“[Cities] die when anti-dynamic forces gain too strong a foothold . . . widespread NIMBYism in the name of sustainability, heavy-handed regulatory power aimed at supporting special interests, and rigid barriers to market access and activity.”

—Ryan Streeter, “Revitalize America’s Cities,”
Governing Priorities


AEI scholars are answering misleading progressive distortions about the potential of our economy and advocating for the most effective antipoverty approaches with policies focused on work and family as keys to prosperity. Our scholars are promoting welfare policies with a work-first principle; addressing the changing needs of American workers, businesses, and industries; and steering a path toward reinvention and reform in America's education system.

▮ In January, former Speaker of the House and AEI Distinguished Visiting Fellow Paul Ryan hosted a public AEI event on the Evidence Act. The event convened panelists to discuss the legislation.

Angela Rachidi testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support and was the only witness to acknowledge the progress we have made in the fight against child poverty.

Matt Weidinger testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and provided a conservative perspective on proposals that would expand spending and diminish the importance of work on the part of benefit recipients.

Matt Weidinger released two reports providing an overview of the unemployment benefit response to COVID-19, a warning of unintended consequences, and recommendations for reform. His ideas worked their way into proposed legislative reforms.

Bruce D. Meyer, James Sullivan (University of Notre Dame), and Jeehoon Han (University of Chicago) codeveloped a dashboard that reports income and poverty estimates for the United States, updated monthly, to inform policy decisions on a near-real-time basis in the wake of the pandemic. They also cowrote an accompanying paper.

▮ Congressional Budget Office analysts turned to Angela Rachidi's April report on the relationship among poverty, labor force participation, and poor health.

▮ In September, Ian Rowe hosted John Calipari, head coach of the University of Kentucky's men's basketball team, to discuss the importance of personal agency in upholding the promise of the American dream. Earlier that month, Rowe contributed a report, “Incentivize Individual Agency to Achieve Upward Mobility,” to the AEI series “Sketching a New Conservative Education Agenda.”

On September 30, AEI launched the Survey Center on American Life, under the direction of Daniel A. Cox, to help establish AEI as the premier institution expanding our understanding of the rapid changes occurring in American society and in our public life. The data are helping journalists understand the underlying demographic trends influencing our economy and politics and are informing how policymakers and academics think about the relationship between people's beliefs and behavior and social outcomes.

The center's blog, American Life, offers an outlet for journalists to find quick and current information on new data and offers cutting-edge interactives to accompany journalists' work.

Media coverage has included multiple hits in the New York Times and coverage in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and FiveThirtyEight.

Among the surveys fielded by the center:

W. Bradford Wilcox testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the state of family structure and stability in the United States, discussed its effects on childhood outcomes and economic mobility, and suggested policy solutions that could strengthen American families.

Sally Satel produced a video on new approaches to understanding drug addiction, informed by her time in Ironton, Ohio, conducting field research on the opioid crisis. She discusses why a new, more personal approach is needed to identify the root causes of addiction.

Daniel A. Cox and Brent Orrell unveiled the findings of a sophisticated AEI survey examining career outcomes for STEM postsecondary graduates. They released the survey results with an AEI web event that garnered significant interest among leaders in the tech industry and related fields.

▮ Senior officials at the US Department of Justice praised Brent Orrell's edited volume Rethinking Reentry. It includes a foreword from Paul Ryan and chapters authored by 11 leading criminologists and researchers offering recommendations for amending current program structures.

▮ White House domestic policy staff called on Brent Orrell for ideas about how to better prepare Americans for the job opportunities of today and tomorrow. He published extensive work highlighting employment and poverty challenges in the wake of COVID-19, culminating in the report, “A Road Map to Reemployment in the COVID-19 Economy: Empowering Workers, Employers, and States.”

Ryan Streeter drew attention to the progressive origins of the crisis in our cities in National Review and the Dispatch, highlighting a way forward for American cities in the realms of housing, education, and police reform.

AEI's Housing Center, led by Edward J. Pinto, provided unprecedented measures of emerging threats to the stability of the housing and mortgage markets for regulators, analysts, and academics. The center launched the Carpenter Index, to compare relative affordability for entry-level housing across the nation's 100 largest metro areas. It also launched the Housing Market Nowcast, a biweekly report which provides insight into the effects of COVID-19 on the single-family residential housing market.

