Milestones (from Pew Prospectus 2009)

  • March 20, 2009

Each year, we join with excellent organizations to produce work that exemplifies exactly what we mean in stating that Pew serves the public interest. Below we highlight the results of Pew-supported work that made a difference in 2008.  These Milestones were published in Pew Prospectus 2009 (PDF).

Economic Policy

The Economic Mobility Project releases reports exploring the roles of federal government investment, family structure and other social influences, such as education, health and access to financial resources, in determining economic mobility, or the ability to improve one's economic standing. One of the reports finds that intragenerational mobility rates—those within one's lifetime—have changed little since the 1980s, and that educational attainment continues to be a key driver in advancing people who are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

With support from Pew, US Budget Watch elevates the debate on fiscal responsibility and the federal budget during the campaign season. Its “Fiscal Voter's Guide” analyzes the impact on the deficit of the two major presidential candidates' proposed policies on health care, an economic stimulus package, taxes and Social Security. Data from US Budget Watch are widely cited by the media, including CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer while moderating the third presidential debate.

Pew partners with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to build bipartisan consensus for a core set of reforms to an outdated congressional budget process. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform will convene the nation's preeminent experts to make recommendations for how best to strengthen the budget process used by federal lawmakers.

Pew launches Subsidyscope, a new initiative designed to make government subsidies more transparent to the public and policy makers through the development of a comprehensive online database of all federal subsidies. By aggregating information across sectors of the economy, Subsidyscope, in a nonpartisan manner, seeks to inform the debate over the creation of new subsidies and the efficacy of existing ones.

Health and Human Services Policy

The most sweeping reform of the U.S. foster care system in more than a decade is signed into law. The legislation, called the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, includes core recommendations of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, making it easier for relatives to become guardians of children and also facilitating adoptions of children—especially those who are older and those with special needs—from foster care.

The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming achieves an early objective in its effort to ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics when President George W. Bush signs into law new reporting requirements for drug manufacturers marketing antibiotics to the animal-agriculture industry.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits health insurers and employers from asking or requiring a person to take a genetic test, becomes law. The Pew-supported Genetics & Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University has urged the passage of this landmark piece of consumer protection. Hailed by Senator Edward Kennedy, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as “the first civil rights bill of the new century of the life sciences,” it also prevents the use of genetic information in setting insurance rates or making employment decisions.

The Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Administration announce reforms to credit card regulations. The new rules restrict punitive interest- rate charges and ban double-cycle billing (in which the interest is figured not only on the credit card's current balance but also on the average daily balance from the previous billing period). These practices were identified as predatory by the Pew Safe Credit Cards Project, and the changes represent important consumer protections for families.

Several recommendations by the Pew-supported Project on Student Debt regarding student loans are incorporated in Congress's reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In particular, Congress authorizes the Department of Education to move forward on the project's proposal to simplify the federal financial aid form by giving students the option of using data from their tax forms to complete the application.

Several major medical-device companies withdraw product videos from YouTube, the video-sharing Web site, following a petition from the Prescription Project to the Food and Drug Administration that the videos lack federally mandated warnings or provisions required of such advertisements. One company declares that it will add safety information to online ads for a heart device it sells.

Pew Center on the States

Despite a troubled economy, state funding for preschool programs grows by $319 million for fiscal year 2008–2009, due in part to the efforts of groups such as Pre-K Now, a public education and advocacy organization supported by Pew. On January 1, 2009, Pre-K Now merges with Pew Center on the States, as part of Pew's renewed campaign to show the proven benefits of early investment in children. In addition, Pew launches two new initiatives on behalf of young children. One seeks to improve access to dental care; the other uses home-based parent coaching to improve outcomes for severely at-risk families.

The Partnership for America's Economic Success, which encourages the private sector to make children a top economic priority, draws 350 participants to its annual Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment; it also cosponsors the second annual Telluride Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment. The Partnership's first state affiliate, the Partnership for Wisconsin's Economic Success, is established.

The Public Safety Performance Project publishes the widely acclaimed report “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” which finds that more than one in 100 adults is incarcerated and boosts state and federal efforts to find more cost-effective corrections strategies. The project and its partners help advance reforms in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Michigan that will control crime and reduce prison spending in those states by a projected $383 million over the next several years. Policy changes include performance-based funding for community corrections agencies, which will receive a portion of the savings achieved from fewer incarcerations.

Make Voting Work publishes a series of studies comparing the performance of state election systems and analyzing innovative solutions to election administration problems. Make Voting Work's advocacy efforts contribute to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's decision to deliver $10 million to five states seeking to improve the collection of data needed to expand assessments of election performance.

