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RSF Review

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.

How Different “Spheres of Influence” Drive Inequality in the U.S. Today

September 12, 2014

In the wake of the police shooting and charged protests that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri in August, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar argued in TIME that despite the persistence of racial inequality in the U.S., class is quickly becoming the most significant measure of disadvantage. “This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.

Is class in fact replacing race as the great divider in the U.S.? A new book from the Russell Sage Foundation by Douglas S. Massey and Stefanie Brodmann, Spheres of Influence: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality, investigates this claim. The authors trace how the civil rights movement, the increase in immigration from Asia and Latin America, and the restructuring of the economy in favor of the rich over the last several decades have begun to alter the contours of inequality in the U.S. They show that rather than operating in isolation, race and class are increasingly interacting in complex ways in order to produce and reproduce disadvantage for certain groups.

How Will Universal Pre-K Affect Social and Economic Inequality?

September 10, 2014

Monday, September 8 marked the start of an expanded pre-K program implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City. The program, which provides free full-day classes to thousands of four year olds at the city’s public schools, is part of a growing movement in the U.S. toward universal preschool as a means of combating economic and social inequality. In addition to de Blasio, advocates of expanded pre-K access include President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who recently called high-quality preschool “a sure path to the middle class.”

While studies have shown that high-quality preschool indeed has positive effects on low-income children in terms of later educational attainment, some scholars and journalists have voiced reservations about the ability of pre-K programs to diminish inequality. Journalist Sarah Jaffe has noted that with de Blasio’s program in particular, lack of adequate funding for the program may inadvertently create a “patchwork” system that perpetuates other economic inequalities, like low salaries for the preschool teachers, who are overwhelmingly women.

Karl Alexander, co-author of the RSF publication The Long Shadow, further points out in a new op-ed for Quartz, “The reality is that there is no guarantee low-income children will succeed academically simply because they have a good preschool experience.” He continues, “To fully reap the benefits of early childhood education, these students need continued support outside the classroom through strong summer programs and after-school care.”

Peter Orszag Appointed to RSF Board of Trustees

September 4, 2014

The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Peter R. Orszag to its board of trustees. Orszag, who will officially join the board in November, is currently Vice Chairman of Corporate and Investment Banking, Chairman of the Public Sector Group, and Chairman of the Financial Strategy and Solutions Group at Citigroup.

Orszag received an A.B. in Economics (summa cum laude) from Princeton University in 1991, and his M.Sc. in 1992 and Ph.D. in 1997, both in Economics from the London School of Economics, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In addition to his work at Citigroup, he is a contributing columnist at Bloomberg View, and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama (2009-2010) and has also served as Director of the Congressional Budget Office (2007-2008). During the Clinton administration, Orszag was Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and then Senior Economist and Senior Advisor on the Council of Economic Advisers. As a Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, Orszag was the Founding Director of The Hamilton Project, guiding its launch in 2006.

Announcing RSF Visiting Scholars for 2014-2015

September 2, 2014

The Russell Sage Foundation welcomes seventeen leading social scientists as Visiting Scholars for the 2014-2015 academic year. During their time in residence, these scholars will pursue research and writing projects that reflect the Foundation’s commitment to strengthening the social sciences and applying research more effectively to important social problems.

Several of the forthcoming scholars will pursue research in socioeconomic and racial inequality. Mona Lynch of UC Irvine will explore how racial imbalances in drug sentencing persist despite changes in federal laws aimed at reducing uneven sentencing. Judd Kessler of the University of Pennsylvania (working with Andrew Schotter) will examine the different decision-making processes between the rich and the poor. Ann Morning of New York University (working with Marcello Maneri) will compare Americans’ and Italians’ differing conceptions of racial and ethnic identity. Sean Reardon of Stanford University will analyze academic achievement gaps in the U.S. by race and class. Aliya Saperstein of Stanford University will explore the fluidity of racial perception by tracing the ways in which concepts of race change both within and across generations. Arden Morris will complete a series of articles on the racial and socioeconomic barriers to cancer care in the U.S.