to reform or eliminate it.

“Socialism” is a frequent invective hurled by conservative politicians against opponents on the left, and most Americans continue to oppose socialism in the abstract. But what is socialism, what does “democratic socialism” mean, and what are the political implications? Brookings scholars E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William Galston explain it all in this primer.

Electoral CollegeDarrell West discusses the history of the Electoral College and argues why the time has come to abolish it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has had nine justices since the mid-19th century, and they can serve for life. Russell Wheeler explores whether the size of the court and the tenure of its members should be changed.

If you were president of the United States, how would you approach the climate change crisis? How would you balance often competing goals of keeping the public on your side (so you could get reelected), maintaining economic growth, and reducing long-term emissions? Play “A president’s climate quandary” to find out.

A map indicating COVID hotspots globallyBrookings and Washington University in St. Louis developed an interactive tool that lets users select parameters and run a simulation to provide insight into how policies that use testing and contact tracing might help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

International Relations


Russian President Vladimir PutinAngela Stent explains the current state of the U.S-Russia relationship and why it’s important for the two countries to find balance between cooperation and competition.

Listen to this podcast with former Brookings scholar Alina Polyakova on Russia’s acts of political interference in the U.S. and European countries, and how they can fight back.


U.S. and Chinese flags

Ryan Hass unpacks what led China to become a more prominent political issue in the U.S. and the likelihood it drives the national conversation in 2020.

Ryan Hass goes deeper into the history of the U.S.-China relationship, where it stands today, and what steps the U.S. can take to protect its interests in the relationship going forward.

Foreign aid

US Foreign AidOpinion polls consistently report that Americans believe that U.S. foreign aid represents about a quarter of federal government spending. But, it’s less than 1%. George Ingram discusses foreign aid—what it is, what percentage of the federal budget it makes up, its efficiency, and who supports it.

Liz Schrayer explains the storyline of U.S. foreign assistance, from the Marshall Plan following World War II to the current era.

Defense and alliances

US military aircraft

Experts—and everyone else—disagree on whether the United States spends too much or too little on the defense budget. Yes, the United States spends more on defense than many other nations combined, but is this the right metric? Michael O’Hanlon explains why context rather than size helps us make sense of the defense budget.

Lindsey Ford and James Goldgeier provide important background on how America’s alliances were formed and what the United States gains from those relationships.

Explore the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard, a quarterly evaluation of U.S.-European relations across political, security, and economic dimensions. The Scorecard also offers a timeline of significant moments over the previous three months.