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RSF Review

Hungry Not Homeless: Event with RSF Trustee Kathryn Edin

May 27, 2016

On Tuesday, June 7, RSF trustee Kathryn Edin (Johns Hopkins University) will speak at the Brooklyn Historical Society about her book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. In the book, Edin and co-author Luke Shaefer investigate the rise of households surviving on virtually no cash income and find that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children. Through in-depth interviews with struggling families, the authors discover a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor.

At the Brooklyn Historical Society, Edin will discuss poverty and hunger with Barbara J. Turk, Director of Food Policy for New York City. The talk, which is offered in connection with the exhibition “Hidden in Plain Sight: Portraits of Hunger in NYC,” is open to the public and free to Brooklyn Historical Society members.

New RSF Book Engines of Anxiety in the News

May 23, 2016

Each spring the U.S. News & World Report releases its law school rankings to the media and the public. These rankings of over 200 law schools allow prospective students and the public to assess and compare differences in the quality of law schools. However, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability, just published by the foundation, shows that the increasing reliance on these rankings has negative consequences for students and educators and has implications for all educational programs that are ranked using similar methods.

Based on a wealth of observational data and over 200 in-depth interviews with law students, university deans, and other administrators, authors Wendy Espeland (Northwestern University) and Michael Sauder (University of Iowa) show how the scramble for high rankings has affected the missions and practices of many law schools. For instance, admissions officers face pressure to admit applicants with high test scores over lower-scoring candidates who possess other favorable credentials in order to boost their school’s ranking. As a new profile of Engines of Anxiety in Inside Higher Ed puts it, “The authors found an overwhelming focus on LSAT scores—above everything else and sometimes regardless of other indications of whether an applicant would be a good or bad law student or lawyer.”

Strengthening the Safety Net to Mitigate the Effect of Future Recessions

May 10, 2016

On Monday, May 23, 2016, RSF president Sheldon Danziger and several RSF grantees and scholars will participate in a policy forum on strengthening the social safety net, hosted by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The event will focus on three new papers released by the Hamilton Project that explore the effects of the 2008 fiscal stimulus designed to combat the Great Recession. Forum participants will discuss whether the stimulus contained the correct mix of tax cuts and targeted government spending, and whether it optimally utilized income support programs—notably TANF and SNAP—to stabilize the economy and protect millions of households from falling into poverty.

The first panel in the forum will discuss a proposal to strengthen the safety net through improvements to SNAP by RSF Visiting Scholar James P. Ziliak (University of Kentucky), and a proposal to make TANF more effective in serving needy families during economic downturns by incoming RSF Visiting Scholar Hilary Hoynes (UC Berkeley) and Marianne Bitler (UC Davis). RSF president Sheldon Danziger will speak on the panel along with Congressman Jim McGovern (Massachusetts) and Robert Greenstein (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). The discussion will be moderated by RSF grantee Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach (Hamilton Project).

The second panel will focus on a new proposal by RSF author and former trustee Alan S. Blinder (Princeton University) that examines how to better leverage fiscal policy to mitigate the effects of future recessions. Blinder will be joined by panelists Cecilia Muñoz (White House Domestic Policy Council), Marc H. Morial (National Urban League), Alice M. Rivlin (Brookings Institution), and moderator Roger C. Altman (Evercore).

New RSF-Funded Report Examines Challenges Facing Unemployment Insurance

May 9, 2016

In October 2015, the National Academy of Social Insurance hosted a roundtable, "Rethinking Unemployment Insurance," with support from the Russell Sage Foundation. The event convened a group of experts from academia, government, and public policy institutions to discuss challenges facing unemployment insurance (UI) in the wake of the Great Recession. Participants considered strategies for how to promote reemployment through the UI system, how to redesign the program’s financing, and how to reshape the overall system. Attendees also discussed agendas for future work on UI, both from within government administration and in the policy-research fields.

A new report highlighting the roundtable’s findings, “The Current State of Unemployment Insurance: Challenges and Prospects,” is now available from the Academy. The summary states:

As the crisis of the Great Recession gives way to economic recovery, the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system that helped sustain the country during the height of unemployment continues its essential function in the American economy. The program that made headlines during each successive wave of extraordinary unemployment compensation extensions continues its fundamental work of providing income replacement to workers laid off from a job. The present period, when the demands on the system are relatively low, is precisely the time to have reasoned conversations about reforming it – before the next high-stress period of sustained and widespread use.

This need for timely reform inspired the National Academy of Social Insurance to convene a roundtable discussion on “Rethinking Unemployment Insurance.” This brief presents the issues, problems, and proposals for reform that were identified at the roundtable, and represents an up-to-date accounting of some of the most pressing issues facing the UI system as articulated by leading experts on the program.

Orville Gilbert Brim, 1923-2016

May 2, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation is saddened to report the passing of Orville Gilbert Brim, Jr., known as Bert, who served as president of the foundation from 1964 to 1972. During his tenure at RSF, Brim established the Visiting Scholars program and expanded new areas of research, including lifespan development and aging, mental testing and human resource management, and techniques for evaluating social programs.

