Return on Investment (Fall 2013 Trust Magazine)

11/14/2013 - The Pew Charitable Trusts’ program investments seek to improve policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life through operating projects managed by Pew staff, donor partnerships that allow us to work closely with individuals or organizations to achieve shared goals, and targeted grantmaking. Following are highlights of some recent Pew work.

The Environment

New Caledonia creates shark sanctuary

New Caledonia established comprehensive and permanent shark protections throughout the waters under its jurisdiction. The 480,000-square-mile area, approximately the size of South Africa, sustains a spectacular array of marine life, including 50 species of sharks. The move was a result of growing global momentum for shark conservation created by Pew’s global shark conservation campaign. 

New fisheries protections for the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission has banned fishing vessels from retaining, landing, or storing oceanic whitetip sharks. The decision complements earlier conservation measures for whitetips enacted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which regulates international trade through a list of protected species. These two actions make the oceanic whitetip the world’s most protected shark. The steps stemmed from a global campaign by Pew’s shark and international policy teams. The tuna commission also prohibited purse seine fishing vessels from setting their nets around whale sharks and required tuna fishing vessels to protect silky sharks by using nonentangling devices to attract fish.

Australia expands Indigenous Protected Areas

Australia created three new Indigenous Protected Areas in the Northern Kimberley region. Pew’s Outback program played a significant role in guiding the establishment of the Bardi Jawi, Dambimangari, and Balanggarra areas. When connected with the existing Wilinggin and  Uunguu areas, the parcel will protect more than 17 million acres of the Kimberley’s ecologically and culturally significant lands—a region approximately the size of West Virginia.

New river herring protections

Fishery managers in New England and the mid-Atlantic have capped the amount of river herring and shad that industrial-scale trawlers can catch at sea each year. Federal officials declared river herring and shad as “species of concern” because of dramatic population decreases brought by dams on coastal rivers and overfishing at sea. With the caps in place, there are now limits on the incidental catch of river herring from North Carolina to the Canadian border. Pew and its partners in the Herring Alliance provided key technical and policy advice to regional fishery management councils, delivered testimony, and conducted outreach to council members.

No-take marine reserves make coral reefs more resilient

A study by Pew marine fellow Peter Mumby found that no-take marine reserves may make coral reefs six times more resilient to climate change and related disturbances, such as coral bleaching. The study focused on areas of reefs in Belize where fishing is prohibited. Parrotfish in these reefs eat algae, preventing the organisms from overtaking a reef system. Coral formations with abundant numbers of these fish are more likely to recover from disturbances than reefs that have been compromised by an unhealthy predominance of algae. 

In the States

Three states enact bipartisan corrections reform

With technical assistance from Pew’s public safety performance project, Kansas, West Virginia, and Oregon passed bipartisan legislation that reforms sentencing and corrections.

In Kansas, a new law will focus resources on offenders who are most likely to commit new crimes, require supervision after release for a larger percentage of offenders, and provide swift and certain sanctions for probation violations. It will reduce the need for 841 prison beds over the next five years, saving the state more than $56 million and averting an estimated $125 million in prison construction.

In West Virginia, a new law strengthens supervision, limits how long parole and probation violators can spend in prison, and invests in programs proven to reduce substance abuse. It will reduce a projected increase of 1,400 inmates, saving $87 million by 2018 and averting an estimated $200 million in prison construction.

In Oregon, a new law revises sentencing policies to focus prison space on serious, violent criminals and boosts crime prevention by strengthening the community corrections system and investing in victim services and law enforcement. It will save $326 million over the next decade and is projected to avert all anticipated prison growth in the next five years.

Rhode Island passes tax incentive evaluation law

Rhode Island passed a law making the state one of the few to regularly measure the benefits and costs of tax credits, deductions, and exemptions meant to stimulate job and business growth. Pew advised the legislation’s sponsors, helping them apply and build on lessons identified in “Evidence Counts,” Pew’s national study of evaluation practices for tax incentives. Under the law, the governor’s budget proposal must include a recommendation to continue, reform, or end each incentive reviewed, encouraging policymakers during budget deliberations to consider empirical evidence based on evaluations.

States begin targeting effective programs for support

Using the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative cost-benefit analysis model, lawmakers in Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont directed a total of $28 million to cost-effective programs. The model helps policymakers evaluate programs so that effective ones are supported, achieving a better return on tax dollars. Iowa and New Mexico expect to achieve returns of as much as $38 for every $1 allocated to the programs. Nine additional states and California’s Santa Barbara County are now partnering with Results First to analyze their budgets. 

Three states pass online voter registration bills

With bipartisan support, Virginia, West Virginia, and Illinois passed legislation creating online voter registration that will improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter rolls. Pew’s election initiatives team provided expert assistance to policymakers in Virginia and West Virginia.


Pew biomedical scholars earn distinctions

Pew selects biomedical scholars early in their careers who demonstrate promising work to advance human health. Their contributions to science have been consistently recognized as their careers progress. Richard Scheller, a 1985 scholar, won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. James Lupski, a 1990 scholar, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Seven Pew scholars—Peter Baumann, ’03; Michael Dyer, ’04; Nicole King, ’04; Tirin Moore, ’04; Dyche Mullins, ’00; Michael Rape, ’07; and Rachel Wilson, ’05—have been named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators.

