Addressing the Long-Run Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches

Addressing the Long-Run Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches.  Congressional Research Service. Jane G. Gravelle, Donald J. Marples. May 14, 2019

The growth of the national debt, which is considered unsustainable under current policies, continues to be one of the central issues of domestic federal policymaking.  Addressing a federal budget deficit that is unsustainable over the long run involves choices. Fundamentally, the issues require deciding what government goods, services, and transfers are worth paying taxes for. Most people would agree that the country benefits from a wide range of government services—air traffic controllers, border security, courts and corrections, and so forth—provided by the federal government. Yet federal government provision of goods and services comprises only a modest portion of the federal budget. Transfers, including interest payments, accounted for around 75% of the federal budget.

[PDF format, 34 pages].

Making the Business Case for Employee Well-Being

Making the Business Case for Employee Well-Being. Urban Institute. Molly M. Scott, Natalie Spievack. June 13, 2019

Businesses are beginning to move beyond traditional health insurance and retirement plans to improve employee well-being in multiple domains. The programs they offer are typically voluntary and can include financial well-being, paying for educational expenses, and on-site resource navigators who help employees address a wide range of issues. These innovative well-being benefits have the potential to make employees more engaged, less likely to miss work and make mistakes, and more inclined to protect their employers from waste or fraud. Some business case studies show that businesses with happy, healthy, and stable employees can be more profitable than their competitors. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 19 pages].

How Civil Society Can Help Prevent Violence and Extremism

How Civil Society Can Help Prevent Violence and Extremism: And what the international community can do to support it. U.S. Institute of Peace. Leanne Erdberg, Bridget Moi. June 6, 2019

Congress charged the U.S. Institute of Peace with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Following the public launch of the Task Force’s final report, four groups of experts came together to discuss how to implement the report’s recommendations. This four-part series will discuss the findings from these strategy sessions. Part one summarizes expert discussion on how civil society actors are preventing violent extremism and building resilience in their communities and practical ways the U.S. and other international actors can more effectively interact with civil society to bolster its role in prevention. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Policy

Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Policy. Social and Political Science. June 3, 2019.

This topical and engaging Research Handbook illustrates the variety of research approaches in the field of climate change adaptation policy in order to provide a guide to its social and institutional complexity. A range of international expert contributors offer interdisciplinary explorations of climate change adaptation policy from policy sciences, legal, and practitioner perspectives. Using examples from a variety of sectors including water, health and land use, and multiple levels of governance and country contexts, from international to local, and developing to developed countries, the chapters examine a wealth of theoretical orientations towards climate change adaptation policy and their underpinnings. In doing so, this Research Handbook provides an understanding of the complexity of the institutions, decision-makers and assumptions that are involved in adaptation research as well as adaptation policy development and implementation. This Research Handbook will be an indispensable resource for both researchers and practitioners in climate change adaptation with an interest in the research methods and policies that support and advance it. Undergraduate and postgraduate students of environmental studies, public policy and politics will also find this book provides a valuable foundation for building a deeper knowledge of adaptation science and policy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 528 pages].

Social Security: The Trust Funds

Social Security: The Trust Funds. Congressional Research Service. Barry F. Huston. Updated May 8, 2019

The Social Security program pays monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members and to the family members of deceased workers. Program income and outgo are accounted for in two separate trust funds authorized under Title II of the Social Security Act: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Projections show that the OASI fund will remain solvent until 2034, whereas the DI fund will remain solvent until 2052, meaning that each trust fund is projected to be able to pay benefits scheduled under current law in full and on time up to that point. Following the depletion of trust fund reserves (2052 for DI and 2034 for OASI), continuing income to each fund is projected to cover 91% of DI scheduled benefits and 77% of OASI scheduled benefits. The two trust funds are legally distinct and do not have authority to borrow from each other. However, Congress has authorized the shifting of funds between OASI and DI in the past to address shortfalls in a particular fund. Therefore, this CRS report discusses the operations of the OASI and DI trust funds on a combined basis, referring to them collectively as the Social Security trust funds. On a combined basis, the trust funds are projected to remain solvent until 2035. Following depletion of combined trust fund reserves at that point, continuing income is projected to cover 80% of scheduled benefits. 

[PDF format, 21 pages].

Investing in Successful Summer Programs: A Review of Evidence Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

Investing in Successful Summer Programs: A Review of Evidence Under the Every Student Succeeds Act.  RAND Corporation.  Jennifer Sloan McCombs et al. June 5, 2019.

Research evidence suggests that summer breaks contribute to income-based achievement and opportunity gaps for children and youth. However, summertime can also be used to provide programs that support an array of goals for children and youth, including improved academic achievement, physical health, mental health, social and emotional well-being, the acquisition of skills, and the development of interests.

