GWIPP Research: Washington Area Studies

Title:  Economic Competitiveness of Washington, DC and the Region

Funding:  District of Columbia Office of Revenue Analysis

Researcher(s): Hal Wolman, Garry Young, and Alice Levy

Start Date: June 2008

Status: Completed 

Category: Economic and Industrial Development Policy

Summary:  Our project asks what affects the economic competitiveness of the District of Columbia and why business establishments locate (or do not locate) in the District.  To answer these questions, our analysis considers the factors that affect the overall regional economy and the factors that affect the District given the state or nature of the regional economy.  The project will create a profile of the overall District economy as it relates to both the Washington metropolitan regional economy and the national economy.  In addition, we will interview establishments that have recently located or opened within the Washington region to explore the various factors (e.g., land costs, business regulations, taxes) that influenced the decision to locate in the region and the further decision to locate at a specific spot within the region (either in or out of the District).  Finally, we will produce a set of statistical models that predict economic performance for the region, and then for the District, that take into account the wide-range of factors that we know affect the economy, such as the nature of the local labor market, land costs, energy costs, taxation, transportation infrastructure, and so on. These models will give us the capacity to predict how changes in local conditions – including policy changes in areas such as taxation, education of the labor force, and business regulation – are likely to affect future economic performance.

Title: The District of Columbia and Its Lack of Representation in Congress: What Difference Does it Make?

Funding: Trellis Foundation

Researcher(s): Garry Young, Hal Wolman, and Royce Hanson (GWIPP)

Start Date: 2006

Status: Completed

Summary: Viable representation in Congress is a key goal for many citizens of the District of Columbia. Yet, the debate over representation lacks some specifics. What will be the substantive effect of representation? How will the District’s influence over Congress change and how will this change in influence alter public policies directly relevant to the District? These are questions the proposed project seeks to answer. In the project we will consider several different possible forms of District representation. We will then evaluate those forms in regard to their likely impact on policy benefits through legislation (passed or stopped) and fiscal allocation. We will also consider the impact of representation in other areas such as the congressional ombuds role, oversight of executive branch regulation, and the symbolic importance of representation.

Official Website

Title: Foreign Capital Cities and Their Relationship to the National Government: What Washington, DC Can Learn

Funding: Trellis Foundation

Researcher(s): Hal Wolman, Royce Hanson, and Garry Young (GWIPP)

Start Date: 2006

Status: Completed

Summary: The District of Columbia, as the capital of the United States, is in a unique set of circumstances with respect to other American cities, but it is not unique in the world. All countries have capital cities and they face many of the same problems as does Washington, DC. The object of this study is to determine what can be learned from these other cities and their relationship to their national governments that is relevant to the circumstances of Washington, DC and that will better inform the debate about the issues related to Washington's role as a capital city.

Title: Promoting Bicycling in Three Metropolitan Washington Counties

Funding: Active Living Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Researcher(s): Royce Hanson, Garry Young, and Kate Coventry

Start Date:

Status: Current

Summary: There is increasing evidence that the built environment of communities can inhibit or enhance activity levels among all age groups. A key aspect of the built environment is provision of facilities and opportunities for bicycling, which has long been recognized as an activity with important health benefits. Yet the quality of bicycling facilities varies dramatically from community to community as some communities have recently developed high quality bicycling assets while other communities demonstrate very little progress in this regard. The cause of this variance remains unstudied.

This project consists of comparative case studies of policy changes in three counties of Metropolitan Washington-Arlington (VA), Fairfax (VA), and Montgomery (MD)-that have resulted in significantly different levels of bicycling facilities in each county despite a common metropolitan environment and many shared characteristics among the three counties. The study will explain how significant differences in the county policies evolved, why different policy tools were chosen, and the consequences of those choices.

Title: Fiscal Disparities among Local Governments in Metropolitan Areas: Their Extent and Causes

Funding: US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Researcher(s): Hal Wolman, Pat Atkins, Michael Bell, and Leah Curran

Start Date: August 2004

Status: Completed

Category: State and Local Fiscal Policy

Summary: The project explores the extent to which fiscal disparities exist among local jurisdictions within different kinds of metropolitan areas and why these disparities exist. We are particularly interested in the extent of fiscal disparities among suburban jurisdictions as well as between suburban jurisdictions and central cities. We calculate disparities among local governments in a small, regionally representative set of metropolitan areas. We also explore the characteristics of metropolitan areas that are associated with greater fiscal disparities. Finally, we will discuss the policy implications of these findings


Working Paper 019 - Intrametropolitan Area Revenue Raising Disparities and Equities, Patricia Atkins, Leah Curran, Michael Bell, Harold Wolman, and Joseph Cordes, 2005.

