About the Center
Who We Are
We are a nonpartisan research and policy institute that advances federal and state policies to help build a nation where everyone — regardless of income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ZIP code, immigration status, or disability status — has the resources they need to thrive and share in the nation’s prosperity.
What We Do
We combine rigorous research and analysis, strategic communications, and effective advocacy to shape debates and affect policy, both nationally and in states.
We work closely with a broad set of national, state, and community organizations to design and advance policies that promote economic justice; improve health; broaden opportunity in areas like housing, health care, employment, and education; and lower structural barriers for people of color and others in communities that continue to face systemic barriers to opportunity.
We promote federal and state policies that will build a stronger, more equitable nation and fair tax policies that can support these gains over the long term. We also show the harmful impacts of policies and proposals that would deepen poverty, widen disparities, and worsen health outcomes.
We work on policy implementation at the federal, state, and local levels to maximize the positive impact of policies and bring the lessons learned on the ground back to the policymaking process in Washington and state capitals.
Our work — rooted in sound research and original data analysis, informed by our extensive knowledge of policy and how programs operate on the ground, and strengthened by our collaboration with a broad range of partners — is trusted by a wide range of researchers, policymakers, and media.
In 1981, Robert Greenstein founded the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) to analyze federal budget priorities, with a particular focus on how budget choices affect people with low incomes. In our early years, the Center focused on federal budget and tax issues, nutrition programs, and income assistance. Our work has broadened considerably over time and now includes research and advocacy on a wide range of issues including health care, housing, and the economic and health security of immigrants.
Recognizing the critical role that state policy plays in economic and health security, we began extensive work on state-level policies in the 1990s. We founded — and continue to coordinate and foster — the State Priorities Partnership, a network of high-impact policy and advocacy organizations that now stretches across more than 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Sharing with the Center a strong emphasis on designing and promoting policies that foster economic, health, and racial justice, these independent nonprofit organizations collaborate with a host of partners in their states to shape policy debates.
Over the last four decades, the Center has played a significant role, in collaboration with partners around the country, in major advances in economic and health security policies nationally and in states.
We have helped protect and expand health coverage for millions of people, extend and expand refundable tax credits that lift millions above the poverty line, and strengthen nutrition, housing assistance, and income support to help people afford basic needs. These policies improve people’s near-term well-being; promote equity across lines of race, ethnicity, immigration status, and gender; and have long-run payoffs for them and the country as a whole.
When the Center was founded in 1981, economic security programs lifted just 20 percent of people who would otherwise be poor above the poverty line. Prior to the pandemic in 2019, that figure had more than doubled to 46 percent; economic security programs lifted 34 million people above the poverty line that year, reducing the poverty rate from 22.8 percent to 12.2 percent. In 2020, during the pandemic and its economic fallout, economic security programs and temporary COVID-19 relief measures increased the number of people kept above the poverty line substantially to 53 million. Advances in economic security programs have reduced poverty across racial and ethnic groups while also narrowing disparities significantly, though large gaps remain.
Similarly, expansions we helped to drive in Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) subsidized coverage through federal and state marketplaces have changed the landscape of health coverage. In the early 1980s, Medicaid was small, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) didn’t exist, and most people in low-paid jobs had no access to affordable coverage unless their employer provided it. Prior to the pandemic, some 81 million people — 25 percent of the U.S. population — received coverage through Medicaid, CHIP, or the ACA marketplaces.
State Priorities Partnership groups have secured important policy advances across the country. Among other victories, over the past several years, Partnership groups have helped to raise or protect roughly $40 billion in state revenue to support a range of investments, such as in education, health care, and infrastructure; have contributed to adoption of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in a number of states; and have worked toward new or expanded state refundable tax credits in more than a dozen states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, expanding state earned income tax credits by more than $1 billion and increasing their reach to millions more households.
The Center is also helping to build the next generation of state policy leaders through the State Policy Fellowship program. This program brings dynamic emerging leaders who know the challenges faced by communities of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, tribal communities, and low-income families to Partnership groups and the Center by offering them two-year paid positions as policy analysts, as well as a host of other supports, training, and networking opportunities.
Our Policy Areas
The policy areas we focus on include:
Federal Fiscal Policy: We analyze the federal budget, budget proposals, and long-term budget trends, focusing especially on programs designed to promote economic and health security and broaden opportunity. Our tax policy work focuses on revenue adequacy, fairness, racial equity, and tax compliance, as well as the impact of tax policies on the economy. We also work on issues related to the federal budget process and its rules, which can have a significant effect on the policymaking process.
