Economic Policy Institute EPI

research and ideas for shared prosperity

The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit Washington D.C. think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. Today, with global competition expanding, wage inequality rising, and the methods and nature of work changing in fundamental ways, it is as crucial as ever that people who work for a living have a voice in the economic discourse … (about 1/2).

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About 2/2: … EPI was the first — and remains the premier — think tank to focus on the economic condition of low- and middle-income Americans and their families. 

Its careful research on the status of American workers has become the gold standard in that field. Its encyclopedic State of Working America, issued every two years since 1988, is stocked in university libraries around the world. EPI researchers, who often testify to Congress and are widely cited in the media, first brought to light the disconnect between pay and productivity that marked the U.S. economy in the 1990s and is now widely recognized as a cause of growing inequality.

EPI’s staff includes eight Ph.D.-level researchers, a half dozen policy analysts and research assistants, and a full communications and outreach staff. EPI also works closely with a national network of prominent scholars. The institute conducts original research according to strict standards of objectivity, and couples its findings with outreach and popular education. Its work spans a wide range of economic issues, such as trends in wages, incomes, and prices; health care; education; retirement security; state-level economic development strategies; trade and global finance; comparative international economic performance; the health of manufacturing and other key sectors; global competitiveness and energy development. Its research is varied, but a common thread runs through it: EPI examines issues through a “living standards” lens by analyzing the impact of policies and initiatives on the American public.

From its findings, EPI publishes books, studies, issue briefs, popular education materials, and other publications; sponsors conferences and seminars; briefs policy makers at all levels of government; provides technical support to national, state, and local activists and community organizations; testifies before national, state, and local legislatures; and provides information and background to the print and electronic media. Over the course of a year, EPI is called upon hundreds of times to inform policy debates, citizens’ group meetings, and educational forums.

EPI is typically cited in the media more than 20,000 times per year, including more than 15,000 mentions per year in print and online media. EPI is mentioned and/or its staff are seen or heard by over 300 million television or radio viewers or listeners per year.

EPI has always demanded a high standard of quality in its research because of its desire to be a credible participant in public debates and a reliable source of information and analysis for policy makers, the press, community activists, academics, corporate leaders, labor union officials, and the general public. Its methods for ensuring that its research methodologies and outcomes are exemplary include the use of highly qualified researchers and multiple reviews by outside experts, including those who are known for disagreeing with EPI’s values. In-house researchers maintain their standing in the academic community by publishing findings in prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals, like the American Economic Review and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Its founders include Jeff Faux, EPI’s first president; economist Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University; Robert Kuttner, columnist for Business Week and Newsweek and editor of The American Prospect; Ray Marshall, former U.S. secretary of labor and professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas-Austin; Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor and professor at UC Berkeley; and economist Lester Thurow of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

EPI is a 501(c)(3) corporation. In 2005 through 2007, a majority of its funding (about 53%) was in the form of foundation grants, while another 29% came from labor unions. EPI also receives support from individuals, corporations, and other organizations.

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