Policy ideas and perspectives from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy – one of the nation’s leading think tanks.
info_outline Why Did Consumer Credit Scores Go Up during the Covid-19 Pandemic? 05/26/2021
Why Did Consumer Credit Scores Go Up during the Covid-19 Pandemic? 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 government programs impact credit scores? And what will happen as the pandemic eases – and, with it, government relief measures? This episode’s guest is , Fellow in Public Finance at the Baker Institute and an expert on taxation. She has recently published an issue brief titled “The Curious Case of High Consumer Credit Scores.” It is available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline What Does the Mexico City Subway Disaster Tell Us about Infrastructure in Mexico? 05/20/2021
What Does the Mexico City Subway Disaster Tell Us about Infrastructure in Mexico? 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 austerity? Is corruption part of the problem? Will the disaster have an impact on upcoming mid-term elections in Mexico? This episode’s guest is . He is a research scholar at the Baker Institute Center for the United States and Mexico, with a focus on the rule of law and corruption in Mexico. Montes de Oca is the author of a recent piece on the Mexico City subway collapse. It is available at the Baker Institute website.
info_outline How to Understand the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan 05/05/2021
How to Understand the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan 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 development in U.S. military strategy. What is the background behind this decision, and how has it been received in D.C.? How should we contextualize Biden’s pronouncement within the broader history of American foreign policymaking? This episode’s guest is , the Bonner Means Baker Fellow at the institute and regular Policy Matters host. As an expert and seasoned commentator on U.S. foreign policy, Joe shares his timely perspective on the questions surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
info_outline Is There a Migrant Crisis at the Border? 04/15/2021
Is There a Migrant Crisis at the Border? 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 undocumented crossings at our southern border? How is Biden’s approach different from Trump’s? Why is immigration reform so difficult in the United States? This episode has two guests. The first is , the Francoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexico Studies and Director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at the Baker Institute. The second is . She is a Research Analyst at the Center. Their work on U.S.-Mexican border issues and immigration can be found on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline “Assessing the Crisis in Yemen: Six Years On” 03/31/2021
“Assessing the Crisis in Yemen: Six Years On” 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 health crises exacerbated by the war, causing what is widely regarded as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In the wake of a recent ceasefire proposal by Saudi Arabia, what is the current state of the conflict in Yemen? What are the broader geopolitical dynamics at play between neighboring powers that are fueling this war, and how is the Biden administration approaching this enduring foreign policy issue? This episode’s guest is , a Fellow in the Baker Institute’s Center for the Middle East. He is a top expert on the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf region who has recently published a number of policy analyses on the conflict in Yemen and other pressing foreign policy questions, all of which are available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline What Should the Biden Administration Do about U.S. Drug Policy? 03/24/2021
What Should the Biden Administration Do about U.S. Drug Policy? “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 the Covid-19 pandemic on drug use? And what steps should the new Biden Administration do to help foster a more humane and just approach to drug use? This episode has two guests. The first is , the Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy here at the Institute. On March 11, Dr. Neill Harris testified about federal drug policy before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. The second guest is , the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy and Director of the Institute’s Drug Policy Program. Dr. Harris and Dr. Martin have recently co-authored a policy brief titled “Drug Policy Priority Issues for the Biden Administration.” It is available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline The February Electrical Power Disaster in Texas: What Can Be Done to Avoid a Repeat 03/10/2021
The February Electrical Power Disaster in Texas: What Can Be Done to Avoid a Repeat 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 of criticism. What is ERCOT? What factors led to the mid-February blackouts? What can ERCOT and the state of Texas do to avoid similar disasters in the future? This episode has two guests. The first is , Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies here at the Baker Institute. He has co-written an article for Forbes entitled “Winterization and the Texas Blackout: Fail to Prepare? Prepare to Fail.” Our second guest is . She is a Nonresident Scholar at our Center for Energy Studies and authored a piece for the Washington Post called “Texas Seceded from the Nation’s Power Grid. Now It’s Paying the Price.” Both articles are available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline Books That Shaped My World 02/17/2021
Books That Shaped My World In May 2020, , 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 freed slave who successfully sued one of her former owners. Since receiving the Pulitzer, Dr. McDaniel's book has only become more relevant in the midst of important conversations about racial justice in modern-day America. This podcast originally took place as an event entitled “Books That Shaped My World,” co-sponsored by Rice's Fondren Library and the Baker Institute, in which Dr. McDaniel was interviewed by Baker Institute Academic Affairs Director Dr. Allen Matusow. The Baker Institute thanks Fondren Library and Dr. McDaniel for making this unique event possible.
