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Blog

Members of the PPI Student Group and students who receive funding from Penn Wharton PPI for Public Policy Internships regularly write on topics related to economics and public policy. The articles highlight the student perspective on topics at the intersection of economics, business, and public policy. The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

  • (Source: Wiki Commons) October 15
    On July 5th, the United States placed tariffs against $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. To many pundits, this was yet another sign of the worsening trade war between the United States and China. However, the latest strife is only part of a larger web of trade disputes involving the United States and the rest of the world. Since imposing a wide reaching 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum, the US has been engaged in a multi-front trade war with adversaries and allies alike. Although similar to previous trade disputes, these latest tariffs are both economically and legally unique, thereby meriting additional analysis. This article explains how the latest trade restrictions threaten not only years of US trade policy but also the country’s international economic and diplomatic standing.
  • Image: Healthcare, Source: Pixnio October 11
    From 1996 to 2013, United States health care spending increased by $933.5 billion, driven largely by increases in the intensity and price of care.[1] In 2016 alone, the United States spent $3.3 trillion or 17.9% of our GDP on health care.[2] In response, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed to curb the rise in health care spending by instituting cost control policies. These measures were designed to eliminate waste, improve efficiency, and rein in overutilization. A central part of this reform was the development of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which hold groups of providers collectively responsible for the overall cost and quality of care for a defined patient population.
  • [Image: White picket fence. Source: Wikimedia Commons.] October 8

    Michelle Obama has called education the “single-most important civil rights issue” of today.[1] President George Bush has referred to education as “the great civil rights issue of our time.”[2] Similarly, President Trump has vocalized support for education spending, despite his administration’s efforts to pass major budget cuts for existing programs and funnel more public funds into controversial school choice programs.[3][4] Regardless, all of these statements point to a recognition that education is the proverbial ladder to a better life—to the procurement of the American Dream.  In an age in which many are questioning what it means to be an American and to pursue the Dream, economic mobility remains central to this famed ideal. But what is a better life?  And, who can realistically dream of attaining it?

  • Image: Coal power plant, Source: Wikimedia Commons October 8
    The make-up of the United States electricity generation portfolio has transformed over the past decade. In 2008, coal provided 48% of the nation’s electricity supply, but this figure dropped to 30.1% in 2017.[1][2] Natural gas extraction has become increasingly economical through hydraulic fracturing, thereby shifting the domestic demand for cheap energy away from coal. With less domestic demand from coal-fired power plants, coal mining operations have had to search for new markets to export their product.
  • Image: Pharmaceutical Drug, Source: Pixabay October 3
    With accelerated innovation in the biopharmaceutical industry, drug prices have soared faster than anticipated and drawn national attention to individual cases of fraud. Affordability has dropped in the wake of declining accountability and transparency. Since taking office, President Trump has said one of his biggest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs and claims that the reform of the 340B Drug Discount program will be one of the ways to do so.[1] However, the program and its effect on drug prices is currently one of the most controversial issues in health care.
  • Image: Smart Home, Source: Pixabay October 2
    In the 18th Century, only about 14% percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Today, however, more than half the planet’s population resides in cities. With the continuing economic migration from semi urban and rural areas, cities are bursting at the seams with the growing demand for services and basic civic amenities. New technologies like AI, IoT, Cloud, Robotics, and Big Data Analytics may be a solution for cities by offering offering them an opportunity to become ‘smarter’, more cost effective and efficient.
  • Image: Nuclear Energy, Source: Pixbay October 1
    Modern economies, and their dependent societies, have become incredibly dependent on the production of large-scale and reliable power. Large-scale and reliable power sources contribute to a resilient grid, which is necessary to stave off both natural and human-caused incidents that could restrict availability of electricity to a nation and threaten national security.[1] Due to the demand placed on energy grids, power sources must be economically viable, safe, and approved by the public. Because of the threat posed by global warming, however, power sources must also be clean. To date, no power source meets all these criteria. Coal is economically viable and can produce large-scale, reliable power but is neither clean nor safe  and is not favored by the public.[2][3][4] Natural gas is economically viable and can produce large-scale power, but it is not reliable, favored by the public, nor clean, and is only safe relative to coal.[5][6][7][8]
  • Image: Image of realtor holding house, Source: Thinkpanama September 27
    Since the Great Recession in 2008, the federal government has taken conservatorship of two major home mortgage providers, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In order to reestablish market stability, these two firms were converted from wholly private entities into government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). In return for being under public stewardship, the GSEs are required to make annual contributions to the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund to support FHA activities and offset costs for things like affordable housing mandates.[1]
  • Image: Fentanyl patch packages from several german generic drug manufacturers. Source: Wikimedia Commons September 19
    According to a July 2016 report by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fentanyl contamination of counterfeit drugs has become a global threat.[1] While virtually all pharmaceutical medications and medical products can be found either diverted, adulterated or completely falsified on the black market, in recent years counterfeit opioids containing the extremely potent substance fentanyl have emerged as an incredibly dangerous threat affecting United States consumers.
  • Image: Narcan nasal spray demonstration in Pennsylvania. Source: Flickr September 17
    The opioid crisis is one of the most recognizable domestic issues of contemporary America. Deaths attributed to drug overdoses have steadily risen over the last decade, and reached roughly 64,000 in 2016, a figure greater than the total number of Americans who died in the entirety of the Vietnam war.[1] [2] This makes drug overdoses the leading cause of death for Americans below age 50, and about two thirds of these deaths were due to opioids.[3][4]

PENN WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The 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.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> 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.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find 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.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> 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.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The 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.</strong> 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, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> 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.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> 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. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> 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.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>