Progress in 2018: A Year of Working Together

  • January 14, 2019

From spurring expanded dental care for those in need to conserving ocean life through promotion of new fishing methods, Pew worked with a variety of organizations in 2018 to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life.

Editor’s Recommendation

An Emerging Sub-Saharan Exodus

by Lee Hockstader

August 13, 2018

Philadelphia: Arts

Steve Weinik/Mural Arts Philadelphia

Spurred by its initial success in Philadelphia, the public art and history project “Monument Lab” went national in 2018. A new program is supporting fellowships around the country to encourage creative approaches to public art, history, and memory. These efforts are a follow-up to the original Pew Center for Arts & Heritage-supported “Monument Lab” that fostered public dialogue about the role of monuments in contemporary society through such Philadelphia exhibits in 2017 as artist Mel Chin’s “Two Me” at City Hall and Duane Linklater’s “In Perpetuity,” which focused on the plight of Indigenous peoples from lands that now include the city of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: Schools

Lexey Swall/GRAIN

The School District of Philadelphia in October took action on 16 steps to address equitable access to special and citywide admission high schools in response to a 2017 report from Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative. Among other findings, the report said the makeup of incoming students in 2015-16 at the city’s special admissions schools, including some of the system’s highest-performing institutions, differed from the ninth grade as a whole with fewer Latinos, students receiving federal poverty aid, boys, and African-Americans. The school system’s response placed particular emphasis on outreach to these students and school leaders also said they would continue to examine other report findings, including why some students get admitted to the schools but end up not attending.

States' Fiscal Health

States spend billions of dollars offering tax credits and exemptions to encourage businesses to create or keep jobs. Pew has worked with lawmakers in many states to help them evaluate these economic development incentives to determine if they’re effective and achieving measurable results. In 2018, three states Pew assisted made changes in programs they found weren’t delivering a strong return on taxpayers’ investments.

Indiana passed a law ending enterprise zones that created tax breaks in certain disadvantaged areas because of weak results.

Maine approved major reforms to three of the state’s largest economic development tax incentives programs.

Connecticut eliminated three tax credits, which is expected to save the state millions of dollars in coming years.

Payday Loans

Ohioans will now have access to affordable small loans, thanks to the bipartisan Fairness in Lending Act. Passed by the state Legislature and signed by Governor John Kasich (R) in July, the law transforms how payday loans work and is expected to save borrowers—who often rely on the loans for rent, groceries, and utilities—$75 million a year. Pew provided research and technical assistance to lawmakers that helped achieve three fundamental goals for consumers: affordable payments, lower prices, and a reasonable time to repay. The law makes Ohio’s payday loans some of the safest and lowest-cost in the nation—and is a model for other states that permit payday lending.

Marine Protection

In partnership with The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Ralph Pace

California decided in September to phase out use of large-mesh drift gillnets to catch swordfish off the West Coast. On average, more than half of marine life caught by drift gillnets is discarded, and the move was an important victory for whales, sea turtles, and other ocean creatures that have been injured and killed by the nets in recent decades. Pew supported the decision and has long worked with scientists and fishermen to develop and use less destructive fishing gear.

Ocean Conservation

In partnership with Remmer Family Foundation

Two squat lobsters sit on Iridogorgia coral, a type of octocoral.

Less than 100 miles off the New England coast, the seafloor begins to drop steeply. With Pew’s urging, the New England Fishery Management Council voted in January to protect 25,000 square miles of that deep-sea floor from the most destructive kinds of fishing gear, a move that conserves slow-growing corals vital to a diverse ecosystem teeming with marine life. And in June, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council adopted the first-of-its kind plan to safeguard that region’s coral by restricting damaging fishing gear in some areas. Those safeguards mark a major milestone in protecting ancient, fragile coral ecosystems that Pew has sought to conserve because they provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for wildlife ranging from sharks and crabs to fish such as snapper and grouper.

Boreal

In partnership with Ducks Unlimited and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Pimachiowin Aki, the traditional land of four Indigenous First Nations located in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, contains the largest protected stretch of boreal forest on Earth. With 5,600 freshwater lakes, the 7.2-million-acre region provides habitat for more than 40 species of mammals and 220 types of birds. The area also features campsites that have been used for thousands of years and has centuries-old traplines that are still maintained, as well as pictographs and ancient hunting and cooking tools. After a Pew-endorsed campaign, UNESCO declared Pimachiowin Aki a World Heritage site in July, finding it worthy of protection for its “outstanding universal values."

Dental Health

Some 63 million Americans are hindered in accessing regular dental care. To meet this need, Arizona in May and Michigan in December joined a growing number of states authorizing dental therapists. These providers, similar to nurse practitioners in a medical office, can perform most routine preventive and restorative work, such as filling cavities and placing temporary crowns. Pew provided technical assistance to lawmakers in both states—who now join six others authorizing dental therapists in some capacity.

News Media

In partnership with The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations

Last year, a vast majority of Democrats—82 percent—said they support the news media’s watchdog role, believing that news media criticism “keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done.” But far fewer Republicans—38 percent—felt that way. The 44-percentage-point gap in the new survey, along with the 47-point difference in 2017, are the largest measured by the Pew Research Center in the more than three decades the question has been asked.

Opioid Epidemic

In partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Open Society Foundations

Trust Magazine

Deaths from opioid overdoses have spiked in recent years, rising from some 28,000 in 2014 to more than 47,000 in 2017—federal officials say this now translates to 130 people dying each day. To address the crisis, President Donald Trump in October signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Pew, which supported provisions in the law that increase evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder, has a broad campaign that includes providing technical assistance to help states expand access to treatment and reduce overdose deaths. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

The Pew Research Center last year determined that the total number of people living in sub-Saharan Africa who were forced to leave their homes due to conflict had reached a new high of 18.4 million in 2017, up sharply from 14.1 million in 2016—marking the largest regional increase of forcibly displaced people in the world.

Prayer

In partnership with the John Templeton Foundation

The Pew Research Center has asked adults in more than 100 countries about their religious practices. The surveys show that countries with higher levels of wealth typically have lower levels of religious commitment (such as rates of prayer), and vice versa. In every country surveyed by the center with a gross domestic product of $30,000 per capita or more, fewer than 40 percent of adults say they pray every day, with one exception: the United States. On this measure, the United States (where 55 percent of adults pray daily) is a major outlier; of 102 countries studied, it is the only one with higher-than-average levels of both prayer and wealth.