The Voting Information Project, a partnership of election officials, Make Voting Work and Google Inc., is adopted by 10 states and Los Angeles. This Internet-based application allows voters in those jurisdictions to find out more easily how to register, check their registration status, locate polling places and see what is on their ballots. According to Google's figures, 7 to 10 percent of all of the people who voted in 2008 used a poll locator with data from the Voting Information Project.

The Overseas Vote Foundation, a Make Voting Work partner, launches a set of Web applications to help military and overseas voters register and cast absentee ballots. During the year, 4.5 million online users—1.25 million in October alone—access the suite of services. The tools are offered through the foundation's Web site and 17 other sites hosted by diverse groups including state election offices, both major presidential campaigns, leading corporations and civic groups such as the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. In another step toward modernizing the election system for voters overseas, the Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit working toward uniformity in state laws, accepts a Pew recommendation to begin the process of drafting a military and overseas voting law to cut through conflicting state rulings and ensure that proven solutions are enacted in all states.

Kicking off a series of 50-state assessments on fiscal challenges facing states, Pew releases reports on the bill coming due for pension and health care benefits for retired public sector employees and on states' outmoded tax structures. “Promises with a Price” is highlighted in news stories in more than 35 states and broadcast interviews that reach nearly nine million people nationwide. “Growth and Taxes,” released in Governing magazine, generates significant interest from policy makers: The National Conference of State Legislatures uses the report in a meeting on tax policy for state lawmakers, staff and business executives from around the country; and leaders in four states ask Pew staff to help them assess their tax structures.

The Government Performance Project releases its “Grading the States 2008” report in partnership with Governing magazine. For the first time, the project publishes in-depth management briefs tailored to each of the 50 states, including specific, practical and actionable recommendations for state leaders. The project has another first: It convenes top managers from 30 states to hear from state innovators themselves about best practices identified through the yearlong report-card process. Participants use this information for a range of activities, from providing extensive in-state training to shaping a statewide management agenda.

At the Capitolbeat Conference sponsored by the professional association of statehouse reporters, captures seven honors across four categories in online journalism: first and second place for a single report, second place in commentary, second and third place for in-depth reporting, and second and third place for beat reporting.

Pew Environment Group

President George W. Bush announces the designation of three marine national monuments, including the waters surrounding the Northern Mariana Islands and Mariana Trench. The president's proclamation is a significant accomplishment for the Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy program, which has worked toward this goal over the past two years with the administration as well as with citizens and elected officials in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a “fins-attached” shark fishing policy, a measure that closes a gaping loophole in domestic law. Pew initiates key research supporting the legislation through the Lenfest Ocean Program and is the only nongovernmental organization asked to provide congressional testimony on the subject. The Council of the European Union adopts a science-based proposal to ban the retention and mandate careful release of some increasingly rare marine types, including angel sharks, common skates and undulate rays—a conservation measure recommended by Pew's Shark Alliance.

Pew's efforts to improve management of the krill fishery result in several key decisions at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Pew is instrumental in the passage of a standardized method for reporting the volume of krill catch and spearheads the effort to require krill fishing vessels to carry onboard observers.

Following vigorous public-education and advocacy efforts by Pew and its partners, the National Marine Fisheries Service withdraws draft regulations that would have made it more difficult to improve fisheries management, including ending overfishing, by limiting the application of the National Environmental Policy Act. Internationally, several regional fisheries management organizations, as well as parties to the Food and Agricultural Organization, adopt protective policies to conserve deep-sea fisheries.

Using information supported by the Lenfest Ocean Program, Oregon bans the commercial harvest of bull kelp, a large marine plant that grows in coastal waters and is an important habitat for many fish and wildlife species.

The International Boreal Conservation Campaign is instrumental in protecting 33.3 million acres of boreal forest wilderness in more than a dozen new parks and wildlife refuges, bringing the campaign total to 125 million acres protected since 2000. Pew's boreal conservation efforts continue to hold great promise, as the government of Ontario announces its intention to protect at least another 55 million acres in its boreal forest region and Quebec states a goal of protecting another 142 million acres.

The Pew-supported Heritage Forest Campaign and its allies continue to thwart efforts to undo the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, the landmark measure that protects almost 60 million of the country's undeveloped national forestland. In Idaho, where new rulemaking threatens to reduce safeguards for its nine million acres of backcountry forests, Pew and its allies succeed in keeping the state's roadless areas largely off limits to road-building and other industrial development. In Colorado, Pew persuades the governor to seek additional time from the U.S. Forest Service in order to preserve 4.4 million acres of the state's best backcountry.

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production issues a comprehensive report examining the impact of industrial farm animal production on public health, the environment, farm communities and animal welfare. California voters pass Proposition 2, which prohibits farmers from confining veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows in cages and crates. The measure is strongly supported by the commission, which opposes such practices as not only inhumane, but also a danger to public health because they require the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics, which is a direct contributor to growing antibiotic resistance.

