New State & Local Policies

Levy Institute

The Levy Institute of Bard College serves as one of the leading academic research centers on issues of wealth and income distribution, as well as a wide range of other economic issues.

Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) is the research arm of Citizens for Tax Justice. ITEP provides policymakers, advocates, and the public with timely information regarding state and federal tax regulations and how they affect taxpayers at different income levels.

Hometown Advantage

This website, hosted by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, focuses on efforts to preserve independently owned retail establishments and resist the proliferation of big-box retailers. The site features articles on local disputes, as well as a number of economic impact studies that document the greater local economic multiplier effect of locally owned retail establishments. serves as an information clearinghouse with links to hundreds of groups involved in education, environmentalism, humanitarian relief, health promotion, reducing homelessness, crime control, political freedom, government reform, consumer protection, youth development, and other like-minded issues.

Good Jobs First (Washington, D.C.)

Good Jobs First is a national advocacy organization that tracks corporate accountability legislation, including job quality standards (i.e., requirements that economic development subsidies lead to higher paying jobs), disclosure rules (i.e., requirements that the amount of the subsidies that each company receives be displayed in a form that is accessible to the public), and monitoring (i.e., requirements that part of the subsidy money be returned to the government if job employment and job quality commitments are not met). The website includes model legislation, as well as links to descriptions of state disclosure legislation.

Complementary Currency Resource Center

The CC Resource Center is an international multi-lingual resource for those interested in local, community, complementary, electronic, commercial barter, and alternative currency systems. The site contains a worldwide registry of CC systems, and open libraries with over 450 documents and 300 images.

Center for Study of Responsive Law

A nonprofit founded by Ralph Nader in 1968, the Center's primary focus is to empower citizens, especially students, to foster reform in areas such as environmental, consumer and worker health and safety issues.  The center has published numerous books, which are listed on the website, conducted a variety of projects and research, and frequently hosts conferences.  Nader and his organization encourage Americans to emphasize government and corporate accountability. 

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities

The Center conducts research and analysis to inform public debate over proposed budget and tax policies and to help ensure that the needs of low-income families and individuals are considered in these debates. Through its State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, the Center now provides policy research and support in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Building Regional Power Research Project

Local labor movements in a small but growing number of cities have embarked upon a long-term strategy to gain greater power in their regions. With revitalized central labor councils at the core, unions and allied groups are electing progressive champions, shifting the political debates to economic justice issues, and supporting the right of workers to organize. The Building Regional Power Research Project was established at Wayne State University to document and promote this work and contains a number of studies on efforts in different cities.

New State & Local Policies

The Curb-Cut Effect

Angela Glover Blackwell

“Opportunity doesn’t trickle down; it cascades out and up,” writes PolicyLink’s CEO Angela Glover Blackwell in this new article published in the Winter 2017 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Using the transformational success of disability activists in the 1960s and 70s as an example, Glover Blackwell describes how programs designed to benefit the most marginalized groups often end up yielding considerable benefits to society at large,. She applies this principle to addressing income inequality, noting that programs that build the wealth of the most vulnerable will create greater prosperity for all residents. 

Community Wealth Building Form: What they are and how to use them at the local level

Steve Dubb
Academy of Management Perspectives

In this article for the Academy of Management PerspectivesSteve Dubb, Director of Special Projects at the Democracy Collaborative, writes a comprehensive review on community wealth building strategies, progress, and implementation in local communities:

Community wealth building: America’s emerging asset based approach to city economic development

Marjorie Kelly, Sarah McKinley and Violeta Duncan
Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy

Across the United States a growing number of communities are experimenting with innovative ways to create a more equal, democratic, and community-based economy from the ground up. Our Vice President and Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly, Manager of Community Development Programs Sarah McKinley, and Research Associate Violeta Duncan co-write a piece for the Renewal Journal on how we can use a "politics of place" and "politics for places" to uplift communities across the country and world:

Maine Islanders Band Together to Preserve a Way of Life

Gloria J. LaBrecque

As owners of a valued island business began to think about retiring, the idea of helping their loyal workers form a co-op had real appeal. 

Inequality’s Dead End—And the Possibility of a New, Long-Term Direction

Gar Alperovitz
Nonprofit Quarterly

It is easy to be distracted by what passes for economic news these days, focused as it is on short-term fluctuations and assurances of recovery and revitalization. The simple truth, however, is that year by year, decade by decade, life in the United States is steadily growing ever more unequal.

