This week we discuss whether Americans' online shopping habits have changed during COVID-19; learning to live in a riskier world; helping communities overcome years of toxic stress; why college in America may never be the same; homelessness among domestic abuse survivors; and models that can help Virginia policymakers respond to the pandemic.
With stay-at-home orders in place and many brick-and-mortar stores shuttered, one might expect a big increase in online shopping. But according to a new RAND survey, almost two-thirds of Americans say that they haven't changed their online shopping habits since the pandemic began. About one-quarter of respondents reported shopping online more often, while 13 percent are shopping less often. Among those shopping more, most made small increases in their habits, and almost no one made significant increases.
COVID-19 is clearly a major threat. But isolation to stop its spread can damage economic security, social connection, and mental and physical health. How can Americans balance the threat of infection against the daily activities they value? According to RAND's Shanthi Nataraj and Sita Nataraj Slavov of George Mason University, the only path forward may be to learn to live in a riskier world. People can mitigate risk by wearing masks, holding events outdoors, and physically distancing. And policymakers can help by investing in and encouraging testing.
Prolonged stress is toxic to the human body. And in marginalized communities, stress can accumulate over generations, causing despair, disinvestment, discrimination, and disparity. When this happens, any new crisis—including a pandemic—can be a tipping point. In 2018, RAND researchers developed a new way to understand how stress builds in communities. This framework can provide insights into what marginalized communities are really dealing with and how they can recover.
Many U.S. colleges and universities have reduced or eliminated in-person classes this fall. This has students and parents rethinking the high costs of tuition and the value of traditional higher education. This may threaten the business models of public and private colleges and universities. RAND experts warn that, under certain circumstances, this could produce a “race to the bottom,” as online providers of all types compete to offer college credits at the lowest price.
Stay-at-home orders have forced many victims of domestic violence to be trapped at home with their tormentors, leading to more frequent abuse. (A recent RAND survey revealed that nine percent of Americans living with a partner reported an increase in physical or verbal abuse since the outbreak began.) Now, survivors who have escaped their abusers face a new crisis: housing. As COVID-19 infections spike, RAND experts say it may be time to invest in programs that help victims find safe and stable living situations.
Models have been widely used to understand the spread of COVID-19 and the effects of policies designed to stop the disease. In a new report, RAND experts explore which models may be suitable for guiding pandemic response in Virginia. They consider the relevance of the data, as well as the model's design, past performance, and transparency. Notably, the researchers found that any model should consider the extent and efficacy of such measures as widespread testing and contact tracing.
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