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COVID-19 Counsel from the College of Liberal Arts

In this series, we collect various news articles that feature experts from the College of Liberal Arts giving insight into the global COVID-19 crisis.

Editor’s note: In this series, we collect various news articles that feature experts from the College of Liberal Arts giving insight into the current global health crisis. The purpose of this series is to provide diverse perspectives on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic from experts in the college. Check back regularly for the most up-to-date news. 

Opinion | How Could Human Nature Have Become This Politicized? — New York times

Featuring Erik Peterson, assistant professor in the Department of Economics

Two political scientists, Sean Westwood of Dartmouth and Erik Peterson of Texas A&M, have broken new ground in the study of one of the oldest and most powerful factors in shaping partisanship, race.

In “Compound Political Identity: How Partisan and Racial Identities Overlap and Reinforce,” Westwood and Peterson argue that “partisanship and race are so enmeshed in the minds of citizens that experiences which involve only one of the two groups affect evaluations and behavior toward both” — or, put another way, that “views of partisan and racial out-groups are inextricably connected.”

Read more here.

Economists Think Congress Could Create an Economic Disaster This Summer — FiveThirtyEight

Featuring Sarah Zubairy, associate professor in the Department of Economics

About half of the economists in the survey also thought the country’s top earners would end the year with an even greater share of the nation’s personal income. In order to get a sense of how much the panel thought the COVID-19 recession would increase income inequality, we asked about a new metric created by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which found that in 2016, households in the top 10 percent of incomes (adjusted for household size) accounted for 37.6 percent of the country’s personal income. Fifty percent of the respondents thought this number would be significantly higher by the end of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 47 percent thought it would be about the same. Only one respondent thought it would be lower.

“My best guess is that this pandemic is going to worsen income inequalities,” said Sarah Zubairy, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University. She hypothesized that this was because job loss has been concentrated among lower-wage workers who can’t do their jobs remotely, and who may find themselves ricocheting in and out of the labor force if states have to abruptly pull back their reopening plans.

Read more here.

It’s Been ‘Such a Weird Year.’ That’s Also Reflected in Crime Statistics. — New York Times

Featuring Jennifer Doleac, associate professor in the Department of Economics

Jennifer Doleac, associate professor of economics and director of the Justice Tech Lab at Texas A&M, said: “People are worried about increasing domestic violence, and that could certainly lead to increases in homicide. Any kind of crime where most of it is between strangers or requires people being out and about would be down, and homicide is usually between people who know each other, so it might be affected differently.”

It’s plausible that the increase in murder this year might reflect a trend that began before the pandemic got underway. A review of the percent change in murder in 10 cities before coronavirus struck (generally defined as through February or March) and those cities’ most recent June update for the year so far shows a worse year-to-date percent change in eight of them, suggesting that the trend may have accelerated over the last few months.

Read more here.

Read more about COVID-19 from Texas A&M College of Liberal Arts experts here