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10 things we learned at Brookings in July


As August gets underway and the U.S. election turns toward November, here is a look back at some of the things we learned from Brookings scholars over the last month.

  1. 39 percent of rural areas lack access to broadband internet 

Citing research that shows that the percentage of rural areas that lack access to broadband Internet is nearly 10 times that of the percentage of urban areas, Jack Karsten and Darrell West discuss how massive entry costs to internet providers in less densely populated areas have contributed to the digital divide between urban and rural America.

2. Receiving a large bump in the polls after a convention doesn’t mean a candidate will win

Elaine Kamarck discusses convention “bounces,” an uptick in the polls for a candidate following his or her party’s national convention, and how a bounce doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate will win. She uses the example of former president Jimmy Carter, who gained a sizeable bounce following the Democratic National Convention in 1980 but “lost to Ronald Reagan in a landslide.”

3. Africa’s vast inequality is mostly confined to seven outlier countries

As a whole, sub-Saharan Africa’s Gini coefficient, the figure used to determine inequality, is concerning. However, when Angola, the Central African Republic, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Comoros, and South Africa are removed from the equation, inequality in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa actually resembles the rest of the developing world.

4. 70 percent of Africans hold a positive view of China

Although Western media often portray China’s engagement in Africa as exploitive, surveys find that China is much more popular in Africa than in other regions. David Dollar discusses the impact of Chinese investment across the continent to debunk the perception of an exploitive relationship between China and its African partners.

5. U.S. advanced industries are more than twice as productive as non-advanced industries on average 

Using research that illustrates productivity trends between advanced and non-advanced industries over a period of 35 years, Mark Muro offers commentary on the recent slowdown in overall economic productivity gains while suggesting that advanced industries can help drive growth.

6. Cleveland’s and Philadelphia’s black populations are among the most segregated in America

William Frey explains how the makeup of the populations of both Cleveland and Philadelphia, which he says reflect older demographics more so than the changing American electorate, presented key opportunities to launch a national conversation on racial issues following recent deaths in Baton Rouge, outside of St. Paul, and in Dallas.


7. Income inequality has actually narrowed since 2007

While the U.S. economy has been slow to recover, Gary Burtless explains that the latest employment data show the top 1 percent saw their inflation-adjusted income drop 36 percent, triple the loss of Americans in the bottom nine-tenths, demonstrating that income inequality has actually narrowed since 2007.

8. There are significant differences among Islamism, Salafism, and jihadism

In the 2016 election cycle, much attention has focused on Muslims, and with the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, the political rhetoric won’t be going away anytime soon. To further understanding, Shadi Hamid offers a primer on some of the most often confused terms and explains the importance of being mindful of the language used when crafting policies toward Islam and Muslims.

9. Voter interest is usually more indicative of turnout than is satisfaction with the candidates

This year’s highly negative election cycle, mixed with the unprecedented disapproval ratings for both candidates, has led to higher interest in the current election than in previous years. Bill Galston explains what this could mean for turnout in November.

10. On average, minority groups are 24% less represented in their local police force than in their communities 

Citing data from Governing Magazine on racial and ethnic diversity in law enforcement agencies, Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes show that in many metropolitan areas, the demographic makeup of the police force fails to reflect the demographics of the population. Though better representation doesn’t always deter cases of tragic police confrontations, the events of this month further highlight the need for increased diversity on many of America’s police forces.


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