The Brookings Institution
Formation1916; 108 years ago (1916)
TypePublic policy think tank
Headquarters1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW
  • Washington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates38°54′33″N 77°02′27″W / 38.90917°N 77.04083°W / 38.90917; -77.04083
John R. Allen
Revenue (2020)
$86.28 million[1]
Expenses (2020)$93.372 million[1]
Endowment$355.2 million (2020)[2]
WebsiteOfficial website
Formerly called
Institute for Government Research

The Brookings Institution, often simply called Brookings, is an American research group founded in 1916 on Think Tank Row in Washington, D.C.[3] It conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics (and tax policy), metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, global economy, and economic development.[4][5] Its stated mission is to "provide innovative and practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: strengthen American democracy; foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and secure a more open, safe, prosperous, and cooperative international system."[3]

Brookings has five research programs at its Washington campus (Economic Studies,[6] Foreign Policy,[7] Governance Studies,[8] Global Economy and Development,[9] and Metropolitan Policy).[10] It also established three international centers based in Doha, Qatar (Brookings Doha Center, and since 2021, the Middle East Council on Global Affairs or MECGA);[11] Beijing, China (Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, and since 2020, the Brookings-Tsinghua China Office at Tsinghua University);[12] and New Delhi, India (Brookings India, and since 2020, the Centre for Social and Economic Progress or CSEP).[13]

The University of Pennsylvania's Global Go To Think Tank Index Report has named Brookings "Think Tank of the Year" and "Top Think Tank in the World" every year since 2008.[14] The Economist describes Brookings as "perhaps America’s most prestigious think-tank."[15]

Brookings states that its staff "represent diverse points of view" and describes itself as nonpartisan,[16] and various media outlets have alternately described Brookings as centrist,[17] liberal,[18] or right-wing.[19] An academic analysis of congressional records from 1993 to 2002 found that Brookings was cited by conservative politicians almost as often as by liberal politicians, earning a score of 53 on a 1–100 scale, 100 representing the most liberal score.[20] The same study found Brookings to be the most frequently cited think tank by U.S. media and politicians.[20]



Founder Robert S. Brookings (1850–1932)

Brookings was founded in 1916 as the Institute for Government Research (IGR), with the mission of becoming "the first private organization devoted to analyzing public policy issues at the national level."[21]

The Institution's founder, philanthropist Robert S. Brookings (1850–1932), originally created three organizations: the Institute for Government Research, the Institute of Economics (with funds from the Carnegie Corporation), and the Robert Brookings Graduate School affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis. The three were merged into the Brookings Institution on December 8, 1927.[5][22]

During the Great Depression, economists at Brookings embarked on a large-scale study commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to understand its underlying causes. Brookings's first president, Harold Moulton, and other Brookings scholars later led an effort to oppose Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration because they thought it impeded economic recovery.[23]

With the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, Brookings researchers turned their attention to aiding the administration with a series of studies on mobilization. In 1948, Brookings was asked to submit a plan for administering the European Recovery Program. The resulting organization scheme assured that the Marshall Plan was run carefully and on a businesslike basis.[24]

In 1952, Robert Calkins succeeded Moulton as president of the Brookings Institution. He secured grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation that put Brookings on a strong financial basis. He reorganized it around the Economic Studies, Government Studies, and Foreign Policy Programs. In 1957, Brookings moved from Jackson Avenue to a new research center near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.[25]

Kermit Gordon assumed the presidency of Brookings in 1967. He began a series of studies of program choices for the federal budget in 1969 titled "Setting National Priorities." He also expanded the Foreign Policy Studies Program to include research in national security and defense. After Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, the relationship between Brookings and the White House deteriorated; at one point Nixon's aide Charles Colson proposed a firebombing of the institution.[26] Yet throughout the 1970s, Brookings was offered more federal research contracts than it could handle.[27]

After Gordon died in 1976, Gilbert Y. Steiner, director of the governmental studies program, was appointed the fourth and acting president of the Brookings Institution by the board of trustees.[28][29] As director of the governmental studies program, Steiner brought in numerous scholars whose research ranges from administrative reform to urban policy, not only enhancing the visibility and influence of the Brookings program in Washington and nationally, but also producing works that have survived as classics in the field of political science.[28][30]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Brookings on 14 April 2010 while on a visit to the United States for the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit
José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, speaking at Brookings Institution

By the 1980s, Brookings faced an increasingly competitive and ideologically charged intellectual environment.[31] The need to reduce the federal budget deficit became a major research theme, as did problems with national security and government inefficiency. Bruce MacLaury,[32] Brookings's fifth president, also established the Center for Public Policy Education to develop workshop conferences and public forums to broaden the audience for research programs.[33]

In 1995, Michael Armacost became the sixth president of the Brookings Institution and led an effort to refocus its mission heading into the 21st century.[34] Under his direction, Brookings created several interdisciplinary research centers, such as the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy (now the Metropolitan Policy Program, led by Bruce J. Katz),[35] which brought attention to the strengths of cities and metropolitan areas; and the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, which brings together specialists from different Asian countries to examine regional problems.[36]

Strobe Talbott became president of Brookings in 2002.[37] Shortly thereafter, Brookings launched the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the John L. Thornton China Center. In 2006, Brookings announced the establishment of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. In July 2007, Brookings announced the creation of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform to be directed by senior fellow Mark McClellan,[38] and in October 2007 the creation of the Brookings Doha Center directed by fellow Hady Amr in Qatar.[39] During this period the funding of Brookings by foreign governments and corporations came under public scrutiny (see Funding controversies below).

In 2011, Talbott inaugurated the Brookings India Office.[40][41]

In October 2017, former general John R. Allen became the eighth president of Brookings.[42]

As of June 30, 2019, Brookings had an endowment of $377.2 million.[43]


Brookings as an institution produces an Annual Report.[44] The Brookings Institution Press publishes books and journals from the institution's own research as well as authors outside the organization.[45] The books and journals it publishes include Brookings Papers on Economic Activity,[46] Brookings Review (1982–2003, ISSN 0745-1253),[47][48] America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy, Globalphobia: Confronting Fears about Open Trade, India: Emerging Power, Through Their Eyes, Taking the High Road, Masses in Flight, US Public Policy Regarding Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment in the United States[49] and Stalemate. In addition, books, papers, articles, reports, policy briefs and opinion pieces are produced by Brookings research programs, centers, projects and, for the most part, by experts.[50][51] Brookings also cooperates with the Lawfare Institute in publishing the Lawfare blog.[52]

Policy influence

Brookings traces its history to 1916 and has contributed to the creation of the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, and the Congressional Budget Office, as well as to the development of influential policies for deregulation, broad-based tax reform, welfare reform, and foreign aid.[53] The annual think tank index published by Foreign Policy ranks it the number one think tank in the U.S.[54] and the Global Go To Think Tank Index believes it is the number one such tank in the world.[55] Moreover, in spite of an overall decline in the number of times information or opinions developed by think tanks are cited by U.S. media, of the 200 most prominent think tanks in the U.S., the Brookings Institution's research remains the most frequently cited.[56][57]

In a 1997 survey of congressional staff and journalists, Brookings ranked as the most influential and first in credibility among 27 think tanks considered.[58] Yet "Brookings and its researchers are not so concerned, in their work, in affecting the ideological direction of the nation" and rather tend "to be staffed by researchers with strong academic credentials".[58] Along with the Council on Foreign Relations and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Brookings is generally considered one of the most influential policy institutes in the U.S.[59]

Political stance

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Brookings describes itself as independent and nonpartisan. A 2005 UCLA study concluded it was "centrist" because it was referenced as an authority almost equally by both conservative and liberal politicians in congressional records from 1993 to 2002.[20] The New York Times has called Brookings liberal, liberal-centrist, and centrist.[60][17][61][62][63][64] The Washington Post has called Brookings centrist and liberal.[65][66][67][68] The Los Angeles Times called Brookings liberal-leaning and centrist before opining that it did not believe such labels mattered.[69][70][71][72]

In 1977, Time magazine called Brookings the "nation's pre-eminent liberal think tank".[73] Newsweek has called it centrist[74] and Politico has used the term "center-left".[75]

The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which describes itself as "progressive",[76] has called Brookings "centrist",[56][77] "conservative",[78], "center-right",[79] and right-wing "extremist."[19]

Journalists at The Atlantic and Salon have argued that Brookings foreign policy scholars were overly supportive of Bush administration policies abroad.[80][81] Blogger Matthew Yglesias has stated that Brookings's Michael E. O'Hanlon frequently agrees with scholars from conservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and the Project for the New American Century.[80] Similarly, Brookings fellow and research director Benjamin Wittes is a member of the conservative Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law.[82]

Brookings scholars have served in Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mark McClellan,[83] Ron Haskins[84] and Martin Indyk.[85][86]

Brookings's board of trustees is composed of 53 trustees and more than three dozen honorary trustees, including Kenneth Duberstein, a former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan. Aside from political figures, the board of trustees includes leaders in business and industry, including Haim Saban, Philip H. Knight (chairman of Nike, Inc), Robert Bass, Hanzade Doğan Boyner, Paul L. Cejas, W. Edmund Clark, Abby Joseph Cohen, Betsy Cohen, Susan Crown, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., Jason Cummins, Paul Desmarais Jr., Kenneth M. Duberstein, Glenn Hutchins.[87]

Starting with the 1990 election cycle, Brookings employees gave $853,017 to Democratic candidates and $26,104 to Republican candidates. In total, since 1990, 96% of its political donations have gone to Democrats.[88]

Notable scholars

Main article: List of Brookings Institution scholars

Notable Brookings scholars include former Federal Reserve chairs Janet Yellen[89] and Ben Bernanke;[90] former Federal Reserve vice chairs Donald Kohn,[91] Alice Rivlin,[92] and Alan Blinder;[93] former chairs of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Jason Furman[94] and Martin Neil Baily;[95] former CEA members Sandra Black,[96] Jay Shambaugh,[97] and James H. Stock;[98] former director of the Congressional Budget Office Douglas Elmendorf;[99] former US secretary of education Arne Duncan;[100] former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Martin Indyk;[101] dean of the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy Susan M. Collins;[102] former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler;[103] Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne;[104] Wall Street Journal columnist William Galston;[105] former NSC official Fiona Hill;[106] and indicted Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko.[107]

Research programs

Center for Middle East Policy

In 2002, the Brookings Institution established the Center for Middle East Policy "to promote a better understanding of the policy choices facing American decision-makers in the Middle East".

Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy

In 2006, the Brookings Institution established the Brookings-Tsinghua Center (BTC) for Public Policy as a partnership between the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC and Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management in Beijing, China. The Center seeks to produce research in areas of fundamental importance for China's development and for US-China relations.[108] The BTC was directed by Qi Ye until 2019.[109]

21st Century Defense Initiative

Adm. Michael Mullen speaks at the Brookings Institution

The 21st Century Defense Initiative (21CDI) is aimed at producing research, analysis, and outreach that address three core issues: the future of war, the future of U.S. defense needs and priorities, and the future of the US defense system.[110]

The Initiative draws on the knowledge from regional centers, including the Center on the United States and Europe, the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, the Thornton China Center, and the Center for Middle East Policy, allowing the integration of regional knowledge.[111]

P. W. Singer, author of Wired for War, serves as Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative, and Michael O'Hanlon serves as Director of Research.[111] Senior Fellow Stephen P. Cohen and Vanda Felbab-Brown[112] are also affiliated with 21CDI.[113]

WashU at Brookings

Under MacLaury's leadership in the 1980s, the Center for Public Policy Education (CPPE) was formed to develop workshop conferences and public forums to broaden the audience for research programs. In 2005, the Center was renamed the Brookings Center for Executive Education (BCEE), which was shortened to Brookings Executive Education (BEE) with the launch of a partnership with the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. The academic partnership is now known as "WashU at Brookings".[114]



Funding details

As of 2017 the Brookings Institution had assets of $524.2 million.[1] Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the LEGO Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton.

Funding controversies

A 2014 investigation by The New York Times found Brookings to be among more than a dozen Washington research groups to have received payments from foreign governments while encouraging U.S. officials to encourage support for policies aligned with those foreign governments' agendas.[117]

The Times published documents showing that Brookings accepted grants from Norway with specific policy requests and helped it gain access to U.S. government officials, as well as other "deliverables".[118][119] In June 2014, Norway agreed to make an additional $4 million donation to Brookings.[117] Several legal specialists who examined the documents told the paper that the language of the transactions "appeared to necessitate Brookings filing as a foreign agent" under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.[119]

The Qatari government, named by The New York Times as "the single biggest foreign donor to Brookings", reportedly made a $14.8 million, four-year contribution in 2013. A former visiting fellow at a Brookings affiliate in Qatar reportedly said that "he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatar government in papers".[117] Brookings officials denied any connection between the views of their funders and their scholars' work, citing reports that questioned the Qatari government's education reform efforts and criticized its support of militants in Syria. But Brookings officials reportedly acknowledged that they meet with Qatari government officials regularly.[117]

In 2018, The Washington Post reported that Brookings accepted funding from Huawei from 2012 to 2018.[120] A report by the Center for International Policy's Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative of the top 50 think tanks on the University of Pennsylvania's Global Go-To Think Tanks rating index found that between 2014 and 2018, Brookings received the third-highest amount of funding from outside the United States compared to other think tanks, with a total of more than $27 million.[121]


The main building of the Institution was erected in 1959 on 1775 Massachusetts Avenue. In 2009, Brookings acquired a building across the street, a former mansion built by the Ingalls family in 1922 on a design by Jules Henri de Sibour.[122] This extension now houses the office of the President of the Brookings Institution.[citation needed]

See also



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  • Abelson, Donald E. Do Think Tanks Matter?: Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes (2009).
  • Weidenbaum, Murray L. The Competition of Ideas: The World of the Washington Think Tanks (2011).
  • Boyd, Paxton F.Do Think Tanks Matter?: Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes (2009).

External links