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Focal Area Descriptions

Education

Education is one of the biggest factors in determining a person’s economic outcome. And the trajectory for high- or low-wage workers doesn’t begin in college, or even high school. Starting in preschool, the youngest learners are set on an educational path that can have a profound impact on their earning potential as adults. At SIEPR, researchers draw on their economic expertise to study how people invest in education, and how educational opportunities evolve due to policy and competition.  SIEPR scholars also quantify the effects that education has on other important outcomes in developed and developing nations around the world.

Energy and Environment

Climate change, energy conservation and power supplies pose some of today’s greatest challenges. SIEPR researchers are using the tools of economics to analyze the impact of environmental policy decisions being made in the United States and abroad. Our scholars work closely with scientists, engineers, and policymakers to develop and analyze economically viable approaches to safeguarding the environment and the broader impacts of environmental factors on society.

Global Development and Trade

Countries around the world experience different levels of economic development, and policy can greatly affect the outcomes of the global community and lift people in less developed nations out of poverty.  Trade brings the world together by connecting nations and economies and constitutes one of the most consequential aspects of international economic policies.  SIEPR scholars are studying how trade and other policies that affect the developing world are formulated and how these policies impact businesses, industries, and people. 

Health

Health and health care are important components of a nation’s well-being and the functioning of health care markets is unique in many ways.  SIEPR has a deep bench of experts generating data-driven analysis on topics ranging from the organization of health care markets and insurance to the determinants of health and health care spending.  Our experts generate impartial analysis that inform policies designed to improve health in the U.S. and around the world.  

Housing and Infrastructure

Housing is an essential need. And rents, mortgages, and other costs tied to having a home often represent a family’s largest expense. Meanwhile, the infrastructure supporting our communities  — transportation, communication systems, power grids — are integral to the economy by providing ways for people, information, and products to move around the world. SIEPR researchers examine how housing and infrastructure policies affect economic output and the way goods and services are allocated in local communities, throughout a country, and across the globe.

Inequality

Why do some groups, regions, or countries fare better than others on economic dimensions such as income, wealth, health, education, and housing?  SIEPR scholars produce research that informs how policy may create or mitigate these inequities through housing and health care markets, schools and workplaces, criminal justice systems, and other areas where poverty and discrimination have created uneven opportunities.  

Innovation

New ideas and inventions are being produced at rapid rates and can have dramatic impacts on how we live and work. SIEPR researchers are studying both the causes and consequences of innovation, including research and development and burgeoning technology like artificial intelligence, and how best to encourage innovation through patent systems.   SIEPR scholars also study how information and technology are shared and transmitted among people and businesses and the factors that affect productivity and economic growth.  

Money and Finance

The study of money, banking, credit, investments, assets, and liabilities that make up financial systems is important in order  for officials to craft the best monetary policy and policies for financial markets. Those policies also play out in everyday lives, as households respond to interest rates and financial instruments and make decisions of how to spend and save.  SIEPR scholars are focused on topics ranging from the design of credit markets to how people make retirement saving decisions and are committed to sharing their research with policymakers.

Politics and Media

Politicians spearhead and approve the laws and regulations that govern our institutions. The media help shape our understanding — and increasingly, our impressions — of those policies. Economic methods of evaluation and analysis offer important perspectives into how these elements of society work and how they can be improved. SIEPR scholars are examining the way media markets work and influence audiences, the impacts of lobbying on the political process, the factors that cause policies to be implemented, political corruption, and many other aspects of how politics and the media shape societies in America and in developing countries.

Regulation and Competition

Determining the appropriate amount and design of government regulation requires understanding the trade-offs between consumer protections and business innovation and productivity.  Often, the ideal level of regulation in an industry is determined by competition and market structure.  SIEPR scholars produce the knowledge and analysis that informs regulations on various industries and their impact as well as how markets can best be designed to generate benefits for both consumers and producers.

Taxes and Public Spending

Much of a country’s economic outcome is shaped by the way its national and local governments raise taxes and spend money. And persistent imbalances between revenues and expenditures can threaten the well-being of future generations. Sound tax policy requires understanding how taxes affect incentives and how workers and businesses respond.  It is also important to evaluate the effectiveness of government spending on defense, entitlements, education, and other programs.  SIEPR researchers produce rigorous, nonpartisan evidence that goes beyond political rhetoric and informs discussions regarding tax and expenditure policy in the U.S. and around the world. 

Work

Few things define our lives as much as work and the size and composition of the labor force is a large driver of economic output.  Many factors influence the labor market, such as immigration, crime, and tax rates. SIEPR scholars study how people and businesses make decisions to work and hire employees  in the U.S. and abroad, and produce research used to inform policies affecting workplaces, employees, and families.