Wharton Public Policy Initiative

The Wharton Public Policy Initiative (Wharton PPI) is a hub for public policy research and education with one overarching goal across its Philadelphia and Washington, DC offices: to leverage the University’s resources to foster better-informed policymaking on issues related to business and the economy.

To remedy our country’s many economic problems, our government needs access to clear, fact-driven, accessible knowledge to stimulate policies that benefit the American public by promoting growth and stability. We aim to be the honest broker of data and rigorous, independent analyses that bridge this intellectual divide between business and government, while preparing our students to become the next generation of thought leaders in public policy and government service.


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Now showing 1 - 10 of 81
  • Publication
    Updating the Crowdfunding Narrative
    (2019-07-08) Tsoukalas, Gerry; Marinesi, Simone; Babich, Volodymyr
    Policymakers concerned about stimulating small business and entrepreneurial growth need to better understand the dynamics of crowdfunding as a vehicle for that growth. The conventional wisdom is that raising cash through crowdfunding always benefits entrepreneurs. But that is not the complete picture. In reality, there are ways in which entrepreneurs, as well as VCs looking for new investments, may actually be left worse off after a successful crowdfunding campaign. This issue brief examines the potential pitfalls of a successful campaign. These include a moral hazard problem that comes into play when entrepreneurs explore both crowdfunding and venture capital investment, which can lead to a breakdown in negotiations between entrepreneurs and VCs, leaving the VC without a potentially lucrative project and the entrepreneur without the VC’s essential financial support, expertise, and guidance. While the brief focuses on reward-based crowdfunding platforms, the pitfalls described herein likely apply as well to peer-to-peer lending, real estate, and equity-crowdfunding platforms too.
  • Publication
    The Other Side of a Merger: Labor Market Power, Wage Suppression, and Finding Recourse in Antitrust Law
    (2018-03-01) Marinescu, Ioana
    Labor market concentration can worsen after a merger takes place, and this heightened concentration can negatively affect wages. The focus of antitrust analysis, however, has been on the prices of consumer products, not the wages of laborers. New research indicates that, on average, labor markets are highly concentrated, and that higher concentration is associated with significantly lower posted wages for new jobs. This brief uses existing economic tools to develop a model for evaluating labor market concentration and its effects, to determine if a merger will run the risk of anticompetitively suppressing wages, employment, and output. Regulators can use this model to apply antitrust principles to labor markets, as a basis for antitrust enforcement.
  • Publication
    Improving Future Policy Responses to Foreseeable Bank Risk-Taking
    (2019-09-01) Gomes, Joao F; Grotteria, Marco; Wachter, Jessica A
    This brief offers new perspectives on the behavior of banks during the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the limited success of unconventional monetary policies in stimulating bank credit to the private sector during the subsequent economic recovery. The common narrative about the financial crisis is that it was caused by a large credit expansion with overly risky loan-granting behavior by banks. We argue, however, that banks actually made optimal financial decisions in the lead-up to the crisis, based on their calculation of their franchise value. The brief explains the mechanics of franchise value—how it led banks to shift their portfolios toward riskier household loans before the crisis, as well as how it dampened the impact of quantitative easing and other novel monetary policies meant to stimulate the investment of capital into the private sector. Policymakers have failed to recognize the role that franchise value plays in all bank decisions. If they wish to devise appropriate fiscal or monetary policies to prevent or mitigate a future crisis, they need to properly account for how franchise value drives the decision-making of bank managers.
  • Publication
    After Debt: A Path Forward for Puerto Rico
    (2016-04-01) Skeel, David A
    This Issue Brief summarizes events surrounding the current debt crisis in Puerto Rico and presents a two-step plan for restructuring Puerto Rico’s debt and encouraging more effective governance. This plan draws extensively on the previous experiences of debt crises in municipalities on the U.S. mainland. Step one entails the creation of a financial control board (FCB) for Puerto Rico, monitored by the U.S. federal government but involving significant Puerto Rican representation. Step two would be for Congress either to craft a restructuring framework applicable to all of America’s territories, or to extend the existing bankruptcy laws in Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code (with modifications) to Puerto Rico and its municipalities.
  • Publication
    Optimizing Outcomes on the Health Insurance Exchanges
    (2013-11-01) Baker, Tom; Kolstad, Jonathan T; Volpp, Kevin G; Starc, Amanda
