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Community Schools, Brexit, Coronavirus: RAND Weekly Recap

January 31, 2020

This week, we discuss promising results from the New York City Community Schools Initiative; the costs of uncertainty after Brexit; the coronavirus outbreak; the burden of health care payments on America's low-income families; U.S. policy options in Iran; and how thinking machines will change warfare.

A student working at her desk in a classroom, photo by Rachael Hacking/Show the Good

Photo by Rachael Hacking/Show the Good

The Promise of Community Schools

When students experience poverty, trauma, or inadequate health care, it can inhibit their ability to learn. One approach to support kids who face these challenges is to develop “community schools” that team up with public and nonprofit agencies to become service hubs for students and families.

New York City is implementing the country's largest community schools initiative. After studying this program over a three-year period, RAND researchers found positive effects on many academic and discipline outcomes, such as student attendance. Notably, some areas—reading achievement in elementary and middle schools, for example—did not show significant signs of improvement. These results offer valuable lessons for other cities that may be considering community schools as a way to help students in disadvantaged communities.

British and European Union flags in a cloudy sky, photo by themotioncloud/Getty Images

Photo by themotioncloud/Getty Images

Uncertainty from Brexit Could Cost Billions

More than three years after the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK is finally leaving the European Union. This could mark the beginning of a new period of costly uncertainty, according to a new RAND study. The authors estimate the UK GDP could be cut by £4.4 billion by the end of 2020. And by 2025, it could decrease by £11 billion. These losses are attributed to changes in UK trade and foreign direct investment flows as a result of uncertain trade policy.

Low-Income Families Bear the Greatest Burden in Paying for Health Care

Health care payments in the United States may be even more regressive than you thought. A new RAND study finds that households in the bottom fifth of income groups pay an average of 33.9 percent of their income toward health care. That's compared with families in the highest-income group, which spend only 16 percent. According to lead author Katherine Carman, understanding how the current system distributes health care costs and payments can help inform future decisions about reforms.

Pedestrians walk in the Chinatown district of downtown Toronto, Ontario, after 3 patients with novel coronavirus were reported in Canada January 28, 2020, photo by Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Pedestrians in downtown Toronto wear masks after three patients with coronavirus were reported in Canada, January 28, 2020

Photo by Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Is Coronavirus Another SARS?

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Cases of coronavirus in China, the epicenter of the crisis, now outnumber infections in the country during the entire SARS outbreak of 2002. According to RAND's Jennifer Bouey, an epidemiologist, there are many similarities between these two epidemics. But the trajectory of the coronavirus could still be very different than that of SARS, she says. And although China enhanced its epidemic surveillance and response system since 2002, the initial mishandling of reporting coronavirus cases has already revealed weaknesses.

A woman signs a condolence book for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani at the Iranian embassy in Minsk, Belarus, January 10, 2020, photo by Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

A woman signs a condolence book for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani at the Iranian embassy in Minsk, Belarus, January 10, 2020

Photo by Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Avoiding Escalation with Iran

Weeks have passed since the U.S. killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani—and Iran's retaliatory attacks on American military personnel in Iraq. But tensions between Washington and Tehran are still dangerously high. In a new congressional testimony, RAND's Ariane Tabatabai outlines U.S. policy options, highlighting the importance of sending a clear message to Iran. The Trump administration could do this by stating its objectives, what it's willing to offer, and what Iran needs to do in return. Absent greater clarity from Washington, the risk of conflict could increase again.

Artificial intelligence concept of eye with overlay of military helicopter and submarine, images by 4X-image/Getty Images; design by Jessica Arana/RAND Corporation

Images by 4X-image/Getty Images; design by Jessica Arana/RAND Corporation

Thinking Machines Will Change Warfare

Up until now, deterrence has involved humans trying to dissuade other humans from taking certain actions. But what happens when machines are the ones doing (at least some of) the thinking and the deciding? A new RAND report finds that artificial intelligence will likely be worse at understanding the human signals involved in deterrence. Thus, widespread AI could lead to inadvertent escalation and crisis instability. Current planning efforts have not kept pace with how to handle such potentially destabilizing consequences.

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