info_outline What Can We Expect of the Biden Administration When It Comes to Immigration? 02/10/2021
What Can We Expect of the Biden Administration When It Comes to Immigration? 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 America? What are the advantages to a regional approach to migration from these countries? This episode’s guest is , the Francoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexico Studies and Director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at the Baker Institute. He has recently published a piece in The Hill titled “Amid multiple crises, immigration cannot be forgotten” and an institute policy brief called “Linking Immigration, Economic Opportunity, and the Rule of Law in Mexico and Central America.” Both are available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline Covid-19 and the Transition to a Cashless Economy 01/27/2021
Covid-19 and the Transition to a Cashless Economy 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 security and privacy concerns does the shift toward cashless transactions raise? What are the prospects of a transition to an entirely cashless economy? This episode’s guest is , Fellow in Public Finance at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. She has recently published a piece called “Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Cashless Transition?” It is available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline Covid-19, Vaccines, and Prospects for a Return to Normalcy 01/19/2021
Covid-19, Vaccines, and Prospects for a Return to Normalcy 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 roll-out going? How long will it be before we return to normalcy? This episode’s guest is , Fellow in Science and Technology Policy here at the Baker Institute. She has written and spoken extensively on Covid-19 and vaccines for it.
info_outline Federal Debt, Covid-19 and Wealth Inequality 01/13/2021
Federal Debt, Covid-19 and Wealth Inequality 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 States on the eve of Covid-19? How will the pandemic affect it? This episode’s guest is , fellow in public finance here at the Baker Institute. His area of research involves the development of dynamic macroeconomic models for fiscal policy evaluation. Barro has recently published pieces on federal debt and on wealth and income inequality. They are available on the Baker Institute website.
info_outline Covid-19: Is the End in Sight? 12/16/2020
Covid-19: Is the End in Sight? 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 the United States and Texas? Where do we stand with vaccine development and deployment? How will anti-vaccine sentiment impact public health? And what should the Biden Administration’s Covid policy be when it assumes power in January? This episode's guest is . He is the Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty. Dr. Hotez is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also Chief of the Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and the Texas Children's Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. He is a nationally renowned expert on infectious diseases and vaccines who has been at the forefront of informing the American public throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
info_outline Holding the Line Against China 12/02/2020
Holding the Line Against China 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 Pacific? This episode’s guests are and Dr. Andrew Erickson. Collins is the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs at the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies. Dr. Erickson is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College’s China Maritime Institute. They have recently co-authored a Baker Institute report entitled “Hold the Line through 2035: A Strategy to Offset China’s Revisionist Actions and Sustain a Rules-Based Order in the Asia-Pacific.” It is available on the institute website.
info_outline Coronavirus-19, a Biden Administration and Energy Markets 11/25/2020
Coronavirus-19, a Biden Administration and Energy Markets 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 international oil companies do to regain public trust? This episode’s guest is . He is the Fellow in Energy and Global Oil at Rice University's Baker Institute. Mark has 35 years of experience working at the intersections of energy, economics and public policy.
info_outline Election 2020 Postmortem 11/18/2020
Election 2020 Postmortem 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 disappointing night, falling far short of their goals. What are we to make of the murky election results? And what are we to make of the numerous major polling errors around the country? This episode’s quest is . He is the fellow in political science at the Baker Institute, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and a professor in the Department of Political Science at Rice University. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on Texas politics.
info_outline Why Are Children Underperforming in Schools? 11/04/2020
Why Are Children Underperforming in Schools? 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 determine how these factors – ranging from food insecurity to depression – help shape educational attainment. What do the study’s findings tell us about the needs of less-advantaged students in Harris County? Are these lessons transferrable to the nation at large? And how has the Covid-19 pandemic affected already existing inequalities? This episode features two guests. The first is , Fellow in Child Health Policy at the Baker Institute’s Center for Health and Biosciences. The second is , Research Analyst in the institute’s Child Health Policy Program. They are co-authors of “Why are Children Underperforming in School? A Comprehensive Needs Assessment of Students in Harris Country.”
info_outline How Will Texans Vote on November 3? 10/30/2020
How Will Texans Vote on November 3? 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 actually win the Lone Star State? How will the parties fare in other races? How important—not just for Texas but also for national politics—are the races for the Texas House of Representatives? This episode’s guest is . He is the fellow in political science at the Baker Institute, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and a professor in the Department of Political Science at Rice University. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on Texas politics. Note: this podcast was recorded on October 27.
info_outline The War on Drugs and Police Violence in the United States 10/16/2020
The War on Drugs and Police Violence in the United States 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 between the police and citizens? Has it had a disparate impact on African Americans and other communities of color? Are there policies we can institute that will lead to less deadly and more equitable outcomes? This episode features . She is the Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy at the Baker Institute and the author of a prescient institute blog dated June 8 that highlighted the role of the drug war in the deaths of George Floyd and others.
info_outline Normalization of Relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain: a Coup for Trump? 09/23/2020
Normalization of Relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain: a Coup for Trump? 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 ceremony. What do the agreements entail? What were the political and strategic calculations that went into them? Are other Arab countries likely to follow the lead of the UAE and Bahrain? In this episode, , Fellow for the Middle East here at the Baker Institute and one of our country’s top experts on the Persian Gulf, addresses these and other questions related to the September 15th agreements.
info_outline America in Crisis: How is 2020 like 1968? 06/18/2020
America in Crisis: How is 2020 like 1968? 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 general. Many have compared the current moment to 1968, another year of mass protests and national instability. How is 2020 like 1968? How is it different? And what lessons can we draw from a comparison? This episode’s guest is . He is the Baker Institute’s academic affairs director. He joined the Rice faculty in 1963 and is a distinguished historian and an expert on post-World War II America.