    The success of the new health insurance exchanges will depend greatly on the quality of the enrollment decisions that consumers make. Choosing the wrong insurance product can translate into billions of dollars in wasteful spending at the national level. Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania have contributed to several studies outlining important ways that the exchanges can be made to work better for consumers—and for the larger economy.
  • Publication
    Addressing Personal-Income-Tax Manipulation with Tools from Psychology
    (2017-10-01) Rees-jones, Alex
    In order to better understand the tax manipulation decision-making process—both legal uses of tax deductions and illegal tax evasion—this brief looks at the impact of gain/loss framing. Analysis of tax data confirms that tax decisions are influenced by “loss aversion.” For instance, taxpayers are more likely to pursue tax reduction activities when they make a loss smaller, as compared to when they make a gain larger. The brief looks at tools that policymakers have at their disposal for both deterring tax evasion and making exiting tax incentives maximally effective. The brief discusses instances when such gain/loss framing interventions might be deployed, and provides estimates around the size of the revenue responses they may generate. The author estimates that if tax filers who face losses experienced the lower motivation to manipulate shown by those facing gains, annual tax revenue would increase by $1.4 billion. Even attempts at marginal interventions, though smaller in predicted effects, might be financially worthwhile.
  • Publication
    Is There a Future for Employer- Sponsored Health Insurance?
    (2015-03-01) Pauly, Mark V
    Over the next five years, the effects of the ACA on employer-sponsored insurance will be modest. In the longer run, there is greater potential for disruption, depending on how firms respond to the subsidies available on the exchanges for low-wage workers. In all, only about 15% of the workforce likely will be affected. The impacts of the ACA on firms will vary widely based on three main factors: 1) the size of the firm, 2) the average compensation within the firm, and 3) the degree to which wages within the firm are homogenous or heterogeneous. Keeping in mind that employees pay for all their health insurance, group insurance is not intrinsically superior to private exchanges, and cost trumps choice for consumers, firms will choose the option that maximizes benefits to their workers, takes advantage of the best available subsidies while avoiding tax penalties, and results in the lowest administrative costs. Making all low-wage workers eligible for the same subsidies, whether they acquire coverage on the exchanges or in group plans, would be reasonable and involve less distortions.
  • Publication
    As American as Apple Inc.: Corporate Ownership and the Fight for Tax Reform
    (2016-01-01) PPI, Penn Wharton
    Both supporters and critics of the current tax advantages enjoyed by U.S. multinational corporations (MNCs) bolster their arguments with appeals to patriotism: the MNCs and their political supporters argue that allowing inversions or other similar arrangements and instituting another tax holiday for “repatriating” overseas earnings are good for the American economy as a whole; opponents condemn these tax advantages as unpatriotic in depriving the U.S. of enormous sums of needed revenue. But where, precisely, is the “home” to which profits held offshore return? For many purposes, home is where the shareholders are. Determining ownership of U.S. MNCs such as Apple and GE, however, is extremely hard to do. Appeals for policies that promote U.S. competitiveness by presuming U.S. ownership of U.S. incorporated parent companies rest, in the end, on very little.
  • Publication
    Cryptocurrency Competition and the U.S. Monetary System
    (2018-06-21) Fernandez-Villaverde, Jesus
    Advocates of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin believe that having currency competition will help achieve the economic objective of price stability. This Issue Brief summarizes research that explores whether competition among privately issued fiat currencies can actually produce price stability. The research finds that in most cases, a system of private monies does not deliver price stability. And even when it does, it always is subject to self-fulfilling inflationary episodes, and it supplies a suboptimal amount of money. Although there is no economic reason to curb the use of cryptocurrencies at the moment, it is important to review key regulatory issues that policymakers need to consider now, before the use of cryptocurrencies becomes even more widespread.
  • Publication
    Regulation and Unemployment
    (2013-03-01) Coglianese, Cary
    Increasingly, and particularly in response to the recent economic downturn, policy makers have pointed to regulation as a “job killer” and have called for regulatory reform to promote job creation and economic recovery. The empirical research, although limited, reveals a more complex relationship between regulation and jobs, and fails to support the notion that regulation is either a major job killer or a significant job creator. U.S. policy makers should not expect that the nation’s economic woes can be solved by reforming the regulatory process.