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10 things we learned at Brookings in September

A small sampling of the research and commentary produced by Brookings experts during the month of September.

1. Social impact bonds in 30 countries

A girl plays hopscotch as people line up to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Marseille, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1DF78E8BB0
Researchers in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings have been tracking the field of social impact bonds over the last five years. “Thus far,” they write, “the research has shown that impact bonds have the potential to help address a wide range of social challenges in high-, middle-, and low-income countries.” According to the September 2019 snapshot, by Emily Gustafsson-Wright and Izzy Boggild-Jones, there are 166 impact bonds in 30 countries, valued at over $408 billion, and concentrated in employment and social welfare sectors.

2. Modernize insurance to protect against cyberattack

A FireEye information analyst works in front of a screen showing a near real-time map tracking cyber threats at the FireEye office in Milpitas, California, December 29, 2014. FireEye is the security firm hired by Sony to investigate last month's cyberattack against Sony Pictures. Picture taken December 29. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY CRIME LAW) - RTR4JTQC
Business and property insurance policies typically exclude “acts of war” in their coverage. But Aaron Klein and Scott Anderson ask what happens when losses result not from traditional military forces directed by governments, but from cyberattack. They analyze the problem, and propose a modernized approach to insuring against losses in cyber warfare, including using the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act as a model. “As Congress weighs renewing TRIA, which expires at the end of 2020,” Klein and Anderson write, “it should seriously consider whether the federal government should play a similar role in stabilizing the insurance industry’s approach to cyberattacks, thereby ensuring substantial coverage before a major cyberattack forces the question.”

3. China’s growing global influence extends beyond US-China matters

Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song - RC187164FDE0

Foreign Policy at Brookings has launched a two-year, multi-scholar project to assess China’s growing role in the world. Project co-directors Tarun Chhabra, Rush Doshi, and Ryan Hass, with Emilie Kimball, review a series of expert contributions to the series, writing that “the terrain of strategic competition between the United States and China is expanding, and domestic drivers of Chinese conduct seem unlikely to impose restraint.”

4. What Congress should focus on in impeachment of the president

“Congress should focus for impeachment purposes only on matters of unacceptable presidential conduct that are provable on the basis of currently available evidence and that are thus easily presentable to the Senate for judgment.” So write Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare in their analysis of the activities that Congress should, and should not, consider in its impeachment inquiry of President Trump. They outline the five major areas that should be the focus of possible articles of impeachment.

5. AMERICA’S TWO ECONOMIES ARE DIVIDED BY POLITICS AND ARE DIVERGING

The road leading into town of Dedham, Iowa.
In the last decade, prosperity and income measures in Republican and Democratic districts have changed from near-parity to divergence. As Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton document, median household income and GDP per congressional seat in Democratic districts has risen sharply, while that of Republican districts has declined. “For at least the foreseeable future,” they write, “the nation seems destined to struggle with extreme economic, territorial, and political divides in which the two parties talk almost entirely past each other on the most important economic and social issues, like innovation, immigration, and education because they represent starkly separate and diverging worlds.”

6. Decent housing is the foundation for all social and economic activities

A man walks past multi-colored homes that face the now-closed Bethlehem Steel mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 22, 2016. After Bethlehem Steel's blast furnaces went silent 20 years ago in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the local economy bounced back as new industrial parks filled with e-commerce companies and white-collar businesses fleeing New York's higher costs. That adds to the challenge for Donald Trump, Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency, as he seeks voters' backing in the state's primary on April 26. REUTERS/Brian Snyder SEARCH "BETHLEHEM STEEL" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES - GF10000393653

Housing is one of the most talked about issues on the Democratic campaign trail, says Jenny Schuetz, adding that “the renewed attention reflects both economic realities and political ones.” As housing costs rise⁠—both rent and mortgages⁠—middle- and low-income people and their families are feeling the pressure. “The most critical problem,” Schuetz argues, “is the gap between incomes and housing costs for poor families. Having stable, decent housing in a safe and healthy community is the foundation for all other economic and social activities.”

7. The “leave no one behind” development agenda needs specifics

A worker uses his feet to spread rice for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019.Picture taken January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - RC15F688B6B0

In 2015 the global community agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a promise to “leave no one behind” (LNOB). Homi Kharas and John McArthur observe that when it comes to global development cooperation and poverty reduction, “governments and official agencies often deploy the rhetoric of LNOB but revert to traditional development strategies in their programming.” In their new edited volume, Leave No One Behind: Time for Specifics on the Sustainable Development Goals. published jointly by Brookings and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, they argue that “the best way to put teeth into the LNOB agenda, both domestically and internationally, is to reframe the relevant SDG targets more precisely—on specific people facing specific problems in specific places.”

8. women and minority representation among fed government economists is growing compared to academia, but still low

Fed career opportunities
Researchers from the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings examined data on Ph.D. economists employed by the federal government, including: the Federal Reserve board and the 12 regional banks; three arms of Congress (GAO, CRS, and CBO); and many federal agencies. Among their findings: 30% of federal government Ph.D. economists are women and about a quarter are minorities; both figures are slightly higher than in academia. Read the report to find out more.

9. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is global, not just regional

A cargo train is launched to operate on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and financed by Chinese government in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC18EA14A4B0
In his paper for the Global China initiative, David Dollar explains that while China’s Belt and Road Initiative seems “aimed at regional economic corridors,” it is “global and motivated by economic and strategic interests.” In this piece, Dollar looks specifically at BRI infrastructure projects in Africa, and suggests both that Western countries “tone down their rhetoric on BRI,” and also that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank work to increase options for developing countries.

10. The many ways Black Americans are denied their right to vote

A girl waits in line as voters line up with their ballots at a polling station on election day in Harlem, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb - S1AEULRLYVAA
Rashawn Ray, a new David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brookings, and Pastor Mark Whitlock offer data on the rates at which Black Americans vote, and dispute the stereotype that “Black people do not vote.” Instead, they write, “Black people not wanting to vote simply isn’t empirically true relative to other racial groups. We must take into account the ways that Blacks are systematically denied the ability to vote,” including gerrymandering and various disenfranchisement policies.

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