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RSF Review

RSF Review

New Reviews of RSF Books Unequal Time and The Long Shadow

February 25, 2015

Unequal Time, a 2014 RSF book by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel, was recently reviewed by Matthew M. Piszczek in ILR Review: The Journal of Work and Policy. Piszczek praised the book as “an interesting and much-needed expansion on the conceptualization of work schedules that aptly recognizes the limitations of more typical perspectives.” In Unequal Time, Clawson and Gerstel the ways in which social inequalities permeate the workplace, reverberating through a web of time in which the schedules of one person shape the schedules of others in ways that exemplify and often exacerbate gender and class differences. Focusing on four occupations in the health sector—doctors, nurses, EMTs, and nursing assistants—the authors show how all of these workers experience the effects of schedule uncertainty but do so in very distinct ways, largely shaped by the intersection of gender and class.

As Piszcek points out in his review, the book deftly demonstrates how workplace scheduling is a collective, rather than individual, affair. He concludes, “I recommend this book for anyone interested in the broad area of gender and class in the workplace, but especially for those interested in moving forward the work schedule and working-time research domains.”

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz Joins RSF as Visiting Researcher

February 23, 2015

Google Data Scientist and New York Times op-ed contributor Seth Stephens-Davidowitz will join the Russell Sage Foundation as a Visiting Researcher for the spring term, starting in February 2015.

Stephens-Davidowitz received a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard in 2013. His work focuses on using big-data sources to uncover previously hidden behaviors and attitudes. During his time in residence at the Foundation, Stephens-Davidowitz will work on a book tentatively titled Needles and Haystacks: The Smart Way to Use New Data, to be published by Harper Collins. Based primarily on Stephens-Davidowitz’s original research, the book will be a popular introduction to new big-data sets, including studies on how much racism cost Obama in elections, whether bad weather causes depression, how a bad economy affects crime, and whether advertising works, among other topics.

Quantal Response Equilibrium and the Limitations of Game Theory

February 18, 2015

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

During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Thomas Palfrey (California Institute of Technology) is writing a book on Quantal Response Equilibrium (QRE) and its applications to the social sciences. Developed by Palfrey and Richard McKelvey, QRE is a game theory concept that is now one of the leading approaches to modeling bounded rationality—the idea that individuals’ rationality is limited by the information they have—in games.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Palfrey explained some of the basic applications of game theory to public policy, and the limitations of those approaches.

Q. What is Nash Equilibrium? How has it been applied to public policy, and what are its limitations?

New Report: Power, Change, and ‘The Culture of Psychiatry’

February 12, 2015

A new article by RSF grantee Sadeq Rahimi, who also contributed to the 2011 RSF publication Shattering Culture, has been published in Anthropology & Medicine. The abstract states:

It is not uncommon to encounter ‘the culture of psychiatry’ used as a descriptive or even explanatory concept in discussions of psychiatric practices and services, specifically in research addressing cultural aspects of psychiatry. Drawing on data from research on the role of culture in psychiatric services in the Boston area, this paper critically examines the attribution of a ‘culture’ to psychiatry, which is prevalent not simply in mainstream psychiatric literature, but also in certain lines of cultural psychiatry, specifically those dedicated to political and anti-racist activism. It is argued that the use of such terminology could be misleading as it implicitly attributes a sense of coherence and agency to what may best be described as a set of related discourses and sociopolitical practices. It is further suggested that, given the implications of using such terminology as ‘culture’ in our discussions of psychiatry as a social institution, a scientific discourse, or a clinical practice, it would be more fruitful to address the analytic concepts of power, meaning, and the sociopolitical functions of psychiatry instead.

New Spring 2015 Books from RSF

February 5, 2015

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2015. The list includes Beyond Obamacare, a major new analysis of how to reorient the broken health care system in the U.S.; The Asian American Achievement Paradox, an investigation of the “model minority” stereotype and why certain immigrant groups succeed; Too Many Children Left Behind, a comparative study across four countries of the socioeconomic achievement gap among grade-school children; and Gender and International Migration, a historical evaluation of the changes in gendered migration patterns over several centuries.

To request a printed copy of our Spring 2015 catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at bruce@rsage.org, or view the complete list of RSF books on our publications page.

Political Participation and the Cost of Abstention

February 3, 2015

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

During her time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Susan Stokes (Yale) is writing a book investigating why people choose to participate in elections and demonstrations. She argues that the cost of abstention—or how much a person feels he or she will lose by not voting—can explain why people turn out at higher rates when the office to be filled is elevated. Stokes is also exploring how the cost of abstention may shed new insight on why low-income populations vote at lower rates than more affluent populations.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Stokes discussed how this theory complements prior models of political participation. She also detailed how the cost of abstention can help us understand what drives people to vote and to take part in political demonstrations—including, surprisingly, when violent police repression occurs.

