Briefs & Papers

Penn Wharton PPI publishes Issue Briefs once a month, tackling concerns that are varied but share one common thread: they are central to the economic health of the nation and the American people. These are nonpartisan, knowledge-driven documents written by Wharton and Penn faculty in their specific areas of expertise.

  • September 2014 Image preview

    When the state and federal health insurance exchanges were introduced in 2013, much attention was paid to the logistics of their launch. Nearly a year later, policymakers should now be looking at a different question: how can we collect and use data from the exchanges to understand how consumers think about insurance choice, so as to make the exchanges function better?

All Issue Briefs
  • September 2014 Image preview

    When the state and federal health insurance exchanges were introduced in 2013, much attention was paid to the logistics of their launch. Nearly a year later, policymakers should now be looking at a different question: how can we collect and use data from the exchanges to understand how consumers think about insurance choice, so as to make the exchanges function better?

  • July 2014 Image preview
    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is set to expire at the end of 2014 and is currently under debate in Congress. Renewing TRIA may limit the amount of disaster relief the federal government would contribute after a terrorist attack, but the different options under which TRIA might be renewed carry implications for how losses from any attack would be spread between commercial policyholders, insurers, and taxpayers.
  • May 2014 Image preview
    The Affordable Care Act calls for significant cuts in reimbursements to insurers providing Medicare Advantage (MA) coverage, which has been the most popular alternative to traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Opponents of these cuts argue that they carry serious negative repercussions for seniors, and have lobbied successfully to force their postponement. But research coming out of the Wharton School suggests that cuts to MA reimbursements actually are unlikely to harm consumer welfare.
  • March 2014 Image preview

    It’s a tough time to be a renter. According to data from the U.S. Census, half of all renters, and 83 percent of renters with incomes under $20,000, paid more than 30 percent of their incomes in rent in 2011. One commonly-proposed policy solution to declining rent affordability is the construction and preservation of low-income housing.  But this will only ameliorate the situation temporarily.

  • January 2014 Image preview

    Detroit filing for bankruptcy had significant implications for people beyond the residents of the city.  There were consequences for pension beneficiaries and bondholders that call into question the laws that protect pension and bond creditors during municipality financial distress.

  • November 2013 Image preview
    The success of the new health insurance exchanges will depend greatly on the quality of the enrollment decisions that consumers make. Choosing the wrong insurance product can translate into billions of dollars in wasteful spending at the national level. Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania have contributed to several studies outlining important ways that the exchanges can be made to work better for consumers—and for the larger economy.
  • August 2013 Image preview
    Enrollment in the Social Security Disability Insurance program has risen significantly since the late 1980s; consequently, program expenditures have far outpaced revenues and the SSDI trust fund is projected to hit zero in 2016. Moreover, the SSDI program, as currently administered, discourages applicants and recipients of benefits from seeking and returning to work, thereby reducing federal tax revenues at a time when deficit reduction is critical. The SSDI program can and must be reformed.
  • June 2013 Image preview
    The Dodd-Frank Act requires that the Federal Reserve conduct an annual stress test on large bank holding companies (BHCs) to ensure they have sufficient capital to withstand losses from adverse economic conditions. Eighteen BHCs were subjected to a stress test this year.
  • April 2013 Image preview
    The Dodd-Frank Act does not provide sufficient protection against another major financial crisis.  A better regulatory system would promote financial stability by correcting the key market failures that lead to excessive risk taking by Strategically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs).  Regulatory policies centered on contingent capital would offer a clearer and purer market signal when a SIFI is performing poorly and trigger steps to mitigate the financial risks.
  • February 2013 Image preview
    One of the main arguments against raising capital income tax rates is that doing so discourages savings and investment and hinders economic growth. However, academic research on taxes and growth suggests that this argument has no real basis. And the primary alternatives to capital income taxation — labor income taxes and increased government borrowing — carry their own potentially adverse effects on growth.
  • August 2014 Image preview
    With regard to equity crowdfunding, too many policymakers and regulators are focusing their attention on the “funding” piece of crowdfunding, overlooking the fact that the true revolutionary power of crowdfunding lies instead in the crowd.
  • June 2014 Image preview

    In order for the U.S. to remain competitive in the 21st-century economy, more individuals are going to need to earn workforce credentials and college degrees. At the same time, however, state governments have been facing financial challenges wrought by chronic structural budget deficits and rising Medicaid expenses, translating into reduced support for higher education. Instead, families now are hard-pressed to shoulder more of the burden of paying for higher education. The current system for financing higher education is broken and needs to be fixed. 


