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RSF Review

RSF Review

Howard Raiffa, 1924–2016

July 25, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation is saddened to report the passing of mathematician and economist Howard Raiffa, who served on the foundation’s board of trustees and on the advisory committee of the foundation’s Behavioral Economics program in the 1980s.

Raiffa, a pioneer in the field of decision analysis, was the Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Managerial Economics at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School. He was also a founding director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Prior to joining the faculty at Harvard, he taught at Columbia University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, his master’s in statistics and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

From Academic Research to National Education Policy

July 22, 2016

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

At a time when opinions on education policy are often sharply divided, how do legislators and the public move past rhetoric to craft effective initiatives? Prudence Carter, dean of the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley, examined the belief systems that shape educational policy‐making during her time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation. Using the results of a multi-method qualitative study, she investigated how student success is framed in public discourse by the mainstream media and how policymakers use research to shape policies designed to enhance student and school success. Below, Carter discusses some of her ongoing research in an interview with the foundation:

Q. Part of your current research investigates the role that the media plays in shaping both policymakers' and the public's conceptions of student success. You outlined several “theories of action” that guide how journalists and policymakers tend to discuss academic achievement. What are the theories of action that commonly surface in mainstream publications, and which have arisen as the dominant frameworks for talking about schools and education?

Summer 2016 Awards Approved in RSF Programs

July 13, 2016

Several new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s programs on Behavioral Economics, Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, and Social Inequality were funded at the foundation’s June 2016 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Behavioral Economics:

What We Know About Economic Inequality and Social Mobility in the United States

July 12, 2016

A new research brief from the Russell Sage Foundation’s Social Inequality program draws on research on economic mobility by economists, sociologists, and political scientists funded by the foundation over the last decade.

The brief seeks to address some of the unresolved questions regarding the extent to which rising inequality affects social mobility. Is upward mobility still a defining characteristic of American society or has increased inequality diminished opportunity and weakened social mobility? How likely is it that children born into the bottom of the income distribution will be able to move up the economic ladder? What factors contribute to a more mobile society? To what extent can public policies foster greater economic mobility?

New Presidential Authority Awards

July 11, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in four primary program areas—Behavioral Economics; Future of Work; Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; and Social Inequality—as well as two conferences for upcoming issues of the RSF journal.

Supplemental funding has also been awarded to an ongoing study of stereotype threat cues and an ongoing study of how employment ties between government and private industry affect regulation policies.

Immigrants Inside Politics/Outside Citizenship

July 8, 2016

In recent years, immigration has been an issue in most U.S. national elections, sparking heated debate across the political spectrum. But how do immigrants themselves make sense of and participate in U.S. politics? In a new open-access issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, editors James McCann and Michael Jones-Correa and an interdisciplinary team of leading immigration scholars examine political engagement among Latinos. The eleven articles in this issue analyze data from a survey of the Latino population during the 2012 presidential campaign and focus on the political activity of both native-born and immigrant Latinos—including the undocumented.

Several articles examine the incorporation of the foreign-born into American politics. Katharine Donato and Samantha Perez track differences in Latinos’ political ideologies by gender and find that among new immigrants, women tend to hold more conservative political views than men. However, after living in the U.S. for five years, Latinas report themselves as more liberal; after fifteen years of U.S. residence, Latino men view themselves as more conservative. Frank D. Bean and Susan K. Brown show that due to “membership exclusion”—or significant relegation to the margins of society—undocumented immigrants have less political knowledge than those with green cards or driver’s licenses, regardless of how long they have resided here. Melissa Michelson explores how politicians’ expanded outreach to Latino communities during the 2012 election season helped reverse a decades-long trend of declining trust in the government among Latinos.

Visiting Journalist Eyal Press Wins June Sidney Award

June 24, 2016

Eyal Press, a 2016 Visiting Journalist at RSF, has received the June 2016 Sidney Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation for his New Yorker article “Madness,” which uncovered a pattern of abuse of mentally ill inmates at the Dade Correctional Institution in Florida. The Sidney is awarded monthly to an outstanding piece of journalism that appeared in the prior month.

Press is the author of Absolute Convictions (2006) and Beautiful Souls (2012). He has contributed to the New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and other publications. During his time at RSF, he is working on a book which explores “society’s most thankless, morally compromising jobs,” including immigrants working in meatpacking plants, maximum-security prison guards, and military drone operators.

Spotlight on Poverty Interviews RSF Author Stefanie DeLuca

June 21, 2016

Stefanie DeLuca (Johns Hopkins University), co-author of the recent RSF book Coming of Age in the Other America, sat down this month with Jodie Levin-Epstein to discuss some of the book’s findings in a new video interview for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

In Coming of Age in the Other America, authors Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin explore how some disadvantaged urban youth manage to achieve upward mobility despite overwhelming odds. Based on over a decade of the authors’ original fieldwork with parents and children in Baltimore, the book illuminates the profound effects of neighborhoods on impoverished families and shows how the right public policies can help break the cycle of disadvantage.

Video: Former Visiting Scholar Rucker Johnson Gives Spencer Lecture

June 15, 2016

Earlier this spring, former RSF Visiting Scholar Rucker Johnson (University of California, Berkeley) delivered the annual Spencer Foundation Lecture. Titled “Winning with the Power of Mass Equality: School Funding, Integration, and Access for Later-Life Success,” Johnson’s talk focused on the long-term benefits of public school desegregation.

During his time as a Visiting Scholar at the foundation, Johnson studied the consequences of school desegregation and school quality on adult educational attainment, earnings, incarceration, and health status. He also evaluated the impact of War on Poverty policies that were designed to improve school resources for minority and poor children. His research will be published in a forthcoming RSF book.

The full video of Johnson’s Spencer Lecture is available below.

New RSF Book: A Pound of Flesh

June 14, 2016

Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society.

A new book from the Russell Sage Foundation, A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system and shows how they permanently marginalize the poor. Author Alexes Harris exposes the damaging effects of a little-understood component of criminal sentencing and shows how it further perpetuates racial and economic inequality.

Harris, who investigated court practices in Washington state for over eight years, reveals how fees for public defenders and other processing charges—known as legal financial obligations (LFOs) in the court system—penalize low-income defendants. Until these debts are paid in full, individuals remain under judicial supervision, subject to court summons, warrants, and jail stays. As a result of interest and surcharges that accumulate on unpaid financial penalties, these monetary sanctions often become insurmountable legal debts which many offenders carry for the remainder of their lives.

In her research, Harris shows that because Washington charges 12% interest and an annual $100 collection fee, legal debts continue to build even when defendants make regular payments. As the graph below shows, an individual making the minimum monthly payment ($5) on the average LFO amount sentenced in Washington ($1,347) would accumulate an additional debt of nearly $500 after five years.