The University of Pennsylvania published an interesting ranking of relative cultural/political impact of various US and international think tanks, based on their publications, media appearances, reputation amongst policymakers, etc. The list is independent of their political leanings (e.g. liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc.) or primary specialty (economics, foreign policy, etc.).

The UPenn listing of the Top 50 US think tanks for 2011 can be found on pages 36-37 of this file: “2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings

Their Top 50 list includes several whose works I’ve cited in the past, including:

6) Cato Institute
10) American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
42) Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
43) Manhattan Institute
48) Mercatus Center

(Note: I don’t necessarily endorse these organizations, but I’ve found some of their publications informative and useful in my own research/advocacy.)

To compare their sizes and/or budgets, one can look up their financial information on (a website that collates information about nonprofits and charitable organizations). GuideStar lists their “annual expenses” as follows:

6) Cato: $21.8 million
10) AEI : $25.6 million
42) CEI: $4.3 million
43) Manhattan Institute: $11.8 million
48) Mercatus Center: $7.7 million

Some friends may be interested in how a couple of other organizations which also perform advocacy (but which aren’t classic “think tanks”) compare in size:

Institute For Justice (IJ): $9.3 million
Ayn Rand Institute (ARI): $8.7 million

For further context, the top 5 US think tanks listed by UPenn (and their GuideStar annual expenses) were:

1) Brookings Institution ($90.4 million)
2) Council on Foreign Relations ($50.7 million)
3) Carnegie Endowment for International Peace ($24.3 million)
4) Center for Strategic and International Studies ($30.1 million)
5) RAND Corporation ($262.8 million)

Anyhow, I thought this might be of interest for people wondering how folks in the mainstream culture perceived the relative effectiveness of various think tanks, including their relative “bang-for-buck” ratios. As usual, the reliability of these rankings depends on the validity of their methodology (which is discussed in detail in their report).

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