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From bridges to education: Best bets for public investment

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Infrastructure keynote and discussion

The political realities and challenges of public investment
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The political realities and challenges of public investment

President-elect Trump and many members of Congress propose to spend a lot more on public investment. Where should that money be directed to get the highest return? Based on what evidence? Which spending on physical infrastructure pays off most over time—roads, airports, water systems? Which spending on education, child-health, and other similar programs is most likely to yield higher wages and faster productivity growth in the future?

On January 9, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings investigated these and other questions about public investment in both physical infrastructure and human capital, beginning with keynote remarks from Larry Summers and a response from Harvard’s Ed Glaeser. The day’s events also included a discussion of practical and political challenges to directing investment spending to areas where the returns are likely to be greatest, as well as two new papers: one examining the evidence – or lack thereof – on the long-run benefits of investing in education; the other asking similar questions about income transfers, such as Medicaid and housing assistance, for children. The program concluded with a moderated discussion between Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Tom Reed (R-Ny.), where they expanded upon the challenges of translating evidence into policy in their respective districts.


Part I: Infrastructure

Keynote and discussion

Edward Glaeser

Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics - Harvard University

From this Session

Trump and infrastructure: Where should the money go?

Matthew Turner

Professor of Economics and Director of Graduate Studies - Brown University

Daniel Wilson

Research Advisor, Macroeconomic Research & Senior Economist - Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

From this Session

Part II: Human Capital


Greg J. Duncan

Distinguished Professor, School of Education - University of California, Irvine

From this Session



Sarah Turner

University Professor, Economics & Education - University of Virginia

Richard Murnane

Thompson Research Professor - Harvard University Graduate School of Education

From this Session

Moving from evidence to policy

Robert Doar

President and Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies - American Enterprise Institute

Ted McCann

Assistant to the Speaker for Policy, Office of the Speaker of the House - U.S. House of Representatives

Wendell Primus

Senior Policy Advisor, - Office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

From this Session

Part III: The political realities and challenges of public investment

Rosa L. DeLauro

Representative for the Third District of Connecticut - U.S. House of Representatives

From this Session

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