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How Americans Get the News, Iran, Caregiving: RAND Weekly Recap

December 13, 2019

This week, we discuss new data on where and how Americans get their news; whether Iran's domestic turmoil will affect its foreign policy; how federal disability payments extend to the whole family; countering Russia in the “gray zone”; one promising approach to improving maternal and child health in poor countries; and how Louisiana is reforming its education system.

Man looking at his phone on the subway, photo by Westend61/Getty Images

Photo by Westend61/Getty Images

How Americans Consume the News

One-third of Americans rely on news platforms that they acknowledge are less reliable—mainly social media and peers. That's just one finding in the latest report from RAND's research initiative on how to counter Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life.

The authors analyzed data from a nationally representative survey to answer key questions about where people get their news, how reliable they think it is, and how demographics and political affiliation are linked to their behaviors.

People walk near a burned bank, after protests against increased fuel prices, in Tehran, Iran, November 20, 2019, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Reuters

People walk near a burned bank, after protests against increased fuel prices, Tehran, Iran, November 20, 2019

Photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/Reuters

Don't Expect a Thaw in Iran

Following mass protests by Iranians and a violent government response, officials in Tehran are more divided on domestic matters than they have been in months. But this internal discord is unlikely to change Iran's foreign policy, says RAND's Ariane Tabatabai. For now, it doesn't seem like Tehran will return to the negotiating table—even if Washington continues to dial up pressure. Instead, the regime may choose a far more troubling path: greater hostility.

A young African American woman helping her father using a walker, photo by kali9/Getty Images

Photo by kali9/Getty Images

Federal Disability Payments Can Help Caregivers

When a parent receives federal disability payments, the likelihood that their adult children are paid for informal caregiving more than doubles. That's according to a new RAND study. In turn, disability payments allow caregivers to reduce the amount they work and reallocate time to care for their loved ones. This is new evidence of how disability benefits extend beyond the beneficiary and to the entire family.

An activist outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, holds a banner that says not to listen to Russian propaganda, February 5, 2016, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

An activist holds a banner outside the Dutch embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 5, 2016

Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

How to Counter Russia in the 'Gray Zone'

RAND experts recently led a series of wargames to learn more about Russian aggression that takes place below the threshold of armed conflict—in the “gray zone” between peace and war. In a new report, the researchers outline key takeaways from these games. Notably, the West seems to be winning the gray zone battle with Moscow, but it does not recognize this. Also, civil organizations, rather than militaries, might be in the best position to counter Russia's gray zone tactics.

A woman holds her baby at Molai General Hospital in Maiduguri, Nigeria, November 30, 2016, photo by Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

A woman holds her baby at Molai General Hospital in Maiduguri, Nigeria, November 30, 2016

Photo by Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Improving Maternal and Child Health in Poor Countries

In 2018, 2.5 million children around the world died in their first month of life. A new RAND study examines one potential way to reduce this number: invest more in formal health care services during pregnancy and childbirth. The study offered a $14 payment—conditioned on using health services—to Nigerian households with an expecting mother. This led to significant reductions in child mortality. If this payment was offered across Nigeria, it would result in an estimated 85,000 fewer stillbirths per year. This would reduce global stillbirths by three percent.

A Look at Louisiana's Education Reforms

Louisiana's education system faces serious challenges. The state is one of the poorest in the country, and Hurricane Katrina has had lasting, devastating effects. But Louisiana has recently adopted innovative strategies to improve student outcomes. RAND research shows that real progress has been made—in fact, other states could learn from Louisiana's efforts. But obstacles remain. As the state's superintendent of education says in a new RAND video, “You're not going to right the wrongs of history overnight. It's going to take time.”

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