Sustainable Communities: Creating a Durable Economy

Bruce Seifer
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Communities & Banking Journal

In the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Communities & Banking Journal, localist Bruce Seifer presents an excerpt from his new book that describes the shift in Burlington, Vermont's economic development strategy from one that seeks corporate subsidies to one based on building local entrepreneurship. Seifer gives an overview of the city's long-term economic vision and describes the city's efforts to convert business into employee-owned companies and to provide technical assistance to locally owned firms.

Theory Test

Tina Griego
Style Weekly

Thad Williamson discusses goals for Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building in an interview with Richmond-based Style Weekly.

Don’t Call It Anti-Poverty: New Richmond Office Looks to Build “Community Wealth”

Bill Bradley
Next City

Former Democracy Collaborative researcher, Thad Williamson, will soon begin his new job as Director of Richmond, Virginia’s Office of Community Wealth Building, the first municipal office of its type in the nation. Born out of recommendations from Mayor Clinton Jones’ anti-poverty initiative, the Office aims to address the structural causes of poverty that have left 27% of residents in poverty. 

America Has a Scary Sewage Problem: Let's Clean It Up and Jumpstart the Economy While We're At It

Gar Alperovitz

The problem is simple, surprising, and quite honestly disgusting: Our nation’s older cities depend largely on sewage treatment systems that overflow when it rains, dumping 860 billion gallons of raw sewage a year into “fresh” water across the country—enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania an inch deep.

But the stormwater crisis is also a tremendous opportunity to move in the direction of a new, community sustaining local economy.


Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown renews focus on small businesses

David Bauerlein
The Florida Times Union

From the Florida Times-Union

The crowd at Mayor Alvin Brown’s first Business Builder conference in early 2012 still bore the wounds of the Great Recession, casting a sense of guarded optimism among the budding entrepreneurs who turned out for the event.

The Rise of the Corporate Landlord

Desiree Fields, Rachel Laforest, Tony Romano, Tony Roshan Samara and Rob Call
Right To The City Alliance

This new report from The Right to the City Alliance’s Homes for All Campaign examines how large, well capitalized, private equity firms, entering rental markets create the risk of a second housing bubble. The author, urban geographer Desiree Fields, demonstrates that the institutionalization of the single-family rental market benefits the same financial institutions behind the housing market crash of 2008, while disproportionately impacting low-income communities. She lays out a policy agenda that can promote greater diversity and broaden ownership of land and housing. 

Local policies for building community wealth

John Duda
We need to move beyond ‘projects’ and towards policies that help build and sustain community wealth, says John Duda of the Democracy Collaborative

Towards a Localist Policy Agenda

Stacy Mitchell

At the annual BALLE conference this past June, Stacey Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance highlighted the importance of building a national policy agenda that supports local ownership. Mitchell addressed why changing public policy is essential, the need for framing a compelling narrative to assert change, the importance of building the appropriate components of a national policy agenda, and indicated some first steps to take. Using compelling examples from specific sectors, such as local food and local banking, Mitchell shows that while real change is occurring, major structural forces impede progress and that remaking public policy is critical to moving past those barriers.

A New Deal for Local Economies

Stacy Mitchell
Bristol Schumacher Conference in Bristol, England

Economic Analysis Of Detroit’s Food System

Econsult Solutions, Inc. and Urbane Development, LLC

The food economy in Detroit is already the city’s third largest economic sector, and is poised to be the next largest growth sector for the city, note Econsult Solutions, Inc. and Urbane Development in a report written on behalf of The Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative. In their report, the authors outline several strategies to foster equitable growth, including connecting local, small-scale food producers and manufactures to anchor institution demand. Only by engaging Detroiters and supporting the local, small, and medium sized actors in the system, the report argues, will food sector growth be effective in creating jobs and building community wealth for Detroit residents. 

The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation

Greg LeRoy

State and local job subsidies cost states and cities some $50 billion a year. In this 2005 book, which has now been made available for free on line, Good Jobs First founder Greg Leroy outlines common abuses as well as common sense reforms to make this job-subsidy system more transparent and effective.

State Future Funds: Jumpstarting Investments in Low-Carbon and Resilient Energy and Transportation Infrastructure

Cathleen Kelly

The reality is that state and local governments—and communities—are on the front lines when it comes to coping with crumbling and outdated infrastructure, traffic congestion, air pollution, more extreme weather driven by climate change, and growing inequities. Congress has the power to provide state and local officials with a remedy to the pressing on-the-ground challenges they confront daily. Specifically, by creating State Future Funds, Congress can support state and local efforts to build low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, strengthen communities and grow opportunities for all to prosper. 