  • April 2014 Image preview

    Credit card minimum payments can act as an “anchor” that causes consumers to pay less of their debt than they otherwise would, leading to higher balances and interest costs, lower credit card scores, increased bankruptcy risks, and in the aggregate, suboptimally high levels of debt in the macro-economy. Policy “nudges,” which aim to increase the monthly amount that individuals pay on their credit card debt, have had mixed results.

  • February 2014 Image preview

    Over time, the Internet has become much larger and more diverse in terms of users, applications, technologies, and business relationships. These changes have called into question the idea of network neutrality (the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data equally), which has shaped Internet policy since the 1990s.

  • December 2013 Image preview
    Although the military’s operations are largely exempt from environmental laws and regulations when those laws conflict with its national security mission, the military has important incentives to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change. If nurtured properly, the military’s extensive undertaking to improve its sustainable energy use and reduce demand for fossil-fuel-derived energy has the potential to become one important tool in the environmental regulatory toolkit.
  • October 2013 Image preview
    The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA) significantly changed tax policy by cutting long-term capital gains tax rates and taxing dividend income at the same rates as long-term capital gains. Following the reduction in the tax disadvantage of dividends, investors gravitated toward dividend-paying investments—especially high-income investors who previously had faced the highest tax rates on dividends.  

    The behavior of investors before and after the passage of JGTRRA suggests that they divide into “clienteles” based on dividend payouts when the tax disadvantage of dividends varies across investors. Policymakers therefore need to build a proper appreciation of investor behavior, particularly among affluent households, into their thinking about any tax reform proposal affecting capital income. If dividend clientele effects are ignored, estimates of the revenue that can generated by changes in capital tax rates will be off-base.  

  • July 2013 Image preview
    Currently, the rules of fuel taxation in the U.S., like the U.S. tax code more generally, is complex and riddled with inconsistencies. The tax rate applied to carbon-based fuels varies widely depending on the type of fuel, purpose of consumption, and identity of the user. These inconsistencies only invite tax evasion and result in fuel tax revenues that fall short of even covering the costs associated with fuel consumption.
  • May 2013 Image preview
    The “shale revolution,” spurred by the development of hydraulic fracturing, brings some of the best news to U.S. manufacturing employment in recent years, and gives the U.S. the potential to become a major energy exporter. And the potential of “fracking” to produce negative health and environmental effects is a grave concern. 
  • March 2013 Image preview
    Increasingly, and particularly in response to the recent economic downturn, policy makers have pointed to regulation as a “job killer” and have called for regulatory reform to promote job creation and economic recovery.  The empirical research, although limited, reveals a more complex relationship between regulation and jobs, and fails to support the notion that regulation is either a major job killer or a significant job creator.  U.S. policy makers should not expect that the nation’s economic woes can be solved by reforming the regulatory process.
  • January 2013 Image preview
    As U.S. legislators struggle to balance the fiscal budget, tax reform and business income tax, often emerges at the forefront of the discussion.  Not all business income is taxed the same, creating great challenges in the design of new tax policy.  The implications arising from the different ways in which corporate and non-corporate entities are taxed needs to be understood in order to anticipate how changes in tax policy could affect businesses and their tax obligations. 



  • National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)

    imageFounded in 1920, the National Bureau of Economic Research is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.

    Quick Link to Public Use Data Archive

    See all data and resources »

  • National Center for Education Statistics

    imageThe National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, click here.

    Quick link to NCES Data Tools:

    Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures:

    Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.):

    See all data and resources »

  • USDA Nutrition Assistance Data

    imageData and research regarding the following USDA Nutrition Assistance programs are available through this site:

    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Food Distribution Programs
    • School Meals
    • Women, Infants and Children

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • MapStats

    A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data (demographic, economic, and geographic).

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • The World Bank Data (U.S.)

    imageThe World Bank provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • HUD State of the Cities Data Systems

    imageThe SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs. It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • Congressional Budget Office

    imageSince its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.

    The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process. Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.

    Quick link to Products page:

    Quick link to Topics:

    See all data and resources »

  • NOAA National Climatic Data Center

    imageNOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of climate and historical weather data and information.

    Quick link to home page:

    Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources:

    Quick link to Text & Map Search:

    See all data and resources »

  • The Penn World Table

    The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics

    imageFind statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.

    Quick link to Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system:

    See all data and resources »

  • Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data

    imageThe NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.

    Quick link:

    See all data and resources »

  • Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)

    imageAn online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources. FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.

    Quick link to data page:

    See all data and resources »