Immigration Policy, the Black-White Wealth Gap, ChatGPT: RAND Weekly Recap


RAND Weekly Recap

May 26, 2023

This week, we discuss what's next for U.S. immigration policy after the end of Title 42; using artificial reefs to help defend Taiwan; what it would take to close the Black-white wealth gap; strengthening veterans' social connections; artificial intelligence and ChatGPT; and expanding treatment options for opioid use disorder.

Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. gather at the Zaragoza-Ysleta international bridge, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, May 16, 2023, photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Asylum-seekers gather at the Zaragoza-Ysleta International Bridge, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, May 16, 2023

Photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

The End of Title 42: What's Next for U.S. Immigration Policy?

The expiration of a pandemic-era immigration policy has made headlines in recent weeks. The policy, invoked in March 2020 under Title 42 of the U.S. code, allowed officials to quickly turn away migrants from the border.

What are the potential effects of this policy coming to an end? What accounts for the increase in migrants seeking asylum in recent years? And what broader questions about immigration policy remain unanswered?

RAND experts Douglas Ligor and Shelly Culbertson answer these questions and more in a special episode of the Policy Currents podcast. Both emphasized the need for comprehensive solutions to address this complex policy challenge, considering the varied reasons—poverty, violence, climate change—that people flee their homes for the United States. “A key risk policymakers face is thinking that border security and border policies alone are going to address the migration pressures,” said Culbertson. “They won't.”

Numerous square concrete blocks are stacked on top of each other underwater to create an artificial reef, photo by Placebo365/Getty Images

Photo by Placebo365/Getty Images

Defending Taiwan with Artificial Reefs

Deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan may be the most important defense challenge of the next few decades. One way to bolster this effort, says RAND's Scott Savitz, is to position artificial reefs around Taiwan. Physical barriers could help deter or defeat a Chinese invasion while also providing environmental and economic benefits—all for an extremely low cost. In other words, artificial reefs could deter Beijing simply by waiting to impale a potential invasion force.

Profiles of four African Americans in front of a money tree, illustration by Kekeli Sumah/RAND Corporation, from Andre Hunter/Unsplash and Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation, from Atlas Illustrations/Adobe Stock and dar/Adobe Stock

Illustration by Kekeli Sumah/RAND Corporation, from Andre Hunter/Unsplash and Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation, from Atlas Illustrations/Adobe Stock and dar/Adobe Stock

What Would It Take to Close the Black-White Wealth Gap?

The median Black household in America has around $24,000 in savings, investments, home equity, and other elements of wealth. The median white household: around $189,000. RAND researchers found that this gap likely won't close without investing trillions of dollars in Black households. “Yesterday's segregation is today's wealth gap,” says RAND's Jonathan Welburn. “We like to pretend that we live in a race-neutral, merit-based society now … but you can't erase history.”

Veterans and others hiking on Mount Baldy, California, photo by Laura Werber/RAND Corporation, Veterans and others hiking on Mount Baldy, California, photo by

Veterans and others hike on Mount Baldy, California

Photo by Laura Werber/RAND Corporation

What Programs Strengthen Veterans' Social Connections?

There is strong evidence that veterans who feel connected to family, friends, other veterans, and their communities have much better mental health outcomes than those who do not. But little is known about how veteran-serving organizations help build these connections. A new RAND study aims to fill this gap. The authors identify several lessons about how these organizations evaluate programs focused on social connectedness—and key barriers they face in doing so.

ChatGPT user interface is seen on a smartphone screen over a keyboard, photo by Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto via Reuters

Photo by Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto via Reuters

RAND's William Marcellino on AI and ChatGPT

What exactly is generative artificial intelligence? What are some potential opportunities and dangerous scenarios posed by AI? And how can research help the public prepare for such risks? RAND's William Marcellino, a corpus linguist and sociolinguist, answers these questions in a new Q&A. One key issue to be reckoned with, he says, is AI's effect on how humans verify information: “Seeing is believing. But…there is no longer any guarantee that what you see on the internet is real.”

Prescription bottle with methadone pills, photo by Johnrob/Getty Images

Photo by Johnrob/Getty Images

Expanding Treatment Options for Opioid Use Disorder

In 2020, Medicare began covering methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder. This led to a sharp rise in the use of methadone among Medicare beneficiaries in need of such treatment. A new RAND study finds that, despite this increase, there was little substituting of methadone for other medications, such as buprenorphine. This suggests that the Medicare policy change created new treatment for opioid use disorder—rather than displacing other options.

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