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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.

  • Image: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program logo, Source: Wikimedia Commons August 22
    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, is an integral part of the United States’ nutritional social safety net. In February, the Trump Administration proposed an overhaul and cut in funding to SNAP. The proposal moves away from the traditional system of electronic monetary credits and instead proposes to provide households with a physical basket of foods. This article will explore the history and evolution of SNAP and evaluate the President’s proposed changes to the program.
  • Loretta Sandoval displays basil grown on her farm Zulu's Petals Certified Organic Produce and Nursery near Dixon, New Mexi... August 21

    Since the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has had the authority to promulgate regulations that certify certain food production as ‘organic.’ These regulations were meant to make sure that organic farms wishing to certify their products as organic “must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.”[1] As of 2016, over 5 million acres of farmland are certified organic by the USDA (about equally split between rangeland and crop land).[2] Furthermore, Organic product sales topped $49 billion in 2017.[3] Even though the amount of organic farmland is still less than 1% of total farm acreage in the U.S. (>900 million), organic products represent over 12% of the market value of agricultural products.[4] Over the last 28 years, USDA organic certification has not only changed farming practices, but it has also greatly affected consumer habits, subsequent regulation, and even, questionably, consumer health.

  • Steel workers form a rebar cage that will act as the "bones" of the pier shafts that will support the new southb... August 20
    Stock markets were rattled by President Donald Trump’s March announcement of the implementation of tariffs on the importation of steel and aluminum, even including our closest allies of the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. In the week leading up to the news, Canada and the United States were approaching a trade deal before Vice President Mike Pence called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demanded a sunset clause on the agreement.[1] While these types of deals are meant to create certainty for businesses and economies, the expiration dates imposed by a sunset clause would significantly undercut this stability, and Prime Minister Trudeau refused to sign onto the agreement with VP Pence’s demands. Similarly, the European Union had sought a limited trade deal, but President Trump’s investigation into automobile imports worried negotiators, especially Germany for whom cars are a major export.
  • New data providers continue to flood the emerging alternative data industry. According to AlternativeData.org, over 300 al... August 1

    Picture this: you’re tired of the spam in your inbox, so you download a new app for your browser that blocks it. While downloading, the Terms of Agreement pop up, and you click ‘Agree’ – because why wouldn’t you? Unbeknownst to you, while you are now enjoying your spam-free email, the Slice Technologies app is analyzing your emails for purchase receipts and selling this anonymized data to hedge funds.[1] Is that an invasion of privacy? Not quite, as you agreed to the terms. But why would hedge funds, and other investment advisers, want this information? Well, with this kind of alternative data, investment firms can make much more accurate predictions about a company’s sales revenue and its health. This new world of alternative data poses incredible alpha-creating potential for investment advisers, as well as new legal concerns for the courts and regulators.

  • Whats App uses encryption technology July 31

    American law enforcement agencies are advocating that technology companies be forced to compromise the encryption used in their products, to facilitate ongoing investigations.[1] Encryption is the computational tool used to protect every American’s digital communications and data from eavesdropping and tampering, and it plays a vital role in our economy and national security. A misguided attempt to weaken encryption would only damage our national interests, both with respect to economic wellbeing and business security. Hackers and foreign nations will target the introduced weaknesses, domestic firms’ ability to build and export security innovations will decrease, and the American competitive advantage in the technology sector will be lessened.

  • Image: A 13th century Catalan nautical chart portraying a caravan on its way to China via the Silk Road. Source: Wikimedia... July 23
    The legacy of the Silk Road is acting as inspiration for what President Xi Jinping calls the “project of the century.”[1] Yi dai yi lu, or “One Belt One Road” (OBOR), is Xi’s signature foreign policy enterprise: a commitment of more than $1 trillion for Chinese development banks to invest in a sweeping Eurasian and African infrastructure initiative.[2] OBOR operates both as a result of recent economic trends in China and as a milestone in Chinese foreign policy. The plan creates an outlet for Chinese products which are outgrowing domestic demand, but also has significant geopolitical potential. This article will examine OBOR and its consequences on Chinese partnerships across Eurasia and Africa and also how the results of this project relate to US foreign policy.
  • Image: Consumer product diagram showing which parent companies control everyday items. Source: Visual Capitalist July 23
    In towns and cities across America, mom and pop shops seem to be closing down at a rampant rate. It is no secret that as America moves further into the 21st century, consolidation is placing more power in the hands of fewer companies. With billion dollar companies becoming the norm and giants like Target and Walmart seemingly on every corner, it becomes hard to understand the dynamics of today’s complex economy. There is a strong argument against big businesses; it is bad for the average consumer and allowing companies to grow only allows them more ability to exercise their advantage and prey on consumers. On the other side, there is compelling theory that with healthy competition, big business expedites innovation and optimizes production in ways small companies cannot, which results in lower prices and a more efficient consumer experience. Within this environment, the regulation of big business is known as antitrust law and as the economy grows more complex, so does the enforcement of these laws in America.
  • Image: Independence Hall, Philadelphia’s Historic District. Source: Wikimedia Commons July 19
    Land-use regulation usually comes in the form of permits or codes, and is intended “to ensure [that] private use of land resources [is] aligned with policy standards.”[1] In other words, it is a way for the government to control how certain privately-owned areas are used. There are clear benefits associated with these permits and codes – for instance, they may help ensure the preservation of a particularly historic area of a town. That said, land regulation also triggers some economic collateral concerns that are often overlooked, such as lost business profits and a widening income gap.
  • Image: Voting key, symbolizing the growing connection between elections and technology. Source: National Conference of Sta... July 16

    The 2000 presidential election posed countless issues, including butterfly ballots, partially punched cards, four to six million lost votes, and outraged citizens across the political spectrum. These issues led California Institute of Technology president David Baltimore and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles Vest to approach the election technology failure more scientifically. With a team of computer scientists, mechanical engineers, and political scientists, they reimagined—and reengineered—the election process.[1] Although Baltimore and Vest pioneered advancements in the election process, the reliability of voting infrastructure today still remains questionable. As we approach the upcoming election cycle this Fall, policy and technology experts must come together to rectify a failing system.

  • Image: Uber debuts testing of its self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Source: Automotive News July 6

    Despite a modest decline in private vehicle ownership in the last four years, many Americans still employ cars as their primary mode of transportation.[1] Comparisons among census trends in the past few decades indicate that private vehicles amassed popularity among American households following more extensive car-centric city planning beginning in the early 1960s.[2]

PENN WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <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>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>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>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>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>
  • <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>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>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>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>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>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>