The Importance of Data and Evidence for the New Administration

November 09, 2016

The battle lines of the election that have sent Donald Trump to the White House were drawn on some of the most contentious policy issues—global labor mobility, climate change, trade, effectiveness and efficiency in public and aid spending. These issues are part of CGD’s bread and butter. And the way organizations like ours work has also been in the spotlight—wonky technocrats, economists, and the like that use data and economic analysis to understand problems, formulate policy options, and engage with policymakers.

Now, with a new administration, I believe it is our obligation—more so than ever before—to stick to the facts and continue to bring the best possible economic and policy analysis to the global issues and decision-makers of our day. As always, we need to look at the net costs and benefits, and how to manage costs in a way that supports rather than diminishes well-being at home. Deeper trade ties with developing countries lift millions out of poverty and enrich US businesses, for example, but can also mean job losses. We need to do better at addressing and dealing with those job losses or the whole policy package is rejected, as my colleague Vijaya Ramachandran has pointed out.

We need to tell our data stories better. The election has brought home that we need to raise the profile and tell the story of the real-life consequences of failing to control the spread of antibiotic resistance or allowing forests to disappear in our lifetimes. Drug-resistant infections are happening now in the US, for example, but effective control depends on how people and animals use antibiotics not just at home but also in India, in China, and in Nigeria. We have to use the data to make people think about but also feel the magnitude of the problem and the risks of its neglect.

If nothing else, we must continue to rigorously document the economic and human costs of failing to act on the global issues that matter for all of our lives.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.