Engaging Ideas - 2/24/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: A new survey on what qualities political scientists think are most essential to democracy. A study adds to a growing body of research on the positive effects of building trusting relationships between students and teachers. The misguided solution to curbing health care costs: drug price controls. Ideas on how cities should take care of their housing problems.


Democracy in America: How Is It Doing? (The Upshot)
A new research project will periodically survey political scientists on crucial measures of a functioning democracy, looking for change over time.

A Month and a Half in, a Freshman Congressman Faces His Angry Constituents (The Takeaway)
Republican Congressman Scott Taylor, a 37-year-old former Navy SEAL, handily won the November election in his military-heavy Virginia district. That doesn’t mean all of his constituents agree with everything President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are trying to do—especially when it comes to repealing Obamacare. While some G.O.P. lawmakers have shied away from holding town hall meetings during their one-week recess, Taylor met with his district face to face. Hear how it went.

How to cover pols who lie, and why facts don’t always change minds: Updates from the fake-news world (Neiman Lab)
“Putting others’ words in quotation marks, to signal, ‘We don’t know if this is true, we’re just telling you what they said’ or even ‘Nudge, nudge, we know this isn’t true,’ is a journalistic cop-out.”

K-12 Education

When School Doesn't Seem Fair, Students May Suffer (Education Week)
A “trust gap” that begins in middle school may render students less likely to attend college, even if they succeed academically, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin. The research, published in the journal Child Development, focuses on middle school students of color who lose trust in their teachers due to perceptions of mistreatment from school authorities.

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins (The Upshot)
The new studies come at an interesting moment, with a proponent of vouchers newly in charge of the Education Department.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Report: Financial Pressure Swamping Community College Students (Diverse Issues in Higher Education)
The CCCSE report surveyed nearly 100,000 community college students attending 177 institutions across the country. The majority of respondents said that they were living paycheck to paycheck, and one fifth said that they would not be able to come up with emergency funds should an emergency arrive. Close to half of respondents said that they had run out of money in the past 12 months.

Why should elite universities get more taxpayer support than regional public colleges? (Washington Post)
Mark Schneider, vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, writes: Recent data from the Equality of Opportunity Project suggest that the many taxpayer dollars invested in America’s most affluent universities support the social mobility of only a very small number of middle- and low-income students, while disproportionately assisting yet more upward mobility for the already well-heeled.

Health Care

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes (ProPublica)
Years after research contradicts common practices, patients continue to demand them and doctors continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatment.

States Consider Imposing Drug Price Controls (Forbes)
Upon further investigation, it becomes clear pharmaceutical price controls – like those now being debated in eight state capitals – are misguided solutions in search of a problem, and are a red herring when it comes to the effort to bend the overall health care cost curve.


What Should Cities Make? (CityLab)
President Trump is gung-ho about the U.S. producing more goods. But what, exactly, should cities be making in the 21st century?

How Cities Should Take Care of Their Housing Problems (The New York Times)
Many big cities face a triple threat: Mr. Trump wants to cut funding to sanctuary cities; his nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, is unlikely to be a strong and creative leader; and the Republican Congress is eager to chip away at federal housing programs. In response, cities need local financing initiatives that make up for the coming reduction in federal assistance.

Anatomy of a NIMBY (CityLab)
Restricting housing construction does not just hurt developers—it makes housing less affordable for everyone. But to overcome neighborhood resistance, you need to understand what drives it.


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