Q. Much of the research on political participation has focused on the cost of participation. By contrast, your current research offers a model of the cost of abstention, which includes factors like the guilt or discomfort that may result from not voting. How does this complement the classic Riker and Ordeshook theory of the calculus of voting? Can we think of the costs of abstention as being similar to feeling a sense of duty when it comes to political participation?

RSF Research Backs Obama’s “Middle-Class Economics”

January 30, 2015

In his State of the Union address on January 20, President Obama introduced the idea of “middle-class economics.” Recounting the story of the Erlers, a Minneapolis family struggling to pay off student loans and recover from a stint of unemployment, Obama stressed the need to “restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” Middle-class economics would entail more aid for working families such as a higher minimum wage, quality child care, access to higher education, and paid sick leave. These policies, he concluded, would support “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

A new article in the New York Times confirms that America’s middle class has, indeed, been floundering. Though most Americans continue to identify as middle class—and 60% of those believe that it is still possible for them to become rich—incomes have stagnated, leaving more and more families struggling to get by. The Times article cites RSF trustee Lawrence Katz, who observed that while those at the top of the income ladder have benefited from the economy’s slow recovery from the Great Recession, most middle-class workers have seen few economic gains. He noted, “You’ve got an iPhone now and a better TV, but your median income hasn’t changed. What’s really changed is the penthouse has become supernice.”

Racial Passing in the U.S. and Mexico in the Early Twentieth Century

January 22, 2015

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

During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Visiting Scholar Karl Jacoby (Columbia University) is completing a book that examines the changing race relations along the U.S.–Mexico border at the dawn of the twentieth century. Drawing on interviews, archival research, and the unique biographical details of one individual in particular, his book will analyze the distinct systems of racial classification found in the two countries despite their geographical proximity, and show how the border shapes race relations in both countries.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Jacoby discussed the growing field of “microhistory,” and detailed his current research on the elusive figure of Guillermo Eliseo (also known as William Ellis), an African American who was able to “pass” as an upper-class Mexican in the United States, and whose life’s story sheds critical insight on the racial regimes of both Mexico and the U.S. during the Gilded Age.

Q. Your current research fits into a practice that some have called “microhistory”. What is microhistory? How do we connect these highly detailed narratives to larger social issues of a given era?

Dina Okamoto on the Construction of Panethnicity

January 20, 2015

The category “Asian American” currently encompasses more than forty-five Asian-origin groups, from countries ranging from Bangladesh to Vietnam to South Korea. How did one label come to include such a wide range of ethnicities, national origins, and languages, and represent individuals across vastly different social and economic standings? In Redefining Race, a new book from the Russell Sage Foundation, sociologist Dina G. Okamoto traces the complex evolution of “Asian American” as a cohesive identity, emphasizing how it has been a deliberate social achievement negotiated by group members, rather than an organic and inevitable process.

As Okamoto explains, a combination of broad social conditions in the post-Civil Rights era created an environment for Asian American panethnicity to develop. While the expansion of immigration policies in the 1960s allowed greater numbers of Asian immigrants into the U.S., these new immigrant groups were subsequently subject to racial discrimination by the state and larger society. At the same time, movements led by African Americans, women, and students provided Asian groups with models for political organizing and sparked the push for greater political representation among minorities. These conditions laid the groundwork for a collective identity among Asian immigrants of different ethnicities:

The Role of Chinatown Bus Lines and Employment Agencies for New Immigrants

January 7, 2015

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

As an affordable mode of transportation up and down the East Coast, the Chinatown bus lines operating out of New York City have become an increasingly popular service even for those outside of the Chinese immigrant community. Yet, a series of high-profile traffic accidents involving these buses over the last few years have raised concerns about their safety, and in 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began a crackdown on many of the Chinatown buses.

While the closure of such bus lines may present an inconvenience for those looking for cheap vacation transportation, these shutdowns, if continued, could have a far more serious impact on newly arrived Chinese immigrants. Zai Liang (SUNY Albany), who is currently writing a book on the patterns of employment and settlement among recent low-skilled Chinese immigrants, identifies the Chinatown bus lines as a vital component of the job networks for new immigrants. His current research examines the role of both these bus lines and Chinatown’s employment agencies in facilitating immigrant settlement in destinations outside of New York City.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Liang explained how the bus lines and employment agencies help new immigrants find jobs, support their families, and even begin their own businesses outside of New York.

Q. Your current research examines the settlement patterns of recent Chinese immigrants in the US, focusing in particular on the role of New York City Chinatown employment agencies and the Chinatown bus lines. How do these two institutions work together to influence or accommodate the movements of Chinese immigrants?