The House Natural Resources Committee passes an emergency resolution to require the U.S. Secretary of Interior to withdraw approximately one million acres of federal lands around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims. The vote is a victory for the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining and its allies, which seek to reform the antiquated 1872 law that gives hardrock mining priority on most public lands in the West.

Information Initiatives

In its final pre-election poll, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press accurately predicts the outcome of the 2008 presidential race down to the percentage point —52 percent for Barack Obama and 46 percent for John McCain. Remarkably, this is the second presidential election in which the Pew Research Center has predicted the winner's precise margin: Its 2004 survey that showed George Bush defeating John Kerry at 51 to 48 percent was also an exact estimation of the result. That precision draws praise from many national print and broadcast media outlets, with one National Public Radio commentator calling the center's polling “gold-plated.”

The Campaign Coverage Index, released each week by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, monitors media reporting on the closely watched presidential race. Paired with the News Interest Index by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which analyzes the public's response to these stories, it shows the interplay between news coverage and the public's perceptions of the race. The two indexes agree that candidate Barack Obama receives far more coverage, as well as more favorable coverage, than does opponent John McCain. The News Interest Index also finds that the public follows news about the 2008 presidential campaign more closely than any presidential election in the past 20 years. Americans rely primarily on television news for information about the campaign, and cable TV is the dominant medium.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys 24,000 people in 24 countries and reports that not only are people around the world following the U.S. presidential election closely but, except in countries with an extreme anti-American bias, public opinion is generally optimistic about the direction U.S. foreign policy will take under a new president. A separate study finds rising anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish feelings in several major European countries.

The Pew Hispanic Center projects that, if current trends continue, the U.S. population will grow to 438 million in 2050, with most of that increase due to immigrants arriving between 2005 and 2050 and their U.S.-born descendants. The center reports that Latinos have accounted for more than half of the overall population growth in the United States in this decade, and it provides details through interactive online maps and databases for all 50 states and their 3,141 counties. Another study finds that, for the first time in a decade, the inflow of immigrants who are undocumented has now fallen below that of immigrants who are legal permanent residents. Stepped-up law enforcement and the worsening economy are both seen as playing roles.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project conducts the first nationally representative study of teens and video gaming and the role of teen videogame play in civic engagement. Research shows that video games are ubiquitous in the lives of American teens and—contrary to popular belief—offer a significant amount of social interaction and potential for civic engagement. Another study reports that nearly half of technology users need help from others in getting new devices and services to work, and many encounter electronic breakdowns from time to time, with home Internet connections being the most problematic.

The Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends project issues several reports monitoring the pulse of the American public. One study finds that fewer middle-class Americans now than at any time in the past half-century believe they are moving forward in life. Another survey, conducted prior to the election, reports that Republicans are consistently happier than Democrats—a trend unchanged since the question was first asked in 1972, although the current gap is among the largest on record. Another study examines the role that gender plays in decision-making and finds that women are the bosses when it comes to four major activities in the typical American home: weekend-activities planning, household finances, major home purchases and TV watching.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, polling 35,000 Americans for its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, finds that worship is strong in this country, with more than half of those surveyed saying that they attend services regularly and pray daily. At the same time, religious affiliation is extremely fluid—more than one in four American adults no longer observe the faith in which they were raised—and tolerance of diversity is high: The majority of those who are affiliated with a religion do not believe that theirs is the only way to salvation. In addition to conducting this survey, the forum, as part of Pew's election-year coverage, creates religious profiles of all presidential contenders, including religious biographies and interactive tools, so that users can compare the candidates.


The Cultural Data Project grows to include more than 2,000 organizations, 80 grants programs and 57 funders in Pennsylvania, Maryland and California, with plans to launch in New York, Massachusetts and Illinois in 2009. The project also garners support from national funders and arts service organizations and gains recognition for providing reliable, comprehensive information about the cultural sector. Data gathered from organizations in the Philadelphia region is used in “2008 Portfolio,” published by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, providing compelling analyses of topics such as arts attendance by children and school groups, health-care costs and Internet fund raising.

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage funds over 800 performances, exhibitions and events attended by more than 500,000; and its six Artistic Initiatives in dance, historic heritage, music, theater, visual arts and discipline-specific fellowships, plus the Cultural Management Initiative, give grants to approximately 100 artists and organizations. The center also helps strengthen arts groups and provides marketing support to increase audiences. An example of innovative programming supported by the center is an exhibition by Pennsylvania artist Mark Dion at Bartram's Gardens, in Philadelphia, the home of America's first great botanist, John Bartram; Dion retraces one of Bartram's famous trips through colonial America and, like his predecessor, gathers artifacts and draws pictures of what he experiences. Some 1,200 people attend the show, and more than 7,000 people from around the world participate via the Web.

