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New Report: Doing More for Our Children

March 17, 2016

The Century Foundation has released a new report, “Doing More for Our Children,” by a Columbia University research team that includes RSF scholars and grantees Irwin Garfinkel, Jane Waldfogel, and Christopher Wimer, with David Harris.

In their study, the authors explored policy measures for fighting child poverty in the United States, which they called “stubbornly high, with more than 12 million American children—16.5 percent of all children—currently living in poverty.” They modeled five child allowance policies and five Childhood Tax Credit (CTC) policies to examine their impact on the child poverty rate, number of children in poverty, cost and marginal cost (based on the current CTC). The authors found that a universal child allowance of $4,000 a year would cut child poverty in the U.S. in half, while a more modest $2,500 universal child allowance would more than triple the anti-poverty effect of the current Child Tax Credit (CTC).

“Policymakers could substantially reduce the child poverty rate, if they were willing to commit to a universal child allowance,” the authors said. “An expanded CTC with a more generous phase in rate would also meaningfully reduce poverty among children and families.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Providing a child allowance of $2,500 to all children under age 6 (leaving intact the CTC for children age 6 and above) would lift 3.2 million children out of poverty.
  • Investing in a universal child allowance that provides $2,500 per child for all families with children (age 0–17) would lift 5.5 million children out of poverty—more than triple the antipoverty effect of the current CTC.
  • A universal child allowance of $4,000 per child (age 0–17) would cut child poverty in half and lift 8.1 million children out of poverty.
  • While the current CTC plays an important antipoverty role, it does little to assist children living in deep poverty (because it is linked to work), but a $4,000 child allowance would reduce the deep poverty rate by almost two-thirds.
  • A dollar invested in a universal child allowance would do more to reduce child poverty than a dollar spent on an expanded child tax credit.

Supreme Court Amicus Brief Cites RSF-Funded Books and Research

March 14, 2016

In late 2014, President Obama announced two new executive actions concerning undocumented immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). While immigrant rights advocates have argued that both programs—which create paths for qualifying noncitizens to avoid deportation and receive work permits—could deliver much-needed relief to vulnerable segments of the population, legal opposition from Texas and twenty-five other states has suspended their implementation. The fates of DACA and DAPA now rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear the case, United States v. Texas, in April 2016.

In preparation for the court case, First Focus, a bipartisan child and family advocacy organization, and a number of other education and children’s advocacy groups have filed a new amicus brief on how the implementation of the DACA and DAPA programs will “help promote the healthy development of the over five million children living in mixed-status families in the United States.” The brief cites a range of RSF-funded research on immigration, the labor market, and inequality, including trustee Hiro Yoshikawa’s RSF book Immigrants Raising Citizens—which provides an in-depth look at the challenges undocumented immigrants face as they raise children in the U.S.—and former Visiting Scholar Sean Reardon’s chapter from the RSF book Whither Opportunity, which shows that parents’ socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of children’s academic achievement. As the brief points out, issuing work authorization to undocumented parents can be expected to raise their wages by 6-10 percent.

New Report Shines Light on Immigrants in Legal Limbo

March 11, 2016

A new report summarizes the findings of immigration research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and conducted by a team of scholars at the University of California, Irvine over the course of eighteen months.

Between January 2014 and September 2015, Susan Coutin and colleagues investigated the uncertainties surrounding two immigration-related “Executive Relief” programs, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). While DACA and DAPA would have allowed qualifying noncitizens to avoid deportation and receive federal work authorization starting in 2015, legal challenges prevented them from taking effect, leaving eligible undocumented immigrants in legal limbo.

Drawing from 16 in-depth interviews with staff of 10 different immigrant serving organizations and 47 interviews with noncitizens in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, the authors captured the on-the-ground challenges facing noncitizens and community based organizations as the scope and availability of DACA and DAPA were debated. Their report explores the hardships and barriers to incorporation imposed by ambiguous legal status, the challenges faced by organizations mediating between their constituents and the state in periods of legal uncertainty, and the ways that uncertainty has reshaped the social, political and legal environment in which immigrant-serving organizations and their constituents interact.