Title: Thin the Soup or Shorten the Line: Choices Facing Washington Area Nonprofits

Funding: Fannie Mae Foundation

Researcher(s) Pat Atkins, Joe Cordes

Start Date: November 2003

Status: Completed

Category: Washington Area Studies

Summary: Research on the state of non-profit human services agencies in the Washington, D.C. region during changing economic conditions showed that non-profits are taking short term responses to their rising client need, their increasing costs, their expanded reporting requirements, and their sluggish revenue growth. Many have dipped into reserve funds, frozen salaries, reduced direct assistance, or initiated staff layoffs. Some responsive non-profit human services agencies have begun to make longer-term adjustments by restructuring their organizations to acquire new sources of revenue, expanding private donor campaign efforts, and initiating revenue sources that are more market-based. The report particularly focused on the fiscal contributions of local governments to the human services nonprofit sector, discovering a multitude of support processes unique to each of the six jurisdictions examined.


Patricia Atkins, Mallory Barg, Joseph Cordes, and Martha Ross. Thin the Soup or Shorten the Line: Washington Area Nonprofits Adapt to Uncertain Times. The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, August 2004.

Title: Greater Washington Region Information and Referral Scan
Funding: Community Capacity Fund of Washington Grantmakers
Start Date: March 2002

Title: A Baseline for a Shared Understanding of Information and Referral in the Greater Washington Region
Funding:  Community Capacity Fund of Washington Grantmakers
Start Date: October 2002

Title: Maximizing Collaboration Among 2-1-1 Systems in the Greater Washington Region
Funding:  Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington
Start Date: December 2002;
Products: 1) Atkins, P. Greater Washington Region Information and Referral Scan. April 19, 2002. 2) Atkins, P. A Baseline for a Shared Understanding of Information and Referral in the Greater Washington Region. November 14, 2002--Updated January 24, 2003. 3) Atkins, P. Maximizing Collaboration among 2-1-1 Systems in the Greater Washington Region. Submitted to Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and the 2-1-1 Work Group. January 31, 2003.

Researcher (all): Pat Atkins

Category (all):  Washington Area Studies

Status (all): Completed

Summary:  The three-part research project was pegged to the imminent petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by separate information and referral (I &R) agencies in the District of Columbia, Suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia for use of the official FCC’s 2-1-1 designation in their own geographic areas, a three-digit dialing code reserved in 2000 by the FCC for community information and referral services.

The three National Capital Region jurisdictional areas were making decisions that could confer incompatible technologies, standards, data protocols, financing mechanisms, and the like, foreclosing the option of a single seamless 2-1-1 system for the Greater Washington region.  The events of September 11, 2001 at the site of the Pentagon attacks resolved among some members of the National Capital Region that a regional I & R was essential to public safety and well-being.  These three reports were borne of that resolve and the reports initiated the process which created that regional I & R 2-1-1 system, now on-line at .

The first report was a snapshot of information and referral (I & R) agency processes in the Greater Washington Region, and practices in other parts of the country as a counterpoint of comparison.  The primary function of I & R agencies is to connect people who need urgent or longer-term social services assistance, rather than emergency intervention or assistance (for which 9-1-1 is reserved), with those who can provide it.  The report identified many details on the characteristics of the I & R agencies, including details on their databases, the counseling staff, their geographic scope, their services provision, their legal status, the frequency of data replacement, and their user counts, among other features.  The second report surveyed sixteen of the larger nonprofit comprehensive I & R agencies in the Greater Washington region, selected for the survey based upon their common and unique set of characteristics.  Survey results showed differences in training, marketing, methods of staffing, call routing, operating hours, funding, taxonomy usage, tracking of calls, and telephone equipment, among in extensive review of features.  The third report recommended the organizational and political landscape that would need to be in place so that seamless regional 2-1-1 cooperation could move forward; and presented a detailed process that would enable policymakers to assist in that movement.  The regional organizational and political landscape would need a common vision, an administrative mechanism, a network for capacity-building, and a means for institution-building.  Twelve specific policy options related to these four broad needs were included in the third report.

Title: Measuring Progress in the Greater Washington Region: 2001 Potomac Index

Funding: Brookings Institution

Researcher(s): Pat Atkins, Hal Wolman

Start Date: May 2001

Status: Completed

Category: Washington Area Studies

Summary: America Online, Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Meyer Foundation, Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP. The 2001 Potomac Index charted the Washington region’s progress on a series of indicators grouped around five major themes. Research indicators show that the Greater Washington region has a strong economy, a highly educated population, and an extensive educational, philanthropic and nonprofit sector. It lags in performance on other indicators with a shortage of affordable housing, poor water quality in the Anacostia River, significant traffic congestion, poor air quality, and consumption of land in excess of population growth. A survey conducted for the Index showed that four out of five residents rate the region as an excellent, very good, or good place to live.


Atkins, Patricia & Wolman, Hal. "Education and Lifelong Learning." 2001 Potomac Index: Measuring Progress in the Greater Washington Region. Brookings Greater Washington Research Program.