Rockefeller Institute of Government

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.jpg
Type Think tank
Purpose Cutting-edge, nonpartisan research to promote lasting policy solutions to the problems facing New York State and the nation.
  • 411 State Street, Albany, NY 12203
Services Data-driven research and analysis in economic development, education, federalism, fiscal policy, government reform, health, and state and local government; open data services.
Jim Malatras
Thomas Gais
Parent organization
The State University of New York

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The Institute conducts nonpartisan, data-driven research and analysis on state and local government and finance, American federalism, public management, and New York State issues. The Institute is located in Albany, New York.


The Rockefeller Institute was founded in 1981, at the same time as the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, as a proposal by then-SUNY chancellor Clifton Wharton to acknowledge the role that Governor Rockefeller played in expanding 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. On February 13, 2017, Jim Malatras became president of the Institute, with Gais continuing on as director. 

Research Areas[edit]

The mission of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is to improve the capacities of communities, state and local governments, and the federal system to work toward lasting solutions to the nation’s problems. Through rigorous, objective, and accessible analysis and outreach, the Institute gives citizens and governments facts and tools relevant to public decisions. The Institute also researches and promotes reforms aimed at improving how public institutions operate, such as how they work across institutional divisions to solve common problems, use and generate evidence, and execute challenging responsibilities.

Primary research areas:

  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Federalism
  • Fiscal Analysis
  • Health Policy
  • State & Local Government
  • Government Reform

Recent and Ongoing Research[edit]

Fiscal Analysis[edit]

  • 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.
  • Modeling and Disclosing Public Pension Fund Risk/Pension Simulation Project. This project, supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, examines the potential consequences of investment-return risk for public pension plans, governments, and stakeholders in government.
  • Changing Role of Sin Taxes and Gambling in State and Local Government Finances. The Institute’s researchers estimate role of sin taxes in state and local budgets and analyze the direct and indirect effects of gambling policies.
  • Potential Reductions in Federal Medicaid Reimbursements to States. The Institute estimates the effects of reductions in federal Medicaid reimbursements (due to proposed cut-backs in Medicaid/Affordable Care Act) on state budgets and services.
  • Transforming Governmental Accounting Standards. The Institute reviews, critiques, and recommends changes in GASB standards based on best evidence.
  • NYS Indirect Cost Rate Project. This project documents and describes policies, definitions, and practices relating to indirect/overhead cost rates in awards to nonprofit service organizations, as well as estimating implementation issues and costs of applying OMB rules to awards.
  • NY SMART Commission. The Institute conducts analyses of options for the NY SMART Commission, charged with developing policy proposals that promote private sector retirement savings among employees not currently covered by a plan.


  • State by State Teacher Shortage Studies. The Institute published “Phase One Analysis of the Teacher Workforce Shortage in South Dakota” in November 2017, the first in a detailed, state-by-state analysis of the teacher workforce. The studies aim to bring critical localized data to bear on a topic that is often discussed in terms of broad generalities.
  • BOCES Study. A comprehensive analysis of the BOCES system for the New York State Department of Education to identify beneficial structural reforms.
  • Educational Opportunity Centers Assessment. A comprehensive analysis of the EOC system aimed at structural reform. with particular attention on the ability of the system to respond to changing needs.
  • Economic Impact of SUNY. The Rockefeller Institute analyzed the economic impact of the State University of New York and described the data and methods to be used for estimating the most important educational pathways for SUNY.


  • The Growing Drug Epidemic in New York. The Institute conducts ongoing research to help policymakers understand the scope, causes, and effects of the opioid epidemic in New York, including publishing quarterly New York State Department of Health statistics relevant to the crisis.
  • End of AIDS Modeling. Institute researchers developed and continue to update a mathematical model that estimates epidemic (HIV/AIDS) outcomes contingent on previous trends, current policies and practices regarding services and testing, and/or alternative policies and practices. The model was developed in close collaboration with the AIDS Institute as a planning tool for the Ending the Epidemic (ETE) initiative.
  • ACA Implementation Research Network. This field research network of local state experts on health policy and public management includes teams in 40 states. The network was established to analyze the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and provide close-observation findings, now and for years to come. It is coordinated by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Brookings Institution.

New York State and Local Government Studies[edit]

One of the Institute's primary aims is to assist governments and government officials throughout New York State by bringing expertise and data-analysis skills to bear on pressing public policy questions. The Institute publishes New York State Government and the annual New York State Statistical Yearbook.

Other Policy Areas[edit]

Empire State Fellows[edit]

The Empire State Fellows program, which includes an educational component developed and administered by the Rockefeller Institute, is a full-time, two-year leadership training program aimed at preparing the next generation of talented professionals for careers as New York State policymakers.

New York Municipal Clerks Institute[edit]

The Municipal Clerks Institute enhances the skills, professional growth, and performance of municipal clerks in New York State to improve local governance and better serve citizens. NYMCI is a three-year training program offering the 120 credit hours required to become a Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. 

Past Research[edit]

Implementation Studies[edit]

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

Government Capacity and Political Responsiveness[edit]

Community, Urban, and Community Organization Studies[edit]


The Institute collected data on state spending for children, a project funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Analyses were completed on data on federal and state spending under welfare reform.

Health Care[edit]

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

Disaster Response and Recovery[edit]

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:


  • Jim Malatras, President
  • Thomas Gais, Director
  • Patricia Strach, Deputy Director for Research
  • Katie Zuber, Assistant Director of Policy and Research
  • Michael Hattery, Director of Local Government Studies
  • Erika G. Martin, Director of Health Policy Studies
  • Alan Wagner, Director of Education Studies
  • Nancy Zimpher, Senior Fellow, Chancellor Emeritus of the State University of New York
  • Lucy Dadayan, Senior Researcher
  • Swati Desai, Senior Fellow
  • Bruce Johnstone, Senior Fellow
  • Jason E. Lane, Senior Fellow
  • David S. T. Matkin, Faculty Fellow
  • Richard Nathan, Senior Fellow
  • Gang Chen, Visiting Fellow
  • Rebecca Dixon, Visiting Fellow
  • Ashley Fox, Visiting Fellow
  • Jonathan Gagliardi, Visiting Fellow
  • Hal A. Lawson, Visiting Fellow
  • Lucy Sorensen, Visiting Fellow
  • Brian Stenson, Visiting Fellow
  • Rus Sykes, Visiting Fellow
  • Teniell Trolian, Visiting Fellow
  • Laura Schultz, Faculty Fellow
  • Elizabeth Searing, Faculty Fellow

Researchers who have previously worked at the Institute have included Donald Boyd, Allison Armour-Garb, Gerald Benjamin, Courtney Burke, Joseph C. Burke, James Fossett, Steven Gold, T. Norman Hurd, Irene Lurie, Michael Malbin, Lisa Montiel, Mark Ragan, David Shaffer, Frank Thompson, Robert Ward, Ben Wildavsky, and David Wright.


External links[edit]