This report is intended to provide practitioners, policymakers, and funders current information about the effectiveness of summer programs designed for children and youth entering grades K–12. Policymakers increasingly expect that the creation of and investment in summer programs will be based on research evidence. Notably, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) directs schools and districts to adopt programs that are supported by research evidence if those programs are funded by specific federal streams. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 162 pages].

The U.S. Labor Market in 2050: Supply, Demand and Policies to Improve Outcomes

The U.S. Labor Market in 2050: Supply, Demand and Policies to Improve Outcomes. Brookings Institution. Harry J. Holzer. May 31, 2019

Current estimates suggest that over the coming decades, slower population growth and lower labor force participation will constrain the supply of labor in the U.S. The U.S. labor force will also become more diverse as immigration and fertility trends increase the size of minority populations. New forms of automation will likely require workers to adapt to keep their old jobs, while many will be displaced or face less demand for their work (while others benefit). Firms will continue to implement alternative staffing arrangements, like turning workers into independent contractors or outsourcing their human resource management to other firms; and many will adopt “low-road” employment practices to keep labor costs low. Exactly whom these changes will benefit or harm remains unclear, the author finds, though non-college workers will likely fare the worst; higher productivity from new technologies and reduced labor supply could raise average wages, but many workers will clearly be worse off. According to the author, policymakers should provide incentives for firms to train current employees, rather than replace them, and should encourage schools and colleges to teach flexible, transferable skills, as the future workforce will likely need to adapt quickly to new and changing job requirements. Lifelong learning accounts for workers could help. Expanding wage insurance and improving unemployment insurance and workforce services could help workers adapt after suffering job displacement. Policies that make work pay, like the EITC, and others designed to increase labor force attachment, like paid family leave, could help mitigate declines in the labor force. Reforms in immigration and retirement policy will help as well, as would policy experimentation at the state and local level (with federal support). [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 51 pages].

Management of the Colorado River: Water Allocations, Drought, and the Federal Role

Management of the Colorado River: Water Allocations, Drought, and the Federal Role.  Congressional Research Service. Charles V. Stern, Pervaze A. Sheikh. Updated May 17, 2019

The Colorado River Basin covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico. Pursuant to federal law, the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Department of the Interior) manages much of the basin’s water supplies. Colorado River water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) uses, but it also is important for power production, fish and wildlife, and recreational uses. 

In recent years, consumptive uses of Colorado River water have exceeded natural flows. This causes an imbalance in the basin’s available supplies and competing demands. A drought in the basin dating to 2000 has raised the prospect of water delivery curtailments and decreased hydropower production, among other things. In the future, observers expect that increasing demand for supplies, coupled with the effects of climate change, will further increase the strain on the basin’s limited water supplies.

[PDF format, 29 pages].

Ethics in Scientific Research: An Examination of Ethical Principles and Emerging Topics

Ethics in Scientific Research: An Examination of Ethical Principles and Emerging Topics. RAND Corporation. Cortney Weinbaum et al. June 5, 2019.

Scientific research ethics vary by discipline and by country, and this analysis sought to understand those variations. The goal of this project was to provide researchers, government officials, and others who create, modify, and enforce ethics in scientific research around the world with an understanding of how ethics are created, monitored, and enforced across scientific disciplines and across international borders. The authors reviewed literature from across scientific disciplines and conducted interviews with experts in the United States, Europe, and China. The research had two motivations: (1) to inform researchers and sponsors who engage in research in emerging scientific disciplines and who may face new ethical challenges, and (2) to inform research sponsors — including government officials — who wish to encourage ethical research without unintentionally encouraging researchers to pursue their research in other jurisdictions.

This analysis led to an understanding of which ethics are common across disciplines, how these ethics might vary geographically, and how emerging topics are shaping future ethics. The authors focused on the ethics of scientific research and how the research is conducted, rather than on how the research is applied. This distinction excluded from this research an analysis of so-called “dual-use” applications for military purposes. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 118 pages].

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief.  Congressional Research Service. William J. Mallett. Updated May 14, 2019

Federal assistance to public transportation is provided primarily through the public transportation program administered by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The federal public transportation program was authorized from FY2016 through FY2020 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). This report provides an introduction to the program as authorized by the FAST Act. Major federal involvement in public transportation dates to the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-365). Prior to the mid-1960s there was very little public funding of public transportation. With much lower ridership than existed at the end of World War II and mounting debts, however, many private transit companies were reorganized as public entities. Federal funding was initially used to recapitalize transit systems. Today, the focus of the federal program is still on the capital side, but the program has evolved to support operational expenses in some circumstances, as well as safety oversight, planning, and research.

[PDF format, 12 pages].