Expert Advice, Unbiased and Nonpartisan

Lawmakers faced with decisions about the economic recovery, funding for schools, rising health care costs, and the housing market could benefit from a little bit of unbiased expert advice.

An initiative from the Wharton School, the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative (PPI), is tapping into the expertise at the business school, as well as around the University, to create nonpartisan resources for lawmakers and others close to the decision-making process on Capitol Hill.


"The mission is, really, in the broadest terms, to serve as a hub for public policy research and education at Penn," says PPI Managing Director Andrew Coopersmith. "It's anchored in Wharton, but it includes schools throughout the University. [We're] trying to bring together the different silos of public policy activity across the University."

The PPI is focused on the sharing of knowledge and data rather than advocacy, and publishes policy briefs and a blog on issues central to the country’s economic health. Previous publications have addressed everything from stress tests for banks and capital income taxes and growth, to entitlement program reform and fracking.

PPI Faculty Director Mark Duggan, chair of the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, professor of business economics and public policy, and professor of health care management at Wharton, says some important published materials from faculty are never seen by the general public.

"There isn't much of a mechanism to reward people if the research they do has a big policy relevance," Duggan says. "It doesn’t really ripple into the outside world very much."

Partisan think tanks on the left or right produce policy papers, "but they kind of know the answer before they embark on the research," Duggan adds.

The PPI was established in September 2012 with an $11 million gift from three Wharton alumni—Marc J. Rowan, Marc A. Spilker, and Dianne Isaacs Spilker.

"[After the donors] emerged from Wharton, they learned a ton about business, but they didn’t learn a ton about the policy landscape," says Duggan. "They thought it would be great for students to emerge from Wharton with a deeper appreciation of what government does."



Text by Heather A. Davis

Video courtesy of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative