Election Blog The policy questions Urban experts want to hear in this week’s debates
Alexandra Tilsley, Matthew A. Rogers
Display Date

This week, voters will have a chance to learn more about presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle. The Republicans take to the debate stage Tuesday and the Democrats on Saturday. The debates have covered a lot of ground so far, but haven’t addressed many of the social and economic policy issues that Urban researchers think are critical to the country’s future. We asked our researchers what questions they think could help elevate the debate on both sides of the political spectrum. Their questions—and what the evidence says about each topic—are compiled below. (Click on an image to read the research.)


Social Security solvency

"Social Security is expected to run short money to pay full scheduled retirement benefits in about 20 years. What would you do to address this? What share of solvency do you think should be gained through benefit cuts and what share through tax increases? How much of these changes should be borne by current beneficiaries and how much by future beneficiaries?"

- Rich Johnson and Karen Smith

Social Security facts 

Renting and homeownership

"Over the next 15 years, the demand for rental housing will greatly outpace the demand for homeownership. Yet more than three-quarters of federal support for housing is targeted to homeowners. Are we becoming a renter nation and, if so, what policies would you change to address this shift in American behavior?"

- Rolf Pendall and Erika Poethig 

facts about homeownership 

Housing crisis recovery

"African Americans and Hispanics were hit harder by the housing boom and bust than any other minority group and are now having a difficult time finding loans. What would you do to help these communities get back the gains that were lost in the recent crisis?" 

- Laurie Goodman

facts about mortgages and lending 

Expanding the apprenticeship model

"Worker skills are critical to economic success. In many countries and in the United States, the apprenticeship model shows excellent results. In trying to increase worker skills, how would you balance current school-based approaches and expanding work-based apprenticeship training?"

- Robert Lerman

facts about apprenticeships 

American women's declining life expectancy

"Life expectancy for women in America is declining in more than 40 percent of all counties in the country. As president, what would you do to reverse this trend?"

- Laudy Aron, Lisa Dubay, and Elaine Waxman

facts about women's health 

Tax subsidy reform

"The nation spends billions of dollars in tax subsidies for homeownership and retirement savings, but the subsidies primarily benefit high-income families. Would you favor reforming the mortgage interest deduction and subsidies for employer-sponsored retirement savings to benefit those who have less income and wealth to begin with, and, if so, how?"

- Signe-Mary McKernan and Caroline Ratcliffe

facts about tax subsidies 

Federal spending on children and the elderly 

"Within a decade, the laws now on the books promise that we will increase spending on retirement and health care, mainly for the elderly and near-elderly, by hundreds of billions, while spending on children hardly grows at all. In fact, if not for modest increases in health spending, dollars spent on children would decline over the next decade. Do you agree with this balance? If not, what would you do about it?"

- Eugene Steuerle and Julia Isaacs

facts about federal spending on kids 

The Affordable Care Act and the “Cadillac Tax”

"Economists agree that the so-called Cadillac Tax in Obamacare would help contain health care costs. Do you support the Cadillac Tax? What would you do to control costs if you repeal this tax?"

- Genevieve Kenney and Stephen Zuckerman

 facts about the ACA Cadillac tax

Crime prevention

"So much of our criminal justice policy is reactive, rather than preventative. Do you agree that crime is frequently a symptom of other problems in society? How would your administration promote crime prevention in communities and our health and educational systems?"

- Ryan King

facts about crime prevention



Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety Health and health care Aging and retirement Race and equity Taxes and budgets
Tags Racial and ethnic disparities in criminal justice Racial inequities in health