Brim earned his B.A. in 1947 and his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1951 from Yale. After teaching at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the Russell Sage Foundation and co-authored Experiences and Attitudes of American Adults Concerning Standardized Intelligence Tests (1965), American Beliefs and Attitudes About Intelligence (1969), and co-edited The Dying Patient (1969), among other publications.

Following his time at the foundation, Brim went on to serve as president of the Foundation for Child Development. He was also board chairman of the American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, a longtime member of the board of the William T. Grant Foundation, and led the Research Network on Successful Midlife Development for the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation.

Mary C. Waters to Give 2016 Henry and Bryna David Lecture at National Academy of Sciences

April 29, 2016

Mary C. Waters (Harvard University) will deliver the 2016 Henry and Bryna David Lecture on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. Waters is a former chair of the Russell Sage Foundation’s board of trustees, co-author of the RSF book Inheriting the City, co-editor of the RSF books The New Race Question and Becoming New Yorkers, and a recipient of multiple research awards from the foundation.

In her address, Waters will discuss the war on crime and the war on immigrants in the U.S., focusing on how the growth of mass incarceration and of undocumented immigrants has been proceeding along parallel tracks since the 1970s. She will look at these two groups together, arguing that the U.S. has developed a new form of legal exclusion and discrimination.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click here to register.

The talk will also be livestreamed from the Henry and Bryna David Lecture website at the time of the event.

RSF Trustee Kathryn Edin Wins 2016 Hillman Prize

April 21, 2016

RSF trustee Kathryn Edin (Johns Hopkins University) has been awarded the 2016 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism with co-author H. Luke Shaefer (University of Michigan) for their book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. In the book, Edin and Shaefer investigate the rise of households surviving on virtually no cash income and find that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children. Through in-depth interviews with struggling families, the authors discover a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor.

Edin and Shaefer discussed some of their findings in a recent article for the RSF Journal special issue, “Severe Deprivation in America,” which is available in full here. Edin is also co-author, with Stefanie DeLuca and Susan Clampet-Lundquist, of the new RSF book Coming of Age in the Other America; co-author of Making Ends Meet; and co-editor of Unmarried Couples with Children.

New Book: Coming of Age in the Other America

April 19, 2016

In a new book published today by the Russell Sage Foundation, Coming of Age in the Other America, 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.

Several news articles have already cited research from the book, including a profile in the Atlantic which outlines the authors’ study in detail, including how they interviewed 150 young adults and tracked “how those kids had fared in various areas between 2003 and 2012, including education, employment, family status, mental, and physical health and risk behaviors.” In their research, the authors found that youth who had been able to move to better neighborhoods—either as part of the Moving to Opportunity program or by other means—achieved much higher rates of high school completion and college enrollment than their parents.

New RSF Journal Issue: U.S. Higher Education Effectiveness

April 11, 2016

The American system of higher education includes over 5,000 degree granting institutions, ranging from small for-profit technical training schools up to the nation’s elite liberal arts colleges and research universities. Over 20 million students are enrolled, with federal, state, and local governments spending almost 3 percent of GDP on higher education. Yet how can we evaluate the effectiveness of such a large, fragmented system? Are students being adequately prepared for today’s labor market? Is the system accessible to all? Are new business methods contributing to greater efficiency and better student outcomes? In "Higher Education Effectiveness," a new open-access issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, editors Steven Brint and Charles Clotfelter and a group of higher education experts address these questions with new evidence and insights regarding the effectiveness of U.S. higher education.

Beginning with the editors’ authoritative introduction, the contributors assess the effectiveness of U.S. higher education at the national, state, campus, and classroom levels. Several focus on the effects of the steep decline in state funding in recent years, which has contributed to rising tuition at most state universities. Steven Hemelt and David Marcotte find that the financial burdens of attendance, even at public institutions, is a significant and growing impediment for students from low-income families. John Witte, Barbara Wolfe, and Sara Dahill-Brown analyze 36 years of enrollment trends at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and find increased enrollment of upper-income students, suggesting widening inequality of access.

What Causes Low Voter Turnout?

April 7, 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.

The recent unexpected successes of two insurgent presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, have taken the Democratic and Republican parties respectively by surprise. The rise of such “outsider” politicians has raised questions over whether establishment party leaders are increasingly disconnected from the preferences and concerns of their constituents. If voters have indeed begun to gravitate to non-establishment candidates for the presidency, are we likely to see similar upsets in congressional and local elections?

RSF Visiting Scholar Jonathan Nagler (New York University) is currently working on a book that examines how increases in economic inequality have also affected voter turnout in congressional elections from 1972 through 2014. Using a variety of data sources not previously available, he is studying the ideologies of congressional candidates across many elections, and exploring how turnout is affected by the ways in which voters from different income groups perceive those candidates' positions.

In an interview with the Foundation, Nagler discussed some of the factors that have affected voter turnout in both presidential and Congressional elections, and assessed whether non-voters share the preferences of voters.

Q. Your ongoing research at RSF investigates the ways in which rising income inequality has affected voter turnout across different demographics in both presidential and congressional elections. Are the preferences expressed by voters in these elections also held by non-voters? What drives the low voter turnout of those at the bottom of the economic distribution?