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10 things we learned at Brookings in May

Below are 10 interesting findings from Brookings research during the month of May.

1. Another recession will happen; automatic policy responses can minimize the damage

Bull Market and Bear Market Road Signs Referring to the Financial Markets.
In a new book produced jointly by the Hamilton Project at Brookings and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, experts lay out a set of policy changes to fiscal programs of the federal government that would improve and quicken the response to the next recession in the United States.

2. Some algorithms risk replicating or amplifying human biases

Visitors check their phones behind the screen advertising facial recognition software during Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) at the National Convention in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj - RC1838EC3EA0
Nicol Turner Lee, Paul Resnick, and Genie Barton explore how to reduce consumer harms from biases in algorithms that today make many decisions that affect our lives. “If left unchecked,” the authors write, “biased algorithms can lead to decisions which can have a collective, disparate impact on certain groups of people even without the programmer’s intention to discriminate.”

3. Housing costs have risen faster than incomes over the last decade in the US

aerial shot of suburbs

Jenny Schuetz examines housing stress for the middle class in terms of affordability, inadequate space, commute times, and homeownership. “Housing matters for the quality of life of the American middle class, in terms of quality, cost and location,” Schuetz writes. “There are wide variations in the kind of housing challenges faced by middle class families—by metro area, race, income level and family type. Policies to reduce housing stress are available, but will have to be carefully designed and implemented.”

4. Trump’s approach to Middle East peace on “a hopeless path”

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner smiles while listening to U.S. President Donald Trump talk as the president meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC188FAA0870
Shibley Telhami argues that President Trump’s approach to a plan for Middle East peace “not only breaks with international law and long-held U.S. policies, it also enshrines historic U.S. responsibility in an unjust process that will ultimately backfire against Israel, the Palestinians, and American interests.”

5. Experts explain socialism

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) looks on as bank ceos testify before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on "Holding Megabanks Accountable: A Review of Global Systemically Important Banks 10 Years After the Financial Crisis" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC18D59A9B90
E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William Galston offer a primer on socialism. They explore why it has re-entered U.S. politics, what “democratic socialism” means in contrast to past versions, and what the political implications are. “The resurgence of socialism is a warning sign for those who want to preserve this system and an opportunity for those who would reform it,” they argue. “And, as has happened before, their two causes may come to overlap.”

6. US investment in infrastructure is sending mixed signals

Infrastructure maintenance

Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer examine recent spending patterns on water and transportation infrastructure, concluding that “the country’s investments are sending mixed signals.” They note that spending on operations and maintenance is up, but overall spending is down.

7. Self-employment is good for your health

Paul Georgiou, owner of The Dining Plaice fish and chip shop, poses for a photograph in central London May 22, 2012. Deep-fried fish in a crispy batter with fat golden chips is still as popular as ever with the British public, ranked alongside roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and chicken tikka masala as the nation's favourite dish. Picture taken May 22, 2012. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN - Tags: FOOD SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 12 OF 29 FOR PACKAGE 'AS BRITISH AS FISH AND CHIPS'.SEARCH 'EDDIE FISH' TO FIND ALL IMAGES - GM1E8671J3U01
Using data from a German survey on individuals and their careers over time, Milena Nikolova finds that “becoming one’s own boss improves the mental health of those who were initially unemployed and of individuals who were formerly full-time employees.”

8. The future of Brexit is as uncertain as ever

British Prime Minister Theresa May reacts as she delivers a statement in London, Britain, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville - RC1BF4ADB330
After three failed attempts to get Parliament’s approval of a Brexit deal, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement, Amanda Sloat looks at who might succeed May, the increasing U.S. role in the issue, and what happens next. If there is no parliamentary agreement or another extension, “no deal” is the default, she says.

9. A majority of people don’t read businesses’ terms of service

People look at data on their mobiles as background with internet wire cables on switch hub is projected in this picture illustration taken May 30, 2018. Picture taken May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration - RC138602D200
Darrell West discusses the results of a national poll undertaken by Brookings to examine attitudes toward consumer privacy. Only one in five respondents said they read terms of use most of the time, while 71 percent said they never or sometimes do. “As more human activities move online,” West writes, “companies are accumulating extensive information about consumers. The sheer amount of data involved raises important questions regarding personal privacy.”

10. The pace of global poverty reduction is slowing

A customer stands by as a vendor calculates at a shop near the village of al-Jaraib, in the northwestern province of Hajjah, Yemen, February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah SEARCH "YEMEN HUNGER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC18893184D0
Two years ago, the World Poverty Clock indicated that one person escaped poverty every second. Last year, it was 0.8 people per second, and the latest projections show it has slowed even further. Homi Kharas, Kristofer Hamel, Martin Hofer, and Baldwin Tong conclude that, “The resulting new estimates and forecasts on the state of global poverty … point to a depressing new dynamic.”

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