Fletcher Features

Facts First: EconoFact Marks One Year of Re-Introducing Facts into National Policy Debates

One year ago, The Fletcher School launched EconoFact, a website and newsletter designed with the purpose of re-introducing facts and sound analysis into current national debates over economic and social policies. Beginning in January 2017 with six memos, today EconoFact has published its 100th memo.

Published by The Fletcher School’s Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World, EconoFact has become a reliable, straightforward resource for facts surrounding policy debates and analysis of timely economic issues. Its memos have been republished and cited by top news sources and global organizations, including NPR, CBS, PBS and the World Economic Forum. Memos are penned by a growing cadre of leading academic economists from across the country, a network which has grown from 20 to nearly 70 economists in its first year.

EconoFact launched with a mission of promoting fact-based, non-partisan economic analysis in the public sphere, drawing on the expertise and policy experiences of academic economists,” said Michael Klein, co-founder of EconoFact and the William L. Clayton Professor of International Economic Affairs at The Fletcher School. “It has been a truly gratifying experience to participate in the growth of this initiative and to witness its success, and I look forward to building on these accomplishments as we begin our second year.”

Recognizing the need for well-informed views, and drawing on the desire among professors to provide reliable, well-considered expert analysis, Klein assembled a network of 20 economists in the weeks following the 2016 presidential election. The network has continued to expand as the political environment has grown increasingly indifferent to, or even hostile towards, factual analysis of economic and social issues that threaten to undermine rational policymaking. The nearly 70 economists who are now members of the Econofact network see this website as a means of ensuring facts and sound analysis are available to the media, the public, and policymakers.

"Econofact provides a great service to the public,” said Jay Shambaugh, professor at The George Washington University, director of The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, and a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama. “It is a way for academics to boil down complicated research to its core elements to make sure public debate is well-informed."

To date, EconoFact has over 1,700 newsletter subscribers including those affecting policy in Washington, D.C. and in our state capitals, thought leaders, policymakers, journalists, and interested Americans.

“I’ve quickly come to rely on EconoFact as one of my ‘go-to’ web sites, a useful journalistic tool for both understanding complex economic issues and identifying experts to interview,” said Jason Margolis, reporter and correspondent for PRI’s The World. “EconoFact also alerts me of important issues that are perhaps being overlooked and not getting much attention in the mainstream press.”

“I had initially viewed EconoFact as purely a public service, donating my time to foster informed political participation,” said Nora Gordon, member of the EconoFact network, associate professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“I still believe in that vision, but also have come to appreciate its benefits for contributing authors, namely incredibly high-quality editorial assistance and media exposure,” she continued. “One of my EconoFact memos led to the solicitation of my first New York Times Op-Ed.”

To ensure accessibility, clarity, and understanding, EconoFact memos follow a format in which the first two sections lay out the issue and relevant facts and are often accompanied by charts or graphics. Economists in the EconoFact network seek to be rigorously transparent regarding where real fact ends and judgment begins, allowing citizens to apply their own judgment.

“We have proven the concept of EconoFact and in so doing, have proven that there is a demand for fact-first analysis. The quality and readability of our analysis, written by so many top economists, is simply unmatched,” said Edward Schumacher-Matos, director of The Murrow Center and co-founder of EconoFact.

EconoFact represents a growing trend by American universities and non-profit institutions to fill the gap created by declining resources and fewer journalists available to comprehensively cover the increasing number of complex national and international issues. It also represents a growing effort by many universities to make a greater real-world impact by informing current policy debate with timely, accurate research.