Policies for Community Wealth Building: Leveraging State and Local Resources

The Democracy Collaborative

Fostering resilient communities and building wealth in today’s local economies is necessary to achieve individual, regional, and national economic security. A community wealth building strategy employs a range of forms of community ownership and asset building strategies to build wealth in low-income communities. In so doing, community wealth building bolsters the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, expand the provision of public services, and ensure local economic stability. 

Job Creation for the Disadvantaged: A Review of State and Local Efforts

Karen Chapple and Robert P. Giloth

This paper examines current job creation practices, surveying the federal government response, think-tank proposals, and related programs in all fifty states. Given the failure of most to reach the least advantaged communities, we then propose an alternative set of approaches in three areas: sectoral strategies, entrepreneurship, and tax and employment policy. A conclusion discusses the challenge of generating and implementing new ideas for job creation. 

Policy Change for Local Living Economies: Practical Strategies for Champions of Change

David Brodwin

The work of building a vibrant local economy requires up-to-date government policies and responsive government processes. This report offers suggestions for would-be change agents to identify the best initiatives and work with local governments on their implementation. 

Sector Strategies in Brief

Maureen Conway, Amy Kays Blair, Steven L. Dawson and Linda Dworak-Muñoz

Getting Connected: Employer Engagement in Work Supports

Abbey Frank, Robert Zdenek and Mark Greenberg
Workforce Development Series, Policy Paper No. 1

Community Benefits Agreement

LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) Master Plan Program

The Souls of Poor Folk

Institute for Policy Studies

In 1967, the Poor People’s Campaign was launched as a multiracial coalition demanding government action to address poverty and racism in the United States. This new report from the Institute for Policy Studies provides an audit of the last 50 years, examining the trends and conditions that drive poverty finding that systemic racism, economic exploitation, militarism, and ecological devastation continue to deepen inequality. The report accompanies the launch of the New Poor People’s Campaign to build power to create systemic change.

Framing the Economy: How to win the case for a better system

NEON, NEF, FrameWorks Institute and PIRC

“A space has opened up to talk and think differently about the economy. The question is what this space will be filled by,” note the authors of this report from the New Economics Foundation, the New Economy Organisers Network, the Public Interest Research Centre, and the Frameworks Institute. Focusing in particular on Britain’s political context, the report highlights sample stories, framing techniques, and engagement strategies that can begin to shift public discourse around the need for a more democratic and just economy and open up the realm of political possibilities.

Everyone's Economy: 25 Policies To Lift Up Working People

Ed. Amy Traub and Connie Razza

A guide for policymakers and grassroots organizations, this new report from Dēmos outlines 25 federal policies that advance racial and economic equity. The report includes short summaries of each policy, polling information around the popularity of particular policies, and key talking points for advocates. Policies highlighted include a public job guarantee, paid family leave, renewable energy investment, and developing a more equitable tax code.

Inclusive Recovery in US Cities

Erika Poethig, Solomon Greene, Christina Stacy, Tanaya Srini and Brady Meixell

Race, Place, and Jobs: Reducing Employment Inequality in America's Metros

Justin Scoggins, Sarah Treuhaft and Sheila Xiao
University of Southern California (USC) Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

Opportunities for Public Procurement Post-Brexit

Matthew Jackson

This report published by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), a UK-based think tank focused on progressive economics, discusses the potential to leverage public spending to build community health. The authors detail how local anchor institutions in Manchester and Preston have already re-directed a significant portion of their procurement to local businesses. The report includes recommendations for scaling this approach across the UK, calling for revised legislation that integrates the economic, social, and environmental value of procurement into public purchasing guidelines.

Public Health & Wealth in Post-Bankruptcy Detroit

Suparana Bhaskaran
UC Berkeley

Published by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, this new report discusses the relationship between health outcomes and wealth disparities in Detroit, Michigan. The authors detail how a lack of access to safe housing and water poses the greatest health threats to residents, and call for solutions outside the realm of clinical care. While noting the necessity of Medicaid expansion, the report calls for investments in the social determinants of health—including affordable housing and expanded social services.

Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond

Demelza Baer and Ryan P. Haygood

While Newark, New Jersey is home to several major Fortune 500 companies, local residents are largely excluded from this economic growth and hold only 18 percent of all jobs in the city. This new report, published by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, explores the origins of this economic divide, which predominantly affects communities of color, noting a history of discrimination and an absence of pathways to middle-skill jobs. The report calls on the City to implement local hiring provisions for city contracts and calls on anchor institutions to develop local hiring and procurement strategies.