info_outline Should the United States Reduce Its Dependence on China for Strategic Materials and Medications? 05/20/2020
Should the United States Reduce Its Dependence on China for Strategic Materials and Medications? 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 episode’s guests are and Andrew Erickson. Collins is the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Erickson is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. They have recently co-authored a Baker Institute report entitled It is available on the institute website.
info_outline U.S. Government Debt Growth in a Time of Secular Stagnation 05/06/2020
U.S. Government Debt Growth in a Time of Secular Stagnation 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 projections of one key underlying variable: the interest rate. How are debt projections and the interest rate tied to broad demographic transformations underway in the U.S. and across the world today? And how worried should we be by rising federal debt? This special podcast is drawn from a webinar hosted by the Baker Institute Roundtable on April 28. It features , a fellow in public finance at the Baker Institute. His area of research involves the development of dynamic macroeconomic models for fiscal policy evaluation. Barro is joined by , stewardship officer at the institute.
info_outline The 2020 Elections and Covid-19 04/30/2020
The 2020 Elections and Covid-19 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 major Texas and national races? How will Covid-19 shape the fall campaign? This podcast is drawn from a webinar hosted by the Baker Institute on March 22 entitled “The 2020 Election and Covid-19.” It features , Baker Institute Fellow in Political Science and Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies. He is joined by , the Baker institute’s Director of Membership.
info_outline Refugees, Host Countries and the Coronavirus Pandemic 04/22/2020
Refugees, Host Countries and the Coronavirus Pandemic 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 displaced persons and on the countries that host them? How has the pandemic altered government policies around the world, including safe third country agreements and other measures to limit refugee flows? This special podcast is drawn from a webinar hosted by the Baker Institute Roundtable on April 16. It features , the Kelly Day Fellow in Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Refugees in the Baker Institute’s Center for the Middle East. Norman is joined by , Director of Membership at the Baker Institute.
info_outline Long-Term Impact of Covid-19 on low-income women and young children 04/15/2020
Long-Term Impact of Covid-19 on low-income women and young children As states enact sweeping measures to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the burden of such efforts may deepen existing social and economic inequities, particularly among vulnerable women and children. What will be the impact of recent coronavirus legislation, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, on low-income working women? What are the long-term effects of parental stress on young children, particularly in terms of increases in child abuse and maltreatment amid ongoing stay-at-home orders? This special podcast is drawn from a webinar hosted by the Baker Institute on April 9. It features , who is the Baker Institute Fellow in Child Health Policy. Moore is joined by Ms. , research associate in Child Health Policy at the Institute.
info_outline Pandemic, Price War and the World Petroleum Market 04/08/2020
Pandemic, Price War and the World Petroleum Market Global energy markets are in a melt-down. The Coronavirus pandemic has sent oil demand into a downward spiral. And a nasty price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia is only intensifying the crisis. What has led to this unprecedented situation? What are its potential short- and long-term impacts? And what can major players – including the United States – do to address the current turmoil in energy markets? This special podcast is drawn from a webinar hosted by the Baker Institute on April 3 entitled “Pandemic, Price War and the World Petroleum Market.” It features Institute Fellows , , and . Medlock is the James A. Baker, III, and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics and Senior Director of the Institute’s Center for Energy Studies. Krane is the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies. Finley is the Fellow in Energy and Global Oil.
info_outline COVID-19 04/01/2020
COVID-19 Coronavirus – specifically COVID-19 – has reached global pandemic proportions. Starting in China, it has spread throughout many parts of the world, exacting a huge human and financial price. The United States is now facing a health and economic crisis without close parallel in our history. What is Covid19? How dangerous is it? How is it spreading in the United States? And what is the best way to address the threat it poses? This special podcast is drawn from a Webinar hosted by the Baker Institute on March 26. It features . He is the Baker Institute fellow in disease and poverty. Hotez is also dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also chief of the Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. Dr. Hotez is joined by , Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at the Baker Institute.
info_outline Social Determinants of Health in Texas and Beyond 03/25/2020
Social Determinants of Health in Texas and Beyond There is more to good health than medical care, important as it is. What are some of the social determinants that affect the health and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us? What can we as a society do to help low-income and vulnerable populations? And, what special challenges do those populations face because of the unfolding novel coronavirus pandemic? This week’s guest is . She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Episcopal Health Foundation, a $1.3 billion dollar Houston-based non-profit dedicated to improving community health. Ms. Marks is also a nonresident Fellow in Health Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, where her work focuses on health reform and access to care for low-income and uninsured populations.
info_outline Resource Nationalism and Latin American Oil Production 03/18/2020
Resource Nationalism and Latin American Oil Production Latin America is one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon producers. Yet the countries of the region present a mixed picture in terms of performance in the oil sector. Moreover, they confront a rapidly changing political, technological and market environment. Which countries are seizing the opportunities offered by increasing oil production? Which are lagging? And why? This episode’s guest is . He is the Fellow in Latin American Energy Policy at the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy studies. Note: This episode was recorded before the collapse of global oil prices in early March.