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RSF Review

RSF Review

New Awards Approved in Core RSF Programs

November 19, 2014

Thirteen new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s Behavioral Economics, Social Inequality, Immigration, and the Future of Work programs were recently funded at the Foundation’s November 2014 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Behavioral Economics program supports research that incorporates the insights of psychology and other social sciences into the study of economic behavior. The following projects were recently funded under the program:

Robert Solow Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 11, 2014

On November 10, President Obama announced the nineteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Included among them was economist Robert Solow, the Russell Sage Foundation’s Robert K. Merton Scholar and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT.

“Robert Solow is one of the most widely respected economists of the past 60 years,” the White House said of the scholar, who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 1987. “His research in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s transformed the field, laying the groundwork for much of modern economics. He continues to influence policymakers, demonstrating how smart investments, especially in new technology, can build broad-based prosperity, and he continues to actively participate in contemporary debates about inequality and economic growth.”

Diversity and Disparities: Residential Segregation by Income

November 6, 2014

Diversity and Disparities, edited by sociologist John Logan, assembles impressive new studies that interpret the population, labor market, and housing market changes in the U.S. over the last decade. The book, now available for free download in its entirety from the Russell Sage Foundation, raises concerns about the extent of socioeconomic immobility in the United States today, showing how the U.S.—while more diverse than ever before—has also witnessed a significant rise in economic inequality. Drawing on detailed data from the decennial census, the American Community Survey, and other sources, the leading social scientists featured in the book chart the deepening disparities among different groups in the U.S.

In their chapter on residential segregation, Kendra Bischoff and Sean F. Reardon explore the rise of class segregation within racial groups as higher-income Americans move away from others into separate and privileged neighborhoods and communities. They find that since the 1970s, black and Hispanic families have lived in increasingly income-segregated communities. As the graph below shows, four decades ago, income segregation among African Americans in metropolitan areas was lower than that of other racial groups. By 2009, it had risen to the highest—65% greater than that of white families:

Unequal Time Featured in NBC News, the Guardian, and Elsewhere

November 3, 2014

A new Russell Sage Foundation book, Unequal Time, has gained significant press coverage over the past few weeks, including profiles in The Nation and Slate, and op-eds by authors Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel in The Guardian and The American Prospect. In their book, Clawson and Gerstel illustrate how social inequalities permeate the workplace and exacerbate differences between men and women, the privileged and disadvantaged. They investigate the connected schedules of four health sector occupations: professional doctors and nurses, and working-class EMTs and nursing assistants. Though these workers all experience schedule uncertainty, they do so in distinct ways that vary by gender and class.

In a Q&A with NBC News, Clawson noted, “The thing about health care is that there has to be someone on duty all the time. You can’t have a nurse walk off and have the patients not covered for an hour. That’s uncontroversial, but the way that plays out is unequal by gender and class, and it’s absolutely unsustainable for the lives of low wage workers and women.”

Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos More Likely to Identify as Republicans?

James McCann, Visiting Scholar
October 3, 2014

In a blog entry earlier this month at the site of the always-engaging Washington Post Monkey Cage, Spencer Piston of Syracuse University suggested that “lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely than darker-skinned Latinos to identify as Republican.” Some days later, Karthick Ramakrishnan of UC Riverside responded that even if skin complexion and partisanship are correlated, Latinos are on the whole Democrats. As he puts it, “the Democratic Party has a sizable net advantage in party identification, even among lighter-skinned Latinos. This is a point that can be easily overlooked when we focus on the direction of the relationship between skin tone and partisanship, without paying attention to absolute levels of partisanship among Latinos.”

In this brief remark, I wish to circle back to the possible correlation between skin tone and partisan identification among Latinos. Is there in fact such a relationship? The 2012 American National Election Study offers scant evidence of this. Approximately 450 self-identified Latinos took part in the face-to-face household portion of this study. At the end of the survey, interviewers noted the skin tone of each of these respondents based on a ten-point scale (1=very fair complexion, 10=very dark complexion). The correlation between skin tone and the standard seven-point measure of party identification is -.065, which implies that Latino citizens with fairer skin lean slightly more towards the Republicans—or, as Karthick Ramakrishnan would have it, are slightly less committed to the Democrats. But this correlation does not rise to the level of statistical significance using standard benchmarks (p=.165). If sampling weights are applied to the data, which the ANES strongly recommends, then the correlation drops to -.038 (p=.585).