2016 Policy Agenda

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth

Carmel Martin, Andy Green and Brendan Duke
Center for American Progress

The Color of Entrepreneurship: Why the Racial Gap Among Firms Costs the U.S. Billions

Algernon Austin

“America is currently forgoing an estimated 1.1 million businesses owned by people of color because of past and present discrimination,” writes Algernon Austin, author of this new report from the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, Austin finds that the country would produce an estimated 9 million more jobs and have $300 billion more in national income if entrepreneurship amongst people of color were proportional to their distribution in the labor force. To address this, Austin recommends creating tax credits to incentivize investments in minority-owned businesses, expanding the number of Minority Business Development Agencies, and utilizing alternative credit data for those with limited credit histories. 

Field Guide: The Future of Health is Local

Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies

This field guide, produced by The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, connects the dots between the social determinants of health and the framework of strategies that both BALLE and MIT's Presencing Institute have identified as the path forward in building thriving local economies:

Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools

Evie Frankl

With passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, communities have the opportunity to direct the change they wish to see in their education systems. This new report from the Coalition for Community Schools, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Southern Education Foundation profiles of 10 community schools across the country and outlines how this model can increase school attendance, decrease suspensions and expulsions, improve academic outcomes, and promote community health and well-being. The paper also outlines key strategies and mechanisms for implementation and includes resources to help codify community schools in policy.

Public Spending, By the People: Participatory Budgeting in the United States and Canada in 2014–15

Carolin Hagelskamp, Chloe Rinehart, Rebecca Silliman and David Schleifer
Public Agenda

Forty-six communities across the U.S. and Canada implemented participatory budgeting initiatives in 2014, involving over 70,000 residents in the allocation of $50 million. This new report from Public Agenda assesses the impact of these initiatives, compiling and presenting data on implementation, participation, and the types of projects funded. It finds that youth and women, as well as black and low-income people, are disproportionately active in the participatory budgeting process when compared to their census data. The authors highlight this potential for participatory budgeting to extend decision-making power to groups that have been traditionally excluded from democratic processes and pose questions for the field to spur further research on how to improve and scale-up participatory budgeting:

Just Utilities: Organizing for solutions to the household energy crisis

Peggy Kahn and William Hoynes

This new paper from Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a New York-based grassroots organization and member of the Right to the City Alliance, calls for “utilities justice”—the right to have affordable, accessible, healthy, and community-controlled energy. It examines the ways in which communities and families in Poughkeepsie, New York are burdened by energy insecurity and notes racial and income disparities. Recommendations put forth address affordability and access to renewables and weatherization resources, as well as local and common ownership of energy sources. The authors also list strategic advantages for utilities justice community organizing.  

Affordable Space: How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It

Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

This new brief from National Housing Conference explores how affordable housing and community development organizations can partner with healthcare anchors to achieve both health and community development goals. The authors describe collaborations around the country which have helped create ageing-in-place programs for low-income seniors, public housing renovations, and employer assisted housing programs. Examining community health needs assessments (CHNA) is identified as the first step for organizations looking to pursue partnerships with nonprofit hospitals:

Affordable Space: How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It

Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

This new brief from National Housing Conference explores how affordable housing and community development organizations can partner with healthcare anchors to achieve both health and community development goals. The authors describe collaborations around the country which have helped create ageing-in-place programs for low-income seniors, public housing renovations, and employer assisted housing programs. Examining community health needs assessments (CHNA) is identified as the first step for organizations looking to pursue partnerships with nonprofit hospitals:

Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap

Laura Sullivan, Tatjana Meschede, Thomas Shapiro, Dedrick Asante-Muhammed and Emanuel Nieves

Median Latino and Black households have over $100,000 less in wealth than median White households, a disparity that persists despite reductions in income inequality. This new report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and CFED puts forward a “racial wealth audit” framework, assessing how specific policies either lessen or inadvertently perpetuate the racial wealth gap. The authors call for “targeted universalism” noting that policies such as Children’s Savings Account and eliminating student debt will only successfully address the racial wealth gap if they focus in particular on low income households.

