How Pew's Work in 2016 Spurred Results

  • May 23, 2017

From helping attract tourists to its hometown of Philadelphia to urging voters to get to the polls, Pew has worked with a variety of organizations to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life.

Bears Ears National Monument

Learn more

Alaska's Criminal Justice Reforms

Learn more

Repeal of Prepaid Card Protections Would Harm Consumers

Learn more


The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© Lexey Swall/GRAIN


An August report from Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative found that the city has at least 21 tax incentives and exemptions—more than any other large comparable city—but that officials don’t evaluate the tax breaks to see if their benefits outweigh their costs. The report prompted City Council legislation to require regular reviews to assess the effectiveness of some of the programs which cost Philadelphia more than $200 million annually in forgone revenue.

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© Mark Makela/Corbis/Getty Images


Last year, tourists looking to visit such attractions as the Barnes Foundation’s art collection booked 1 million hotel nights in Philadelphia. That was a 294 percent increase over 1997, when leisure travel accounted for 254,000 room nights. Over the past 20 years, the city has become a destination for history buffs and art lovers, thanks to innovative marketing by Visit Philadelphia, which has highlighted the region’s cultural and historical treasures. Pew, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the city pooled resources to establish what is now Visit Philadelphia in 1996. And since then, Pew has supported renovations of Independence Mall and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and creation of the Independence Visitor Center, which draws 2 million a year, as well as the new Barnes museum.

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© Steve De Neef/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images

The Global Environment

Three species of thresher sharks, silky sharks, and nine species of mobula rays gained new protection last year from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Building on previous success in adding other shark and manta ray species to the convention’s list, Pew and its partners organized workshops around the world for representatives from more than 80 countries to build support for the new protections. CITES is one of the largest and oldest agreements on sustainable use among most of the world’s countries, and last year’s designation means that all of the global trade in rays and up to 20 percent of the global shark fin trade is now regulated.

Adding to these safeguards for marine life was another significant milestone in 2016: The first international accord targeted directly at illegal fishing—the Port State Measures Agreement—took effect. Long a priority in Pew’s work to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, the agreement requires ship captains to provide advance notice of arrival in a port, allows officials to turn away catch suspected of being illegally caught, and permits port authorities to inspect and deny services to vessels suspected of illegal fishing. Approvals by Dominica, Guinea, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, and Vanuatu announced in May pushed the total well over the 25 nations required for the treaty to take effect. By April 2017, the number had grown to 46.


  • The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
  • The Lyda Hill Foundation
  • The Lenfest Foundation
  • The John D. and  Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© White House photo

Conserving U.S. Public Lands

In southeast Utah, a pair of mesas that resemble a bear rising from the horizon are part of a spectacular landscape of buttes and arches, sandstone canyons, natural bridges, and juniper forests. They also provide the name to one of America’s newest national monuments—Bears Ears. The monument’s rugged 1.3 million acres were protected in the final days of 2016, capping a year that also saw a host of new designations and protections for the public’s lands in the western United States.

Early in the year, three national monuments were created in the California desert. The trio—Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains—safeguard nearly 1.8 million acres. The largest, Mojave Trails (left), stitches together some of the most varied terrain in the United States, from ancient lava flows to rugged mountain ranges to shifting sand dunes. The smallest—Castle Mountains—protects water resources and wildlife that includes bighorn sheep and bobcats.

In August, 87,500 acres of the north Maine woods became the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Home to moose, bear, lynx, and other wildlife, the monument is part of the largest undeveloped area in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

And joining the Bears Ears designation in December was the creation of the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada where Native Americans have left part of their history: petroglyphs and shelters dating back more than 12,000 years.

Pew’s efforts on behalf of these designations stretched over time—working with the landowners in Maine to help them determine how to convert the acreage to public property more than six years ago, and with local residents in the Gold Butte region for more than a decade. Those designations and the others involved Pew working with policymakers, local advocates, business groups, and partners.

In addition to the national monuments, Pew was involved with two other significant land protections in the west: the July announcement by the Bureau of Land Management of a plan to guide oversight of 6.5 million acres of some of Alaska’s most remote and pristine public land and the bureau’s September unveiling of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which will permanently protect significant areas of public lands in the California desert—including the Silurian Valley, Mayan Peak, and Chuckwalla Bench.

State Fiscal Health

By studying the fiscal health of states and localities, Pew helps policymakers develop disciplined budgets and determine the effectiveness of programs and whether they are delivering a strong return on investment. In 2016, Pew experts worked in six states—Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia—that now require regular and rigorous evaluations of their economic tax incentives. Four other states where Pew lent assistance—Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—reformed how they use their reserves to help smooth fluctuations in revenues and better weather future recessions. These states build on the efforts in other places Pew has worked to help American voters determine whether their federal, state, and local tax dollars are being spent efficiently and wisely.


