Rockefeller Institute of Government

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is a public policy research institute that conducts studies and related projects on state and local government and finance, American federalism, public management, and New York State issues. The Institute is located in Albany, New York, and is part of the State University of New York.


The Institute was founded in 1981 in conjunction with the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, as a proposal by then-SUNY chancellor Clifton Wharton to acknowledge the role that Governor Rockefeller played in building up the State and City universities.

Warren Ilchman was the first director of the Institute until 1987, at which time David Andersen was named interim director. In 1989, Richard Nathan became the Institute’s second director. Prior to coming to Albany, Nathan was a professor at Princeton University, worked at the Brookings Institution, and served in the first Nixon administration. From 2005 to 2009, the Institute had two co-directors, Richard Nathan and Thomas Gais. On October 23, 2009, Richard Nathan retired, after successfully leading the Institute for 20 years. On July 1, 2010, Thomas Gais became the third director. Researchers who have worked at the Institute have included Gerald Benjamin, Donald Boyd, Joseph C. Burke, James Fossett, Steven Gold, T. Norman Hurd, Irene Lurie, Michael Malbin, Mark Ragan, Frank Thompson, and David Wright.

Study areas[edit]

The Institute's mission is to provide independent information on the finances, programs, and operations of state and local government. It has often used a field network methodology in analyzing whether and how national and state policies are implemented.

Areas of study include:

Past research[edit]

State Finance.

State Revenue Reports. Since 1990, the Institute has published quarterly analyses of tax revenue collection in the 50 states, based on the Institute's survey.
Fiscal Trends. State reports are issued several times a year. They are periodic analyses of trends in state and local government spending and taxes.

Implementation Studies. The Institute has conducted studies of the Implementation of major national initiatives at the state and local levels.

State Capacity Study of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. To understand whether and how states would use the flexibility under the 1996 work-based time-limited welfare reform law, the Institute launched a study of twenty states and twenty-one localities.
Front-Line Management and Practice Study. As a follow-up of the State Capacity Study, the Institute studied a random sample of 1,000 interactions between welfare workers and program clients.
Workforce Investment Act. A study of the 1998 Act was conducted in 8 states for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Medicaid. The Institute's Medicaid research has examined a variety of Medicaid issues. The role of Medicaid in financing the activities of faith-based organizations, state efforts to increase Medicaid enrollment, and the implementation of Medicaid managed care.

Government Capacity and Political Responsiveness.

The Commission for the State and Local Public Service (a.k.a. Winter Commission). Established in 1990, this commission was chaired by former Mississippi Governor William Winter. The Commission's report was presented to President Bill Clinton at the White House.
State Campaign Finance Reform. In 1998, the Institute published The Day After Reform, on the implementation of campaign finance reform in the states.

New York State and Local Government Studies. One of the Institute's major purposes is to assist governments and government officials throughout New York State. It does so by bringing expertise and data-analysis skills to bear in ways that aid government officials.

The Institute published New York State Government and the annual New York State Statistical Yearbook.

Community and Urban and Community Organization Studies. Since 1995, the Institute has conducted community studies such as:

The national evaluation of the Empowerment Zone Initiative, and an evaluation of the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The study of Urban Neighborhood and Community Capacity Building identified and studied minority neighborhoods with a majority of nonpoor inhabitants.
Urban Hardship tracks social and economic conditions among the largest cities in the nation's most-populated metropolitan areas over the past 30 years.
Faith-based Organizations and the Delivery of Social Services. From 2002 to 2008, the Institute was home to the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy. The Roundtable was created "to engage and inform government, religious and civic leaders about the role of faith-based organizations in the social welfare system by means of nonpartisan, evidence-based discussions on the potential and pitfalls of such involvement."

Recent and ongoing research[edit]


Data have been collected on state spending for children, a project funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This is the third year of the project. Analyses of the new data on federal and state spending under welfare reform are under way.

Health Care

The New York State Health Policy Research Center (HPRC), is conducting research on the following issues:

Improving Access to Health Insurance Coverage in the Small Group Insurance Market. This paper, on options for financing state coverage initiatives will be the first of three deliverables under a grant from the New York State Health Foundation.

Variation in State Long-Term Care Policies Spending. The Center released a comparative analysis report of long-term care data, and a paper that analyzes assets transfers of people applying for Medicaid-funded long-term care. This work also is supported by the New York State Health Foundation.

Disaster Response and Recovery

For three years, the Rockefeller Institute and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana conducted a study of state and local government responses to the 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricanes. Eight reports were published.

Central staff[edit]

  • Thomas L. Gais, Director
  • Robert E. Bullock, Deputy Director for Operations
  • Patricia Strach, Deputy Director for Research
  • Patricia Cadrette, Staff Assistant for Finance, Administration, and Conferences, and Project Administrative Officer for Urban and Metropolitan Studies
  • Joseph Chamberlin, Director of Information Systems
  • Michael Cooper, Director of Publications
  • Heather Stone, Staff Assistant for Finance

Research staff[edit]


External links[edit]