Pew’s biomedical scholars also publish in top-tier scientific journals. Kevan Shokat, a 1996 scholar, led a study published in the journal Cell on the ability of the chemical kinetin to reverse cell mutation common to Parkinson’s disease. His laboratory demonstrated the effectiveness of the active ingredient in over-the-counter wrinkle creams to slow or stop the effects of Parkinson’s on brain cells.
Pew convenes experts to improve medical devices

Pew brought together more than 20 of the nation’s foremost thought leaders from hospitals, health plans, government, and the medical device industry to address shortcomings in the detection of problems with medical devices such as artificial joints and defibrillators. The meetings, conducted in partnership with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s Technology Evaluation Center and the MDEpiNet Science Infrastructure Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, will inform recommendations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on improving medical device registries, databases of information on patient outcomes associated with specific products. The recommendations address how registries can cost-effectively provide accessible, transparent, and high-quality safety data.

The Economy

Report rates transparency of bank checking account policies

A Pew report, “Checks and Balances: Measuring Checking Accounts’ Safety and Transparency,” evaluated the safety and transparency of  checking account policies at the nation’s largest banks, rating “best” and “good” consumer protection practices on disclosure, overdraft policies, and dispute resolution for each one. The research attracted attention from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau—the regulatory agency that Pew is encouraging to adopt policies to increase checking account safety and transparency—as well as from several financial institutions and the media. After the report’s release, BB&T, the ninth-largest bank by deposit volume, became the 20th institution to adopt Pew’s model one-page summary to simplify the disclosure of fees and terms.

New rules for large banks

Federal banking regulators adopted new global capital requirements and proposed new rules to strengthen limits on leverage for the nation’s largest financial institutions. The Systemic Risk Council, formed by Pew and the CFA Institute, was instrumental in pushing for increased requirements through public statements and meetings with senior regulators.
Pew Research Center

Few see adequate limits on government surveillance

Amid increased scrutiny of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, a Pew survey found that a majority of Americans—56 percent—say that federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on the telephone and internet data the government is collecting as part of its anti-terrorism efforts. An even larger percentage—70 percent—believes that the government uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism. Nonetheless, the public’s bottom line on government surveillance is narrowly positive; 50 percent approve of the government’s collection of telephone and internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts, while 44 percent disapprove.

Breadwinner moms

A Pew Research Center analysis finds that a record 40 percent of households with children now include mothers who are either the sole or primary provider for the family. The share was just 11 percent in 1960. These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two distinct groups: 5.1 million (37 percent) are married mothers with higher incomes than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63 percent) are single mothers. The public is conflicted about the gains women have made in the workplace, and most Americans—64 percent—say the rising number of children born to unmarried mothers is a “big problem.”

Rising share of young adults live in their parents’ home

A new study finds that in 2012, 36 percent of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ home. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32 percent of people the same age living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007. At the end of the recession in 2009, 34 percent lived in their parents’ home. Three years later, a record 21.6 million millennials lived in their parents’ home. Of these, at least a third and perhaps as many as half were college students.

Arab Spring adds to global restrictions on religion

Pew Research finds that in the year when much of the Arab Spring uprisings occurred, the Middle East and North Africa continued to have the highest levels of restrictions on religion, with social hostilities involving religion increasing markedly and government restrictions remaining high. Globally, the share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 37 percent in the year ending in mid-2010 to 40 percent in 2011, a five-year high.

Nonprofit journalism—a growing but fragile part of the U.S. news media

An analysis of 172 active nonprofit digital news outlets launched since 1987 found that the sector is showing some signs of economic health, and most leaders of those outlets express optimism about the future. Many organizations, however, also face challenges to their long-term finances. More than half of those surveyed identified business, marketing, and fundraising as the area of greatest staffing need, and nearly two-thirds cited finding time to focus on the business side of the operation as a major challenge.


Poll finds public has low opinion of city schools

A Pew Philadelphia research initiative survey found that Philadelphians have a very low opinion of their city’s financially distressed public schools and that most residents think the problems brought on by budget cuts will drive families to seek other educational options or leave the city. Only 18 percent of Philadelphians say the schools are doing a good or excellent job. Seventy-eight percent describe the schools as “only fair” or poor, and 52 percent rate them as poor. As a result of the district’s budget difficulties, 48 percent say they expect families to seek other education options within the city, and 23 percent expect families to start leaving.

Report examines property tax delinquency

Based on an analysis of more than 100,000 delinquent properties, the Pew research initiative estimates that Philadelphia has a realistic chance of collecting 30 percent of the $515 million it is owed in back taxes, penalties, and interest—assuming it steps up enforcement efforts. Among 36 cities studied in the report, “Delinquent Property Tax in Philadelphia: Stark Challenges and Realistic Goals,” Philadelphia had the fifth-highest delinquency rate in 2011. The report finds that cities that impose strict timetables for seizing delinquent properties tend to have low delinquency rates; Philadelphia is not one of these, however.

Support for the arts

With support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the Pennsylvania Ballet presented award-winning choreographer William Forsythe’s “Artifact Suite” at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. The San Francisco Chronicle praised the work as “a vision of ballet for the twenty-first century.”

Ryan Trecartin, a 2009 Pew fellow in the arts, created a new work composed of freestanding sculptural theaters and extensive video components, to be exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious international arts festival. 

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