  • Laura and John Arnold Foundation


Alaska, Maryland, and Kansas joined a growing national effort to adopt research-based, fiscally sound reforms to their criminal justice systems. Policymakers in the three states worked with Pew to analyze their data and tailor policies specific to their needs and concerns.

The results: Alaska adopted one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching legislative packages yet in this national effort, eliminating cash bail for certain pretrial defendants, reducing numerous felony sentence ranges, and reclassifying drug possession offenses as misdemeanors. The policies are expected to avert a 27 percent increase in the prison population and instead reduce the number of inmates by 13 percent by 2024, saving $380 million and creating funds to bolster public safety programs and victim services. Maryland’s new law is expected to reduce the number of inmates by 1,200 over the next decade, freeing up $80 million to invest in programs that reduce recidivism rates by enhancing community supervision and substance abuse treatment.

And Kansas adopted a new law for its juvenile justice system that restricts out-of-home placement for youth committing lower-level offenses, focuses more intensively on high-risk youths, and shifts resources toward proven alternatives that allow more youths to be supervised at home. The changes are projected to cut residential placements by more than half and save $72 million over the next five years.

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016


Websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Etsy, and Instagram offered 2016 presidential election information to more people than ever before. With little effort, millions of Americans found voting information, details on their ballots, and their polling place location by visiting online sites and by receiving texts on their smartphones. Getting the information in front of as many eyeballs as possible was the goal of the Voting Information Project. VIP—a partnership Pew created with state election officials, Google, and other tech experts—collected state election data, confirmed its accuracy, and made it available online. The project was born in 2008 when Pew and Google realized that no central place for reliable election information existed. Eight years later, social media sites, nonprofits, and state election websites all used the assembled data—free of charge—and during the 2016 presidential election season, the VIP tool was used more than 123 million times.


  • Rita Allen Foundation
  • Democracy Fund
  • Ford Foundation
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The John D. and  Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • State Infrastructure Fund at NEO Philanthropy
  • Open Society Foundations

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

The Ross Sea

More than 600,000 square miles at the bottom of the planet are now the world’s largest marine protected area. After five years of negotiations, 24 nations and the European Union made the designation in October. Pew has long sought protections for the Ross Sea, which is home to more penguins than anywhere else on Earth.


  • Carmen Lee, APOC Fund at National Philanthropic Trust

Public Health

Approval of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act in December provides new help against the devastating epidemic of prescription drug overdoses that takes the lives of dozens of Americans each day. It also makes new strides to address the global threat of antibiotic resistance, and shines a spotlight on patient safety with a new focus on improved health information technology—all longstanding priorities for Pew. In addition, Pew continued its partnership with the Centers for Disease Control to identify and reduce unnecessary and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in the United States to help slow the emergence of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

States don’t have the resources to provide treatment for the millions of people struggling with opioid use disorders. The Cures legislation authorizes $1 billion in federal funding to give more people access to the care they need and to help states address the epidemic.

The law also creates a new approval pathway to develop new antibiotics. With antibiotic resistance increasing, the new approval process would allow new drugs for resistant infections to come to market through streamlined trials and would ensure that these antibiotics aren’t used inappropriately with patients who can be treated with existing medicines.

And the new law addresses a widespread problem with electronic patient health records: doctors’ inability to easily access patient records no matter where they are treated. The Cures Act requires a study of ways to standardize electronic records and other methods to make it easier to match the right records with the right patients.


  • The Lyda Hill Foundation

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© Dan Bayley/Getty Images

Consumer Protection

Some 23 million Americans depend on prepaid cards instead of checking accounts. New federal protections, partly based on Pew’s recommendations, restrict overdraft fees and require disclosures and conditions so that consumers can accurately and easily compare the costs of the cards.

The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016

© Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

World Demographics

More than 60 million people in the world are now displaced from their homes, the greatest number since World War II, according to a highly cited report by the Pew Research Center. The conflict in Syria is the main reason for the sharp rise. 

Public Attitudes On Medical Advances

Advancements in developing biomedical technologies could very well give us stronger bodies and smarter brains. Gene editing has the potential to reduce the disease risk in newborn babies. Brain chips could improve our ability to think. Synthetic blood could rev up our strength and boost our stamina. But roughly half the public thinks that this could be meddling with Mother Nature. Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing, brain chip implants, and synthetic blood, the Pew Research Center found. And no more than half indicated they would be “enthusiastic” about the developments. Some do say that they would be both enthusiastic and worried, but, overall concern outpaces excitement. Americans who are most skeptical of the enhancements are highly religious.