▮ AEI's Housing Center held monthly Housing Market Indicators Briefings with representatives from private enterprise, government, and academia. Briefing topics included the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on housing demand, the Federal Housing Administration's reform principles, and the role of walkability in home price appreciation.

Stephen D. Oliner et al. authored The Price of Residential Land for Counties, ZIP Codes, and Census Tracts in the United States” and used data from 15 million home appraisals to estimate annual land prices over 2012–19 for ZIP codes and Census tracts that contain about 85 percent of the US population. Edward J. Pinto and Tobias Peter expanded this work and presented their results to federal agencies.

Conscious Leadership

On November 24, Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey joined AEI President Robert Doar for a conversation on capitalism and what it means to be a conscious leader in today's complicated business and political climate. Their discussion covered several topics, but returned to one transcendent idea: the importance of values.

Doar said, "At AEI, we teach and promote values and talk about them all the time so people recognize the source of our success as a country."

"That's the reason I love AEI," Mackey said, "and one reason why I contribute." On the challenges of our time, Mackey spoke in no uncertain terms: "Capitalism . . . is the greatest thing humanity has ever created," whereas socialism is "the path to poverty."

The pair's remarks made headlines in several prominent media outlets in high-profile Thanksgiving-week features, including Fox Business, Newsweek, New York Post, and Daily Mail.

▮ National and state organizations used John P. Bailey and Frederick M. Hess' May report, “A Blueprint for Back to School,” to guide decision-making in schools preparing to reopen. The report, authored with nearly two dozen former state and city education chiefs, garnered 70,000 unique views online and was featured on more than a dozen news outlets.

Frederick M. Hess headlined the Spring 2020 issue of National Affairs with his essay, “The Next Conservative Agenda,” which outlined an ambitious opportunity vision for conservatives to approach education. It received a positive response from policymakers, academics, and influencers. More than 20 leading conservative education figures sketched their transformative ideas for education reform in Hess' summer series, “Sketching a New Conservative Education Agenda.”

▮ Frederick M. Hess' Education Week blog, “Rick Hess Straight Up,” featured conversations with a range of important voices, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), to speak directly to the pandemic's challenges in real time.

Scott Winship, who joined AEI in September as resident scholar and director of poverty studies, is exploring trends in intergenerational mobility, wealth, and long-term trends in economic anxiety. Winship previously served as the executive director of the Social Capital Project at the Joint Economic Committee in Congress.
Ian Rowe, who joined AEI in July as a resident fellow, focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption. Rowe is also the cofounder of Vertex Partnership Academies, the chairman of the board of Spence-Chapin, and the cofounder of the National Summer School Initiative.

Nat Malkus' COVID-19 Education Response Longitudinal Survey was the only measure in the nation to iteratively track how districts announced and then altered their plans. Data from this survey resulted in eight reports and were cited numerous times.

▮ The Congressional Budget Office's February report on the effects of the federal income-based repayment program for student loans vindicated warnings from Jason D. Delisle. As early as 2012, he warned that the reforms to the program that had yet to take effect would soon provide windfall loan-forgiveness benefits to borrowers with graduate degrees.

New Podcasts

Shane Tews' podcast, Explain to Shane, explores complex technology issues, earning positive feedback from FCC commissioners, Trump administration officials, and technology investors. The podcast's guests discuss how the apps, services, and structures of today's IT systems work and how they shape our social and economic lives.
Naomi Schaefer Riley and Ian Rowe'sbiweekly podcast titled Are You Kidding Me? examines how cultural agendas often corrupt well-intentioned child welfare and education policies.
Brent Orrell's podcastHardly Working, focuses on issues of workforce development and criminal justice reform.

Jason D. Delisle published a compilation of his work on free college and what these policies may entail for tuition prices, financial aid, and student debt. It suggests that the trade-offs and unintended consequences from free college could exact a toll on the US higher education system.

Vincent H. Smith and Joseph W. Glauber published an AEI report documenting and contextualizing the agriculture platforms for the leading presidential candidates. The report was accompanied by an event at AEI and an “In 60 Seconds” video, which was released on the day of the Iowa caucuses.

Benjamin Zycher submitted a prepared statement to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the proposed American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2019. In a coauthored statement, Zycher offered critical economic and policy analysis of a third proposed round of refrigerant replacement.

Jim Harper testified before the House Committee on Small Business on understanding blockchains and their benefits for small business. In his May AEI report, “Privacy and the Four Categories of Information Technology,” Harper differentiates among eight different values that people may be referring to when they say the word “privacy.”