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10 things we learned at Brookings in January

Snowzilla dropped over two feet of snow on the national capital region, but that didn’t stop Brookings experts from publishing over 400 pieces of analysis and commentary in the month of January. Here’s just a small sample of what we learned in the first month of 2016.

1. America’s water infrastructure needs $1 trillion in repairs over the next 25 years.

Joseph Kane and Robert Puentes, writing on Flint’s water contamination crisis, note that the federal government is responsible for less than a fourth of all public spending on water infrastructure. Instead, they point to some states and cities that are “pioneering innovative investments nationwide and providing models for future action.”

2. The global poverty gap is $80 billion, down from over $300 billion in 1980

Laurence Chandy, Lorenz Noe, and Christine Zhang examine the decline and then explore how a theoretical redistribution of wealth from some of the world’s billionaires could help close the remaining poverty gap.

3. In 2014, 75 percent of Americans expressed dissatisfaction with the way things are going

Drawing on data from the Brookings’s new Democracy Dashboard, Elaine Kamarck explains that while this figure is a bit lower than in 2008 (when 84 percent were dissatisfied), it comes in the face of better economic news and withdrawal from Iraq. ”That’s an angry electorate,” she says.

4. Cuba’s economy grew 4 percent in 2015, double that of previous years

Richard Feinberg offers examples of how Cuba’s private sector is growing, but notes that “for many younger Cubans, the pace of change is way too slow.”

5. The average black family’s income is 59 percent of the average white family’s, down from 65 percent in 2000.

Richard Reeves argues that “America is in danger of becoming stuck, with insufficient social, geographical, or economic mobility,” especially for black Americans.

6. Household income inequality in the U.S. is now higher than before the recession of 2007-08

Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes analyze data on income inequality in the largest 100 U.S. metro areas and the largest city in each of them.

7. Only one in five workers in Africa finds employment in the wage economy

John Page, writing in the Foresight Africa report, notes that most Africans not employed in agriculture are in low-paying services sector work. “Today,” he writes, “Africans from Cairo to the Cape are in search of better employment opportunities.”

8. Lifetime earnings from having a college degree have grown by 75 percent over the last 30 years

Beth Akers argues that while college is more expensive, its value has increased. She writes that “Today’s students are paying more to go to college, but they are also getting more out of it. In this sense they’re getting a better deal.”

9. China’s 2015 trade surplus of $600 billion is the highest ever recorded by any country

David Dollar looks at China’s slowing economy, but notes that its record-breaking trade surplus means that “it is hard to argue that China has any competitiveness problem or that there is any justification for [currency] devaluation.”

10. Despite continued bad security news, 75 percent of Afghans expressed contentment and happiness with their lives

Michael O’Hanlon documents the security and economic problems still rife in Afghanistan while noting the paradox of Afghans’ relative contentment. It may in part, he writes, “reflect their view that, as bad as things are, the nation is not on the verge of collapse.”

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