Teachers Quit Due to Stress, Peace in Yemen, America's Middle Class: RAND Weekly Recap

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February 26, 2021

We discuss the leading reason why teachers quit their jobs; a reimagined U.S. strategy for the Middle East; why new domestic terrorism laws may not be necessary; building a path toward peace in Yemen; the decline of America’s middle class; and why California should consider a more flexible approach to sea level rise planning.

A Kindergarten teacher cleans and prepares her classroom, from where she will begin the new school year teaching virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Boston, Massachusetts, September 18, 2020, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Stress Topped the Reasons Why Teachers Quit, Even Before COVID-19

Before the pandemic hit, stress was the most common reason public school teachers quit their jobs—and COVID-19 has only made matters worse. That's according to a new RAND survey, which asked nearly 1,000 former public school teachers about why they left the profession.

Here's an overview of the responses:

  • Three out of every four teachers said work was “often” or “always” stressful in the most recent year in which they taught.
  • Teachers cited stress nearly twice as often as insufficient pay as their reason for quitting. (In fact, most former teachers went on to take jobs with less or equal pay.)
  • Almost half of respondents who left teaching early and voluntarily since March 2020 listed the pandemic as the main reason for their departure.

Fortunately, there is some good news for school districts. A substantial share of those we surveyed are willing to return to teaching under certain conditions—for example, once most staff are vaccinated or there is regular COVID-19 testing of staff and students.

A view from space of the Middle East, West Asia, and East Europe at night, photo by wael alreweie/Getty Images

A view from space of the Middle East, West Asia, and East Europe at night

Photo by wael alreweie/Getty Images

A Reimagined U.S. Strategy for the Middle East

Traditional U.S. policy in the Middle East has relied heavily on military power and has centered on regional threats, particularly the Iranian threat. According to a new RAND report, this strategy isn't advancing American interests or helping those who live in the region. The authors recommend instead prioritizing economic investments, governance, diplomacy, and programs focused on people.

Trump supporters on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021, photo by Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA/Reuters

Trump supporters on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021

Photo by Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA/Reuters

Addressing Domestic Terrorism May Not Require New Laws

Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month, Congress is considering options to address domestic terrorism. But there are good reasons to be wary of passing new legislation, says RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins. For instance, hastily written laws could have negative unintended consequences, such as undermining Americans' rights. What's needed now, he says, is “rigorous and equal enforcement of existing law.”

Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a rally marking the anniversary of launching their motto (Sarkha) in which they call for death to America and death to Israel in Sanaa, Yemen, June 28, 2019, photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, June 28, 2019

Photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

How to Build an Enduring Peace in Yemen

Now in its sixth year, Yemen's civil war has killed more than 250,000 people and created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. A new RAND analysis examines how to end the cycle of violence, failed peace talks, and broken promises. The findings suggest that achieving peace in Yemen will require an unprecedented commitment from the international community.

A couple managing their finances using a laptop and calculator, photo by fizkes/Getty Images

Photo by fizkes/Getty Images

Understanding the Shrinking U.S. Middle Class

What does it mean to be middle class in America? In a new RAND paper—the first publication from our research center, the RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center—the authors assess two ways the middle class is often defined by researchers, track the decline of the middle class over several decades, and consider how COVID-19 further threatens Americans' income mobility.

A surfer makes his way to the beach during a King Tide event along the California coastline at Cardiff State Beach in California, November 16, 2020, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

A surfer in the water at Cardiff State Beach in California, November 16, 2020

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

California Needs a More Flexible Approach to Sea Level Rise Planning

To address the serious risks posed by rising seas, California has issued new guidance to state agencies and coastal communities: prepare for an increase of 3.5 feet by 2050. But according to RAND's Robert Lempert and David Behar, climate program director at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, picking a single sea level rise target could lead to under- or over-investments in planning. A more flexible approach may be better for California's coastal resilience.

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