Slicing the Budget Pie for Big Business: How Three States Allocate Economic Development Dollars, Large Companies versus Small

Kasia Tarczynska, Thomas Cafcas and Greg LeRoy

The third in Good Jobs First’s recent series exploring whether state economic development programs are fair to small, local businesses continues to find bias in favor of large companies. The report analyzes state economic development spending in Florida, Missouri, and New Mexico and finds that on average 68 percent of spending goes towards large companies, more than triple the amount received by small businesses—despite the fact that small businesses are the primary driver of job growth. The report recommends that states develop more transparent subsidy award reporting and track how economic development dollars benefit small businesses specifically. The authors also recommend that states develop safeguards to ensure that incentives going to large companies result in public benefits commensurate with the subsidy.

Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh

Sarah Treuhaft
PolicyLink, Urban Innovation 21, Neighborhood Allies

Despite a recent development boom, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has experienced growing racial gaps in poverty, wages and employment over the past five years. This new joint report from PolicyLink, NeighborhoodAllies and Urban Innovation 21 sets forth an agenda for equitable development that prioritizes low-income residents, communities of color, immigrants, and others who have so far been excluded from Pittsburgh’s economic growth. Recommendations include expanding the use of community land trusts, leveraging anchor institution spending, and implementing diverse and local hiring and purchasing requirements for public projects:


Our Kind of Town: A Financial Plan that Puts Chicago’s Communities First

Saqib Bhatti and Carrie Sloan

Despite the fact that municipalities have a default rate of 0.02 percent on their loans between 1970 and 2012, credit rating agencies frequently threaten cities with credit downgrades, a “political ploy” that often serves to transfer public assets into Wall Street hands. In this report from the ReFund America Project, an initiative of the Roosevelt Institute, Executive Director Saqib Bhatti and Senior Research Analyst Carrie Sloan charge the City of Chicago to resist corporate interests and put residents first. They offer a series of suggestions to stabilize the local economy and provide resources for essential public services, which include ending corporate tax subsidies and tax breaks, partnering with other cities to fight against financing fees levied by big banks, and creating public banks to foster reinvestment.

Excluded from the Financial Mainstream: How the Economic Recovery is Bypassing Millions of Americans

Jennifer Brooks, Kasey Wiedrich, Lebaron Sims, Jr. and Solana Rice
Findings from the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard

One in five households regularly rely on fringe financial services to meet their needs. Nationally, 55.6 percent of consumers have subprime credit scores, meaning they cannot qualify for credit or financing at prime rates. In its 2015 Asset and Opportunity Scorecard, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) describes these and other difficulties faced by many Americans and breaks down disparities by race and state. The report also outlines how a combination of state policies such as protections against predatory lending and the establishment of housing trust funds can help families achieve economic security.

Cities Building Community Wealth

Marjorie Kelly and Sarah McKinley

In an era of persistent urban inequality and chronic unemployment disproportionately impacting historically marginalized communities and communities of color, new alternatives to the traditional economic development strategies that have failed to bring broad and evenly distributed prosperity to America's cities are clearly needed.

Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders

Neal Gorenflo and Yassi Eskandari-Qajar

This policy primer from Shareable and the Sustainable Economies Law Center catalogues innovative local policies that city governments have used to help residents share resources, co-produce, and create their own jobs. Focusing on food, housing, transportation, and job sharing, this guide is intended to help cities build community wealth and develop more resilient and democratic local economies. More broadly, the sharing economy highlights how governments can structure infrastructure, services, incentives, and regulations to support this new economy.

The Job Creation Shell Game: Ending the Wasteful Practice of Subsidizing Companies that Move Jobs From One State to Another

Greg LeRoy, et al

A new report from Good Jobs First shows how state and local governments waste billions of dollars in subsidies used to lure business across state lines while businesses use job creation “blackmail” to demand greater rewards. The result is a shrinking tax base for states, reducing needed resources for education, infrastructure development, and job development as well as unfair job redistribution. After examining the states where these practices are most common and harmful, the authors recommend policies that reduce interstate job competition.  Ultimately, the authors call on the federal government to use incentives to curtail these practices. 

Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity

Peter Fischer

Good Jobs First and The Iowa Policy Project use statistical analysis to show how policies advocated by the American Legislatives Exchange Council (ALEC) have not only failed to produce positive economic results but have actually resulted in worse outcomes for states. Written by Dr. Peter Fischer, the report finds that ALEC’s proscribed policies to reduce or abolish progressive taxes, weaken unions, invest less in education and public services, and shrink the social safety net to promote job creation and growth have led to economic inequality, wage suppression, income stagnation, and a sharp deduction in state and local revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and systems.