Reference Work Entry

International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

pp 26-27

American Enterprise Institute

  • Robbie Waters RobichauAffiliated withArizona State University

Address of Organization

1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20036 USA www.​aei.​org


The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) describes itself as one of America's “oldest and most respected think tanks.” AEI is primarily dedicated to education and research on governmental issues such as politics, social welfare, and economics. It promotes fact-finding, empirical research on public policy topics that are distributed to various government officials, business executives, academics, and journalist across the United States.

Brief History

Founded in 1943 during World War II, the American Enterprise Association (AEA) started out as a partnership between prominent policy experts (e.g., Roscoe Pound, Henry Hazlitt, Raymond Moley) and executives from the business and financial communities (e.g., Bristol-Myers, General Mills, Chemical Bank). From the beginning, the Washington, DC-based association was libertarian and conservative, but had a commitment to being nonpartisan, apolitical, and objective in their research. AEA wanted to ensure that Congress understood the economic consequences of their actions. Later changed to the American Enterprise Institute, the organization was highly influenced by William J. Baroody's leadership. Joining AEI in 1954, Baroody led the organization for over 26 years coining its prominent slogan: “Competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society.” Many of AEI's scholars and fellows were recruited by the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

Mission/Objectives/Focus Areas

AEI's founding mission statement was to promote “greater public knowledge and understanding of the social and economic advantages accruing to the American people through the maintenance of the system of free, competitive enterprise.” The institute later changed its purpose statement to “defend the principles and improve the institutes of American freedom and democratic capitalism – limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and responsibility, vigilant and effective defense and foreign policies, political accountability, and open debate.”


In its research and publication endeavors, AEI maintains an unbiased and nonpartisan approach. Through its employees, fellows, and scholars, the Institute publishes several books, monographs, e-newsletters, and periodicals as well as sponsors conferences, seminars, and lectures. One of their major publications, The American magazine, is distributed six times a year. A few of AEI's projects include the National Research Initiative, Future of American Education Project, Global Governance Watch, and Reg-Market Center.

Structure and Governance

AEI is designated as an education, nonprofit institute under the Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). It employs approximately 190 individuals at their Washington, DC office and around 100 additional fellows and scholars located around the United States. Research is performed by three main research branches: Economic Policy Studies, Social and Political Studies, and Defense and Foreign Policy Studies. Additionally, AEI works with several other specialized programs such as the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies or the Brady Program on Culture and Freedom to perform its mission.

A Board of Trustees governs AEI and selects the institution's president. The Board and president are advised by the Council of Academic Advisers.


In addition to receiving funding from their internal endowment, AEI primarily obtains funding from individuals, foundations, corporations, and its conferences, book sales, and other revenues. The organization rarely receives governmental grants and avoids engaging in contract research. AEI's revenues were $31.3 million and its expenses were around $27.4 million in 2007. According to their website, over 80% of AEI's resources go to supporting its research, publications, and conferences.

Major Accomplishments/Contributions

AEI has contributed to government, business, and society's awareness of public policy issues facing the United States through its many publications and conferences. Many of its scholars and fellows have received positions in presidential cabinets, testified before Congress, appeared on televised public affairs programs, and lectured on various topics. According to their website, AEI scholars have published more op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post than all other DC-based think tanks combined.


Think Tanks

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