U.S. Labor Market, 988 Hotline, Firearm Homicides: RAND Weekly Recap

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July 22, 2022

This week, we discuss America's uneven economic recovery from the pandemic; launching 988, the new mental health hotline; the disproportionate effects of an increase in firearm homicides; challenges facing U.S. schools; how Ukraine can rebuild for the changing climate; and why investing in women’s health research benefits everyone.

Wilcox Academy owner Rochelle Wilcox (L) speaks with teacher Briceshanay Gresham as childcare centers struggle to hire staff in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 24, 2021, photo by Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

Photo by Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

U.S. Jobs Rebounded, Just Not for Everyone

Within the next month or so, the U.S. labor market will likely have recovered all 22 million jobs lost in the pandemic recession. America has never recovered so many jobs so quickly.

This is worth celebrating, says RAND economist Kathryn Edwards. But she warns that “the danger in declaring victory over a recession is failing to consider the unevenness of success.”

One standout issue during the recession and recovery has been the declining labor force participation of women. While participation among men has returned to its pre-pandemic level, there are still nearly 1 million fewer women working than before COVID-19 hit. What's more, the factors that have been squeezing women out of the workforce are, by some measures, getting worse, not better. This labor force decline has been particularly large among women of color.

Edwards says that it's difficult to parse exactly why the pandemic recession and recovery treated men and women differently—and treated women of color differently than white women. But there's one thing we know for certain: In the past, expansions of affordable and accessible care, in particular childcare, have increased the number of women working.If more personally owned firearms are stored as experts recommend, it may help prevent unintentional firearm deaths, injuries among children, and suicides. But more evidence is needed to better understand how to improve firearm storage practices.

Indian woman on a call at a help line, photo by fizkes/Getty Images

Photo by fizkes/Getty Images

988 Mental Health Hotline: Connecting People to Care

America's new mental health emergency hotline, 988, went live on July 16. This milestone will potentially connect tens of millions of Americans to the mental health services they need. But insufficient funding and staffing may affect the hotline's ability to operate successfully. The stakes are high. “Expanding access is so critical at this point in time,” says RAND's Stephanie Brooks Holliday, “especially when we know that mental health concerns are growing across the country.”

A customer looks at a handgun at The Armories in Kissimmee, Florida, December 31, 2020, photo by Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/TNS/ABACA via Reuters

A customer examines a handgun at The Armories in Kissimmee, Florida, December 31, 2020

Photo by Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/TNS/ABACA via Reuters

The Disproportionate Effects of a Rise in Firearm Homicides

After a long period of decline, the rate of homicides in the United States began rising in 2014. This has been driven entirely by an increase in firearm homicides. A new RAND study finds that the trend has primarily affected states in the South-Central and Midwest parts of the nation. It has also disproportionately affected American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Black people. Notably, these disparities are specific to firearm homicide and are not seen in other types of killings.

Students making their way through a hallway at Ridgeview STEM Junior High in Pickerington, Ohio, December 21, 2021, photo by Shane Flanigan/USA Today via Reuters

Students walk the halls at Ridgeview STEM Junior High, Pickerington, Ohio, December 21, 2021

Photo by Shane Flanigan/USA Today via Reuters

Challenges Facing U.S. Schools

What are America's school district leaders concerned about? Results from a new RAND survey show that they continue to struggle with how to manage teacher shortages, political polarization in schools, the mental health of staff and students, and pandemic-related learning loss. Additionally, roughly half of those we surveyed said that they're preparing for a fiscal cliff after COVID-19 federal aid expires. RAND experts offer recommendations for overcoming these challenges.

Smoke rises from the pipes of a heat power plant, Kiev, Ukraine, November 27, 2015, photo by Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Smoke rises from the pipes of a heat power plant in Kiev, Ukraine, November 27, 2015

Photo by Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Rebuilding Ukraine for a Changing Climate

Whenever the horrific war in Ukraine ends, the country will likely undergo a massive reconstruction to rebuild residential properties and repair damaged infrastructure. RAND experts say that Ukraine may then have an opportunity to lower its carbon footprint and construct infrastructure that is resilient to the effects of climate change. Key to this task will be funding (potentially through Russian Central Bank reserves), and capacity building in both Ukraine's government and the engineering administrations that will oversee rebuilding efforts.

Scientist looking through a microscope, photo by sanjeri/Getty Images

Photo by sanjeri/Getty Images

How Investing in Women's Health Research Benefits All

There is a long history of generous funding for scientific research on diseases that predominantly affect men and an underfunding of those that predominantly affect women. Greater investments in women's health research could not only improve women's lives, but also add billions to the U.S. economy. That's according to a recent RAND study. One of the authors, Chloe Bird, puts it this way: “The cost of the science pales in comparison to the price we continue to pay for what we don't know about caring for women.”

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