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Pew improves policy, informs the public, and invigorates civic life

Improving Public Policy

Penguins in Antarctica offer insights into Earth’s southernmost continent; stable populations of the birds indicate a healthy environment. More than 60 of their natural habitats are proposed targets for conservation, designations that would offset the stresses of the rapidly warming polar region.
John B. Weller

Pew-funded study identifies 63 marine Important Bird Areas

A Pew-funded study led by BirdLife International published in Frontiers in Marine Science identified 63 marine Important Bird Areas (mIBAs) for penguins throughout Antarctica. The study demonstrates that currently proposed marine protected areas will protect key habitat, including 80% of mIBAs identified, and underscores the scientific justification for marine protected areas in the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula region. The study also examined krill fisheries data for the past 50 years and concluded that the fisheries may be competing directly with penguin colonies for food.

Trekkers take in sweeping views of Patagonia National Park, located in the southern end of Chile.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Chilean regional government approves Pew-backed investment for Patagonia National Park

In January, the regional government of Aysén, Chile, approved a $5.4 million investment in infrastructure for Patagonia National Park. The funds will help improve trails and roads, and construct service buildings and a visitors’ center. Construction will begin later this year and is a result of the Chilean protected areas administration agency’s work, supported by the joint efforts of Pew and the Austral Patagonia Program of Universidad Austral de Chile. The move helps improve Patagonia’s standards for protected areas, strengthening the ties between those areas and nearby communities that benefit from being near the park.

Pew helps bring state officials together to strengthen local governments

Since March 2020, Pew’s state fiscal health project and Michigan State University have hosted five virtual meetings of the Government Fiscal Sustainability Workgroup, a collection of state officials who support local governments. Sustained by Pew funding, this group met annually and in person in prior years, but since the pandemic it has met more frequently to share information, experiences, practices, and ideas as officials contend with COVID-19’s effects on local governments’ finances. About 30 participants from 20 states have attended each meeting. Topics have included distributing federal relief funds, easing administrative requirements for local governments, and better assessing the fiscal vulnerability of localities to COVID-19. These meetings further the project’s overarching goal of helping states advance sound, data-driven policies and practices that build fiscally well-managed states.

Mark Makela Getty Images

New Jersey reforms economic development tax incentives

In January, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation reauthorizing two business tax incentives to which the state has committed billions of dollars in recent years. The bill, which is consistent with recommendations from Pew’s state fiscal health team, creates both annual and aggregate limits on costs from the Emerge and Aspire programs and requires a state college or university to evaluate their results regularly. Pew has counseled New Jersey policymakers since 2017 on assessing tax incentives’ results and using fiscal protections such as caps to prevent the programs from costing more than expected or intended. 

United Nations body agrees to develop international transshipment guidelines

The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agreed in February to develop new international transshipment guidelines. Transshipment, the transfer of fish or other marine wildlife between vessels at sea or in port, is currently inadequately regulated, creating ample opportunities for illicit activities such as illegal fishing and trafficking of people and wildlife. Pew’s international fisheries team worked with the FAO in advance of the meeting on a global transshipment report and reached out to COFI members to help them understand the need for transshipment monitoring and reporting guidelines. 

Protections renewed for Arctic waters

President Joe Biden reinstated two conservation measures, originally put in place by the Obama administration but revoked by the Trump administration, that help protect Arctic waters and part of the Bering Sea. One action withdraws large areas of Arctic waters from oil and gas leasing, and the other re-establishes the 112 square-mile Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area that provides a pathway for more than 70 federally recognized tribes in the region to exercise a role in decision-making regarding activities such as fishing, shipping, and oil spills in the northern Bering Sea. Pew and its partners supported efforts led by the region’s Indigenous peoples to secure protection for these culturally and ecologically rich waters.

Giant redwoods dwarf a visitor in Redwood National Park in Northern California. New legislation calls for programs that would help restore forests that contain the tallest trees on Earth.
Carmen Martinez Torrón Getty Images

House of Representatives passes public lands and rivers legislation

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. This Pew-supported package of conservation and economic recovery bills would safeguard public lands and rivers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington; ensure access to these places for millions of Americans; restore fish and wildlife habitat; and help to sustain local economies. The measures in the package are supported by business owners, local elected officials, community leaders, veterans, scientists, conservationists, hunters and anglers, Native American tribes, and others who recognize the benefits of public lands and waters. Pew continues working toward passage of the legislation in the Senate. 

