About the Center

Our Mission

We are a nonpartisan research and policy institute. We pursue federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways. We apply our deep expertise in budget and tax issues and in programs and policies that help low-income people, in order to help inform debates and achieve better policy outcomes.

Our History

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) was founded in 1981 by Robert Greenstein to analyze federal budget priorities, with a particular focus on how budget choices affect low-income Americans.  We have broadened our work considerably over the years as we responded to new developments and entered new areas of research.

Most notably, we began extensive work on budget priorities and low-income programs at the state level in the 1990s as Washington was shifting responsibility over many areas of low-income policy to the states.  In the states, we also collaborate with non-profits — including the more than 40 members of the State Priorities Partnership — to build their capacity to conduct sound budget and policy analysis and participate effectively in policy debates.  Learn more about our State Policy Work.


Our Work

We apply our extensive understanding of budgets, taxes, low-income programs, and social insurance programs – along with our analytic skills and the keen strategic sense for which we are known – to inform and shape debates, influence outcomes, and achieve concrete results.

Federal and state fiscal issues:  We analyze budget proposals, focusing especially on programs for low- and moderate-income families. We also examine long-term budget challenges and promote measures to improve fiscal responsibility in an equitable way. We analyze major tax proposals, examining their likely impact on the economy, on the nation’s fiscal health, and on the government’s ability to address critical national needs, especially over the long term.  We also examine the impact of tax proposals on households at different income levels.

Low-Income Programs: we work to ensure that programs that serve low- and moderate-income people are adequately funded, accessible, and effective in helping beneficiaries meet basic needs while moving toward self-sufficiency.  We work, for instance, on:

  • Health: We work to ensure that Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act provide coverage that meets the needs of low-income children and families, seniors, and people with disabilities. We also work to ensure that proposals that would affect these programs do not slash benefits for, or impose costs on, the nation’s most vulnerable people.
  • Low-income tax credits: We work to highlight the benefits of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and to protect and expand them to further encourage work and reduce poverty. We work closely with members of the State Priorities Partnership to maintain and expand state-level EITCs where they exist, and to bring them to more states.
  • Food assistance: We design and promote polices to make SNAP stronger, more accessible, and easier to administer; help states design their SNAP programs; help ensure that WIC has the funds to serve all eligible applicants; and design and promote policies that increase school meal participation for low-income kids.
  • Family Income Support: We research and analyze federal and state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) issues, and we provide technical assistance to help states design their TANF programs so they can reach more eligible families and meet families’ particular needs.
  • Low-income housing: We work to improve the effectiveness of federal low-income housing programs, and we study how well-designed housing assistance programs can advance such goals as reducing concentrations of poverty.

Economic, poverty and income trends: We examine how changes in the economy affect federal and state budgets, and how federal and state budget and tax proposals would affect economic growth. We analyze employment trends and promote reforms that would strengthen the unemployment insurance system. We support more adequate federal and state minimum wages and policies that would lead to full employment. And, we analyze trends in poverty and income at both the national and state levels, including trends in income disparities.  We also examine the effectiveness of safety-net programs in reducing poverty.

Social Security: We examine Social Security’s effects on poverty and on particular demographic groups. We also analyze Social Security reform proposals to determine their likely impact on the program’s long-term solvency and its effectiveness in reducing poverty and hardship.

Climate Change: We analyze the potential effects of climate change policies on low-income households and on the federal budget. We also design measures to ensure that the higher energy prices resulting from climate change legislation do not drive more households into poverty or make poor households even poorer.

Tens of millions of poor and moderate-income individuals and families have benefited from the Center’s efforts. At the national level, we have helped to expand health coverage for millions of parents, children, and low-income adults with disabilities; extend tax credits to millions more working-poor families; and strengthen basic nutrition and housing assistance for low-income families.