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The Covid-19 pandemic caused huge economic disruption for millions of Americans. Unemployment rose sharply. Many businesses – especially small ones – struggled to stay open. Yet consumer credit scores actually increased during the course of the pandemic. What explains this surprising result? What role did reduced household consumption play? How did…
 
On May 3, a subway collapse in Mexico City killed 26 people and injured scores of others. The collapse is a heart-breaking human tragedy. But it also raises important questions about Mexico’s approach to infrastructure. What does this disaster tell us about what could be called the culture of maintenance in Mexico? How is it related to budgetary au…
 
In mid-April, President Joe Biden announced that there would be a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the symbolic date of September 11, 2021—twenty years after the 9/11 terror attacks. Though troop numbers in Afghanistan have declined in recent years, a complete withdrawal of the type described by Biden would be a notable new develo…
 
Growing numbers of undocumented migrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border have raised a political firestorm in the United States, with some – particularly Republicans – calling the situation a “crisis.” Polling suggests that handling migration may be a weak spot in President Biden’s otherwise popular agenda. What are the numbers when it comes to und…
 
For the past six years, Yemen has been the center of a heated armed conflict between its Saudi and UAE-backed government and the rebel group “Ansar Allah,” more commonly known as the Houthis, leading to countless deaths and internally displaced persons. On top of the global challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yemenis are continuing to face dire hea…
 
“The times they are a’changing,” however slowly, when it comes to drug policy in the United States. Across the nation, states and municipalities are reassessing often punitive laws governing the use of illicit substances. What has been the human cost of the “war on drugs?” How has it impacted disadvantaged communities? What has been the effect of t…
 
In mid-February, a cold weather storm swept much of the United States. In Texas, the result was catastrophic, as skyrocketing electrical demand and plummeting supply led to massive, protracted blackouts across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s electrical grid, has received an avalanche …
 
In May 2020, Dr. Caleb McDaniel, the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Humanities and current chair of Rice University's History Department, became the first Rice professor to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize. His award-winning book, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, chronicles the life of Henrietta Wood, a f…
 
President Joe Biden is committed to reversing his predecessor’s restrictive, often punitive approach to immigration. In general terms, how will his policies differ from those of President Donald Trump? What has Biden already done on the immigration front? What are likely new initiatives, particularly as they affect migration from Mexico and Central…
 
The Covid-19 pandemic in the United States has led to a sharp increase in cashless transactions. This is part of a broader trend toward electronic payments. What are the advantages of cashless transactions? How will their rise affect poorer households, particularly those which do not use banks and/or rely on alternative financial services? What sec…
 
We are at a dramatic moment in the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States. Even as infections and deaths reach horrifying highs, vaccines are becoming available. What is Operation Warp Speed? How successful has it been in developing vaccines? What vaccines are currently available in the United States? What others are in the pipeline? How is the rol…
 
U.S. Federal debt, already at the highest level since World War II, has grown dramatically as Washington has expended huge sums to address plummeting output caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. How sustainable is this debt? What explains the long-term trend toward lower interest rates? What was the picture of wealth and income inequality in the United …
 
Covid-19 has reached global pandemic proportions and has altered our way of life significantly. Starting in China and spreading all across the world, it has exacted an enormous human and financial price. The United States is now facing a health and economic crisis without close parallel in our history. What is the current status of the pandemic in …
 
Managing its relationship with China is surely the most acute geopolitical challenge facing the United States today. How should we assess the Chinese threat to US interests? Is it likely to increase or decrease with time? What can the United States, by itself and in concert with allies, do to counter China’s play for hegemony in Asia and the Pacifi…
 
Global oil markets are still reeling from the disruptions of the spring – especially the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. How are oil markets handling this turbulence? What is the situation with other energy sources, such as natural gas, coal, and renewables? What impact will a Biden Administration have on the US energy sector? And what can much-maligned…
 
On November 3, Americans elected Joe Biden president by substantial margins in the Electoral College and popular vote. But the political picture elsewhere is less clear. The Senate still hangs in the balance with all eyes on two January runoffs in Georgia. Elsewhere down-ballot, Republicans held their own. Texas Democrats, in particular, had a disa…
 
Education may be a great equalizer when it comes to economic mobility. But reality falls far short of this ideal. One reason: factors outside the school system can have a decisive impact on academic performance, particularly for students from poor households. The Baker Institute recently undertook an in-depth analysis of 80 Harris County schools to…
 
On November 3, Americans are going to the polls for one of the most potentially consequential elections of our lifetimes. While much of media focus has been on the contest between President Trump and former Vice President Biden, voters will be casting their ballots in thousands of other races. How will Texans be voting next week? Can Joe Biden actu…
 
The May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody triggered one of the most massive series of protests in U.S. history. Around the country, hundreds of thousands have marched for police accountability, law enforcement reform, and a dismantling of systemic racism in the nation writ large. What is the role of the war on drugs in deadly interactions …
 
At a September 15 White House ceremony, Israel signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize bilateral relations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain represented their respective countries. President Donald Trump – whose administration helped broker the deal – presided at the…
 
The United States confronts a “perfect storm.” The Covid-19 pandemic has killed 110,000 Americans, a ghastly tally rising every day. The unemployment rate is reaching heights not seen since the Great Depression. And the appalling killing of George Floyd has triggered massive national protests against policing policies in specific and racism in gene…
 
The Covid-19 pandemic has reignited the debate about our national dependence on Chinese raw materials and manufactured goods. Why should we be concerned about such dependence? What are our key areas of vulnerability? What policies should we introduce to address these vulnerabilities? And how is China likely to respond to these policies? This episod…
 
Over the past decade, U.S. federal debt as a share of the economy has grown to levels not reached since the aftermath of World War II. Recent tax cuts and ongoing fiscal stimulus related to the Covid-19 pandemic have placed U.S. debt on an unstable and unprecedented path moving forward. Gauging the long-term sustainability of federal debt hinges on…
 
As uncertainty about the extent and severity of the coronavirus pandemic continues, questions are circling about the November elections. How will the pandemic affect the electoral process, and what are the options for campaigning and voting if the virus remains a threat to the health and well-being of Americans? What is the current state of play in…
 
While refugees are not inherently more susceptible to the Covid-19 virus, the conditions in which many refugees and internally displaced persons live and their difficulty in accessing basic health services leave them highly vulnerable. What is the current global refugee situation? What has been the impact of the pandemic on refugees and other displ…
 
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