Invigorating Civic Life

Lexey Swall for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Panel discusses what Philadelphia’s small businesses need to survive and recover

Pew hosted a virtual panel in December to discuss the policies that Philadelphia’s small and midsize businesses need to survive and recover from the pandemic. A Pew report, “Philadelphia’s Small and Midsize Business Landscape,” found that the sector underperformed in several ways when compared with similarly sized business sectors in other large cities—with less new business formation and density, as well as weaker overall financial health. Participants described the challenges that Philadelphia’s small-business sector faced in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and offered insights about what is needed for the sector to recover, such as a more efficient city licensing and regulatory system, access to capital and banking services, a better opportunity to participate in city contracts and get paid in a timely fashion, and a deeper understanding among policymakers of the heterogeneity of small businesses, and their goals and needs. 

Bridgespan nonprofit leadership development program launches in Philadelphia

In February, global consulting firm The Bridgespan Group launched the first group of its Leading for Impact initiative in the Philadelphia region. The two-year program is designed to help nonprofit executive leadership teams improve their effectiveness and complete two projects that address their top institutional priorities. Pew and Harris Philanthropies—founded by Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris and his wife, Marjorie—each provided a $2 million grant to support the program. Funding from Pew and Harris also will enable Bridgespan to provide a 12- to 16-week online program for nonprofits with smaller budgets and limited staff capacity.

Informing the Public

John Green Bay Area News Group via Getty Images

International views of biotechnology

A Pew Research Center international survey released in December found that a median of 63% of people across 20 publics say gene editing is a misuse—rather than an appropriate use—of technology. However, views on specific, potential instances of gene editing highlight the complex and contextual nature of public attitudes. Majorities say it would be appropriate to change a baby’s genetic characteristics to treat a serious disease that the baby would have at birth (median of 70%), and somewhat smaller shares, although still about half or more, say that using these techniques to reduce the risk of a serious disease that could occur over the course of the baby’s lifetime would be appropriate (60%). But a median of just 14% say it would be appropriate to change a baby’s genetic characteristics to make the baby more intelligent. A far larger share (median of 82%) would consider this to be a misuse of technology. 

Faith among Black Americans

The Pew Research Center released in February a study exploring the religious identities, beliefs, and practices of native-born and immigrant Black American adults. The report finds that Protestantism still dominates the Black American religious landscape: Two-thirds of Black Americans (66%) identify as Protestant, 6% identify as Catholic, and 3% identify with other Christian faiths, mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses. Another 3% belong to non-Christian faiths, most commonly Islam. In addition, about 1 in 5 Black Americans (21%) identify as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular,” and this phenomenon is increasing by generation: Roughly 3 in 10 Black Gen Zers (28%) and Millennials (33%) say they are religiously unaffiliated, compared with just 11% of Baby Boomers and 5% of those in the Silent Generation. Fully 60% of Black adults who go to religious services—whether every week or just a few times a year—say they attend religious services at places where most or all of the other attendees, as well as the senior clergy, are also Black. And one-third (33%) of Black Americans say historically Black congregations should preserve their traditional racial character.

COVID-19’s effect on faith

The Pew Research Center released in January findings from a 14-country survey examining how the coronavirus outbreak has affected people’s faith. The survey found that nearly 3 in 10 U.S. adults say the outbreak has boosted their faith, more than any other advanced economy included in the study. Just 10% of British adults report that their own faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic, and 14% think the faith of Britons overall has increased due to COVID-19. In Japan, 5% of people say religion now plays a stronger role in both their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens. Majorities or pluralities in all the countries surveyed do not feel that religious faith has been strengthened by the pandemic. Generally, people in developed countries don’t see much change in religious faith as a result of the pandemic.

Cavan Images Getty Images

Working parents struggle with child care during pandemic

The Pew Research Center published in January an analysis of the experiences of parents who are working part- or full-time during the coronavirus outbreak and have children younger than 18. The analysis found that 52% of parents with children younger than 12 in the household say it has been difficult to handle child care responsibilities during the pandemic, up from 38% who said so in March 2020. Both working mothers and fathers with children younger than 12 are more likely than they were earlier in the pandemic to say it’s been difficult to handle child care responsibilities. But as was the case in March, larger shares of mothers than fathers say this (57% vs. 47%). Among working parents who are married or cohabitating, child care responsibilities are more challenging for those who have a spouse or partner who is also employed. About half of these parents (53%) say handling child care has been difficult, compared with 42% of working parents who have a spouse or partner who is not employed.

Two Different Fonts of Information The Next Election Emergency
emperor penguins
Trust Magazine

Emperor Penguins in Antarctica

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Trust Magazine

To protect this unique and critical region, Pew is working with partners to establish a network of large-scale marine protected areas around Antarctica.

A view of Benjamin Franklin Parkway looking toward City Hall in Philadelphia, PA in 2017.
A view of Benjamin Franklin Parkway looking toward City Hall in Philadelphia, PA in 2017.
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City Budgeting Priorities Amid Economic Uncertainty

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City governments were forced to make difficult decisions in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 upended their normal budget processes. Now, many of those cities are developing new spending plans for the year ahead.