The American federal system is not easy to understand. As Justice Kennedy argued in United States v. Lopez (1995), American federalism is counter-intuitive by its very nature, because it rests on the seemingly paradoxical idea "that freedom [is] enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one." The American federal system has also changed in numerous and dramatic ways over time. Our mission is to restore an understanding of and appreciation for the significance of the system of American Federalism by combining expert scholarly analysis with accessible data for the first time in one digital space.
The Federalism Index Project began with a clear mission: to assist educators, state leaders, and ordinary citizens to better understand and appreciate the significance of federalism in the overall structure of the United States Constitution.
The Federalism Index arises out of the recognition that there is a dearth of knowledge - and data - that would allow Americans to understand the history of American federalism, its transformations, and consequences of those transformations for civic and social life. While there are other efforts to model federal systems, and create sophisticated indexes to measure federalism in the United States and around the world, the Federalism Index is unique in its aim to unite the rich academic literature with new technology, modern data visualization techniques, and scholars who can help make the drama of American federalism accessible.
In coming years, the Federalism Index will make major steps toward providing sound data and reliable research that is accessible to ordinary Americans who are not scholars or specialists. This multi-year project will collect, organize, and disseminate the best federalism data and research available, while making it accessible for broad academic and general audiences.