State Fiscal Policy & the State Priorities Partnership: By coordinating and supporting the State Priorities Partnership, we help design and promote state policies that make states more inclusive and prosperous places to live, work, and invest. This includes state policies that affect taxes, budgets, poverty, racial and gender equity, health care, education, wages, economic development, immigration, criminal justice, and more.
Economic and Health Security Policies and Programs: We work to ensure that federal and state economic and health security programs help households make ends meet, access health care, and gain access to opportunity. This includes ensuring that programs are well-designed, well-funded, reach those they are intended to serve, and promote equity.
- Health: We design and promote policies to make affordable, comprehensive, high-quality health coverage available to everyone, with a focus on reducing coverage disparities across lines of race, ethnicity, immigration status, and income. This includes working to improve Medicaid’s effectiveness and reach, provide coverage to low-income people in states that have refused to adopt the ACA Medicaid expansion, make ACA marketplace coverage more affordable, advance health equity, make it easier for people to enroll in and maintain Medicaid and marketplace coverage, and improve Medicare.
- Tax Credits: We work to highlight the benefits of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, strengthen the credits to better support lower-paid workers and families with children, and ensure eligible workers and families receive them. We also work to expand state-level refundable tax credits and promote improvements in the reach and scope of those credits.
- Food Assistance: We design and promote federal and state policies to make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stronger and more accessible so that it does more to reduce food insecurity, which is particularly prevalent among households of color. This includes work on program rules and implementation. We also work to ensure that low-income families with pregnant or postpartum individuals or young children benefit from WIC’s proven nutrition, health, and developmental benefits. And we advance policies that make school meal programs more accessible to low-income children during the school year and in the summer.
- Family Income Support: We research and analyze issues related to ensuring that families have adequate income to meet their basic needs and provide a foundation for them to thrive. This includes designing and promoting federal and state policies to improve the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, increase the amount of child support paid directly to families, increase opportunities for people to increase their education and skills, and expand the availability of subsidized jobs for unemployed individuals.
- Housing: We design and promote policies to help people with low incomes afford housing. We focus on strengthening rental assistance programs to reduce poverty, housing instability, and homelessness and promote real housing choice for low-income households — including households of color, who have long faced discriminatory housing policies.
- Social Security: We examine Social Security’s effects on poverty and on the economic status of people by race, ethnicity, gender, and age. We also examine proposed changes to Social Security’s benefits and financing structure to determine their likely impact on the program’s effectiveness in promoting economic security, reducing racial disparities, and strengthening its long-term financial footing. In addition, we conduct analysis and promote policies to strengthen the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides income assistance to older people and people with disabilities.
- Unemployment Insurance: We examine the structural deficiencies in the unemployment insurance program and promote program improvements to ensure that more workers get needed help when they lose a job and that the benefits they receive are adequate.
Immigration: We work on issues at the intersection of immigration policy and economic and health security policy, including improving access to supports such as health coverage and nutrition assistance for immigrants and their family members. We also analyze and highlight immigrants’ contributions to the nation and promote policies that can help them thrive.
Economic Security and Health Coverage for the Territories: We advance policies that promote economic and health security for people living in the U.S. Territories, including but not limited to Puerto Rico, the largest territory. People residing in the territories, nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens, often do not have access to the same supports as people living in a state. We have worked to analyze funding needs and secure more adequate funding for Medicaid and the SNAP-like nutrition program in Puerto Rico, known as the Nutrition Assistance Program. And we worked to secure permanent federal funding for a Puerto Rico EITC that will provide similar benefits to people in Puerto Rico as the federal EITC provides to people living in a state (people in other territories essentially have access to the federal EITC). Similarly, we worked to ensure that all families with children in territories would be permanently eligible for the Child Tax Credit.
Economic, Poverty, and Income Trends: We analyze trends in poverty, income, and inequality at both the national and state levels, including trends by race and ethnicity, and we examine the effectiveness of public programs in building economic security and opportunity. We also study economic trends — such as trends in economic growth, who shares in that growth, employment and wages, and inflation — and consider how those trends should inform policy.
Response to Economic Crises: During recessions and national crises, we analyze the impact on economic and health security and promote policy responses to bolster the economy and reduce hardship among those who most need help. During the Great Recession of 2007-09 and the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we played a critical role in demonstrating the need for a strong fiscal policy response and advancing policies that provided assistance — from tax benefits to nutrition assistance to expanded jobless benefits — to those affected by the crisis.