Technology also extends the audience for a series of short films on Pew's 2007 arts fellows. After the movies debut at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, more than 46,000 individuals view them on a DVD included in the program's annual catalogue, on its Web site and on YouTube.

In addition, technological innovation helps give immediacy to history in two projects supported by the Heritage Philadelphia Program. The Rosenbach Museum and Library launches 21st Century Abe, a dynamic online exhibition interpreting Abraham Lincoln's legacy for teenagers and young adults. And the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia begins a survey of important historic sites in the city with a process that pairs the latest mapmaking software with the expertise of leading historians; the project will lay the groundwork for a more strategic approach to preserve the city's historic treasures.

Among the excellent reviews of Pew-supported exhibitions and performances, the play Chekhov Lizardbrain by the Pig Iron Theatre Company of Philadelphia is “the gem of the Off Off Broadway season,” according to New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood, who puts it on his list of the top theater events of 2008.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance launches Engage 2020, which aims to double audience participation in arts and culture over the next 12 years. With additional support from the Wallace Foundation and the Philadelphia Foundation, the alliance conducts research on the shifting trends in audience demographics and consumer behavior, creates tools to help organizations measure participation and enhances marketing support. This includes upgrades to the successful PhillyFunGuide, an online calendar of events, and Funsavers, which features discounted tickets.

Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia

The Pew Fund provides service-delivery funding to 122 nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area, allowing them to help more than 65,000 individuals and families throughout the region. In addition, the program helps 27 agencies make a number of important organizational adjustments. These include strengthening staff's ability to assess program performance, putting in place new technologies that improve agency financial-management and monitoring capacities, and the planning for retirement of senior management and other leadership transitions.

The Pennsylvania Health Law Project uses operating support from Pew to ensure that state regulations for assisted living, a newly created category of long-term care in Pennsylvania, adequately protect consumer health and safety.

The Pew Fund's Programs Adjusting to a Changing Environment continues to offer timely information and technical assistance to local agencies on critical trends and developments in health and human services. One session enables the leadership of Pew Fund organizations and other nonprofits to engage with key appointees of Philadelphia's new mayor regarding the direction of crucial services for vulnerable individuals and families.

Civic Initiatives

The Philadelphia Program launches the Philadelphia Research Initiative to produce reports about critical issues facing the city. A model for the kind of studies it will carry out is the report released by Pew, in partnership with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, on pension and health-care costs for municipal workers. It finds that rising costs are outpacing increases in Philadelphia's revenue, threatening the city's ability to meet future pension and health-care obligations and squeezing resources for other city priorities.

Pew partners with public and private funders to develop a plan for extensive landscape and roadway improvements on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to many of the region's most important cultural institutions.

The Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project culminates in the re-opening of the Pew-supported permanent viewing gallery at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The gallery is part of a two-year renovation of the building's core. The new exhibition uses multimedia displays and historic artifacts to tell the story of the nearly 200-year-old flag that inspired our national anthem.

Legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president contains all of the major stipulations sought by Pew for the Founding Fathers Project. The goal is to speed up the online publication of the papers of the nation's founding fathers and make their writings more accessible to the public.

Philanthropic Services and Government Relations

Pew forms partnerships with more than 225 organizations and individuals who contribute to projects that include conserving pristine lands and waterways, helping ensure that children grow into successful adults, modernizing our election system, supporting the nation's arts and heritage, and preserving some of the world's most magnificent marine sites for future generations. Among the beneficiaries of sizable collaborations with donors are the International Boreal Conservation Campaign, the Global Ocean Legacy project and the Northeast Land Trust Consortium. Philanthropic Services staff members speak at regional, national and global conferences on how individuals, foundations and corporations can make charitable investments that achieve significant and measurable returns.

In addition, Pew's advocacy efforts help secure significant public policy improvements in at least 14 areas. Pew's policy experts and government relations team are involved in the passage by Congress of laws that include reforms to the nation's foster care system and measures that will expedite the completion of the papers of our founding fathers.

Planning and Evaluation

The planning team assists program staff with the integration of Pre-K Now into the Pew Center on the States, supports the development of a multiyear business plan for the Cultural Data Project, informs the creation of a strategy for the Ocean Conservation Program and works with Make Voting Work to shape a new strategy for the coming year.

The department completes evaluations on:

  • bottom-trawling fishing, addressing whether the initiative succeeded in its effort to put the protection of marine biodiversity and oceans governance as a whole on the international fisheries agenda;
  • Pre-K Now, focusing on whether this effort's advocacy strategy for universal prekindergarten was effective and should be continued; and
  • the Project on Student Debt, assessing its role in the education policy debate and in advancing policy changes to help make college more affordable.