Does Skin Color Influence How Minorities Will Vote?

October 2, 2014

In a recent article for the Washington Post, political scientist Spencer Piston argued that lighter-skinned Latinos and Asians in the U.S. are more likely to vote Republican. Noting that party identification among these two groups has been weaker than that of whites and African Americans, Piston suggests that lighter-skinned Asian Americans and Latinos may be less likely to experience racial discrimination, and therefore less likely to automatically align themselves with the Democratic Party, which has historically been thought to better represent minorities that face discrimination. He references several graphs that indicate trends toward GOP support in lighter-skinned minorities, and states, “For example, in the 2012 election for Senate, the darkest-skinned Latinos are estimated to have a 98 percent chance of voting for the Democrat, whereas the lightest-skinned Latinos are estimated to have a 43 percent chance.”

Former RSF Visiting Scholar Karthick Ramakrishnan responded to these claims in a follow-up piece for the Post, arguing that light-skinned minorities are unlikely to grow the ranks of the Republican Party. While confirming that light-skinned Latinos have historically been more predisposed toward the GOP than their darker-skinned counterparts, Ramakrishnan says there is “no evidence of a net migration of light-skinned Latinos toward the Republican Party.” He further states, “In addition to losing on party identification, Republicans have also lost on presidential vote choice among Latinos and Asian Americans, regardless of skin tone.”

New Book Review of Fighting for Reliable Evidence

September 25, 2014

A new review of Fighting for Reliable Evidence by Judith Gueron and Howard Rolston praises the book’s groundbreaking contributions to public policy. In his assessment for the Public Administration Review, Lawrence M. Mead of New York University states, “This remarkable book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in evaluation on national social policy.”

How do we know whether social programs are doing what they’re designed to do? In Fighting for Reliable Evidence, Gueron and Rolston demonstrate the ways in which random assignment experiments can be used to evaluate complex social problems. Random assignment—or the process of sorting people at random into either a treatment group that participates in a particular program or a control group that does not, then comparing the results to determine the effects of the program on the treatment group—has long been a mainstay of medical clinical trials. Over the last several decades, the practice has gained prominence within the social sciences as a way of measuring the successes of programs ranging from microfinance and welfare reform to housing vouchers and teaching methods. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), which Gueron co-founded, was the firm that led the shift toward random assignment.

The Russell Sage Foundation in the News

September 18, 2014

On September 18, RSF president Sheldon Danziger appeared on PBS Newshour to discuss the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, noting that while poverty and unemployment rates have fallen, prosperity is no longer widely shared as the economy grows. Danziger also spoke to several publications, including the Washington Post, L.A. Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer, and pointed out that due to inflation and a 13-year period of wage stagnation, American families’ incomes have hardly increased. “Yes, it's terrific that more people are working full time,” he told the L.A. Times, “but if we had a higher minimum wage and companies would pay more, then we'd make much more progress."

Several RSF authors and scholars also appeared in the news this month to discuss the current state of the economy. In an essay for the American Prospect, Visiting Scholar Paul Osterman advocated for a federally funded jobs training program to combat unemployment. “Critics are wrong when they say that, as one solution to underemployment, job training is a failure,” Osterman wrote. “The harder truth is that these programs are not having an impact because they cannot reach scale. They are small and scattered.”

Call for Proposals: The Social, Economic and Political Effects of the Affordable Care Act

September 16, 2014

A new Russell Sage Foundation initiative on the social, economic and political effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seeks to support innovative social science research on the most significant health care reform in decades. We are especially interested in funding analyses that address important questions about the effects of the reform on outcomes such as financial security and family economic well-being, labor supply and demand, participation in other public programs, family and children’s outcomes, and differential effects by age, race/ethnicity/nativity, or disability status. We are also interested in research that examines the political effects of the implementation of the ACA, including changes in views regarding government, support for future government policy changes, or the impact on policy development in other areas. Due to resource constraints, we will not fund research on the effects of the ACA on health care delivery or health outcomes.

Letters of inquiry should be submitted through the Foundation's online submission system. For the first round, the deadline for letters of inquiry is 12:00pm (EST) on Friday, October 31st of 2014.