Throughout the last twelve months, Brookings Institution scholars published over 3,000 pieces of content, ranging from full research reports to short blogs analyzing the news. From them, we learned more about our world and our future. As we close out 2017, we are highlighting 10 of the most important things we learned from Brookings research this year.
1. A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS STILL SUPPORT ACCEPTING REFUGEES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST, BUT A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS DO NOT
Shibley Telhami’s latest survey research on American public attitudes about issues related to the Middle East includes the finding that 59 percent of those surveyed (in April 2017) support taking in refugees from conflicts in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries—after screening them for security risks. This figure is unchanged since May 2016. However, only 36 percent of Republicans support the idea, while 51 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democrats do.
2. SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SUPPORTS U.S. FOREIGN ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
In video from our Unpacked series, Senior Fellow George Ingram uncovered twelve myths about U.S. foreign aid, including that over the last 25 years, up to 75 percent of the American public supports the programs funded by U.S. foreign assistance.
3. INVESTING IN GIRLS’ EDUCATION CAN HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE
Christina Kwauk, a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Universal Education, found that promoting girls’ reproductive rights, investing in girls’ education, and developing girls’ life skills for a green economy are effective strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.
4. NEARLY 25 PERCENT OF AMERICANS LIVE IN NEIGHBORHOODS WHERE BROADBAND SUBSCRIPTION RATES ARE BELOW 40 PERCENT
Broadband is the essential infrastructure for unlocking the internet’s economic benefits. However, the digital divide keeps access from much of the United States. Less-densely populated areas in the South and West still lag behind when it comes to broadband access and, in 2015, almost 73.5 million people in the United States lived in neighborhoods where fewer than 40 percent of households subscribed to broadband.
5. REMITTANCES FROM MEXICAN WORKERS IN THE UNITED STATES TO FAMILIES IN MEXICO ACCOUNT FOR ABOUT 3 PERCENT OF MEXICO’S GDP
In her Brookings essay on the true costs of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown examines the true costs beyond the price of construction. She finds the effect the wall would have on Mexico’s economy: Mexican workers in the United States send $20 billion to $25 billion annually to families back home, amounting to about 3 percent of Mexico’s GDP.
6. HALF OF THE WORLD’S 10 FASTEST GROWING ECONOMIES ARE IN AFRICA
Brahima Sangafowa Coulibaly explains why it’s premature to say that the “Africa Rising” narrative is dead. “‘Africa rising’ need not mean ‘all’ African countries rising,” he writes. “Increasingly, African economies are differentiating themselves, and we ought to evaluate them on country-specific fundamentals and the merits of their respective economic policies..
7. MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD IS A MYTH, BUT VOTER SUPPRESSION IS REAL
Voter fraud cases, while a focus in the news, are actually very few and far between. Fellow Nicol Turner-Lee argues that “a bipartisan commission focused on restoring election integrity must focus on the persistent and rampant disenfranchisement of millions of Americans.”
8. THREE KEY CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT AGENCIES HAVE LOST 45 PERCENT OF THEIR COMBINED WORKFORCE IN THE LAST FOUR DECADES
In “Vital Statistics on Congress,” Curtlyn Kramer shows the loss of professional staff at the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, and the Congressional Budget Office. The work of these agencies is not being taken up by congressional staff elsewhere. In fact, Kramer writes, total staff levels for congressional offices have been shrinking or stagnant, though responsibilities for each member of Congress are increasing with the country’s growing population. This means Congress members and their staff “must stretch their resources.”
9. 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.” In total, this means about $1.4 billion in savings per year for oral contraceptives alone.
10. AMERICANS ARE SPENDING LESS ON ENERGY THAN AT ANY TIME IN DECADES
The Hamilton Project at Brookings and the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute have produced 12 economic facts on energy and climate change. The United States is exporting more energy than ever, global prices are at their lowest in a decade, and the cost of renewables (wind, solar, and electricity) has plummeted. “Given this technological and economic context,” the report says, “the United States has perhaps never been better positioned to tackle the urgent threat of climate change.”
Todd Stern speaks at The Economist’s Climate Risks Summit.