How Tax Cuts Became Central to the Republican Party

March 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.

While the race for the Republican presidential nomination has intensified between leading candidates Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio over the last few weeks, all three candidates have at least one thing in common: a plan to cut taxes. For decades, Republican policymakers across the nation have championed tax cuts for individuals and businesses alike as a means of invigorating a sluggish economy. But at what point did this ideology become central to the GOP’s platform?

Visiting Scholar Monica Prasad (Northwestern University) is working on a book that explores the origins of the tax-cut movement, looking at how the decline of progressive taxation in the U.S. contributed to the revitalization of the Republican Party in the aftermath of Watergate. She is researching how the decline of progressive taxation and an unwillingness on the part of the political system to tolerate high tax rates on the wealthy has contributed to rising inequality. Using recently released archival sources, she will focus on the importance of tax cuts to the conservative resurgence, an issue that has been understudied in previous literature.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Prasad explained the historical factors that led to the Republican Party’s modern-day embrace of tax cuts.

Q. Your current research examines the historical factors that led to the Republican Party making tax cuts a central part of their economic platform in the 1980s, a position that continues to this day. How did Republicans tend to address taxes prior to this point? Were business elites influential in pushing tax cuts to the fore of the GOP agenda?

RSF Trustee Bo Cutter Co-Authors New E-Book, The Good Economy

March 4, 2016

The Roosevelt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation have jointly released a new e-book, The Good Economy, co-authored by Russell Sage Foundation trustee and Roosevelt Senior Fellow Bo Cutter, Kauffman Vice President Dane Stangler, and Council on Foreign Relations Adjunct Senior Fellow Robert Litan. The book explores different economic scenarios facing the United States and describes a future in which innovation could produce the strongest economic boom since the 1950s while also promoting broader opportunity and equity.

The Good Economy envisions an economic resurgence beginning in 2020 driven by factors such as the continued growth of freelancing platforms like Uber and Etsy coupled with the development of new advances like nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. The authors further forecast the rise of a new political dynamic as the federal government breaks free from political paralysis and cities and states serve as hubs of experimentation. However, they also caution that without a comprehensive overhaul of business, labor rights, government spending and other issues, such shifts would entail more risk and instability for workers.

“By 2040, our definitions of ‘work’ and ‘job’ may be very different,” said Cutter. “Changes in the economy could force average workers to become entrepreneurs, making use of new technologies and services to acquire skills and opportunities while taking on more responsibility for their own health care and retirement.” But, he added, “if they can manage the transition, they will be able to find more work even as more jobs become automated.”

RSF Authors Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou to Speak at Yale on The Asian American Achievement Paradox

March 1, 2016

On Thursday, March 3, Jennifer Lee (University of California, Irvine) and Min Zhou (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and University of California, Los Angeles), authors of the 2015 RSF book The Asian American Achievement Paradox, will give a talk at Yale University on the research from their book.

In The Asian American Achievement Paradox, Lee and Zhou offer a compelling account of the academic achievement of the children of Asian immigrants—which pundits have long attributed to unique cultural values. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the adult children of Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese refugees and survey data, Lee and Zhou bridge sociology and social psychology to correct this myth and explain how immigration laws, institutions, and culture interact to foster high achievement among certain Asian American groups.

The authors’ upcoming talk is sponsored by the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University and will begin at 4pm on Thursday, March 3.

New Report: Growing Inequality Affects How Americans View Themselves and Others

February 26, 2016

The latest issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science contains an article by former Visiting Scholar Michael Hout (University of California, Berkeley), based on research partly funded by the Russell Sage Foundation. During his time at the Foundation, Hout studied trends in social mobility in the U.S. since the 1970s, looking in particular at the decline in upward social mobility and the rise of downward social mobility.

In his new report for the Annals, Hout examines the effects of the Great Recession, and of growing income inequality in general, on the psychological well-being of Americans. The abstract states:

Dozens of past studies document how affluent people feel somewhat better about life than middle-class people feel and much better than poor people do. New analyses of the General Social Surveys from 1974 to 2012 address questions in the literature regarding aggregate responses to hard times, whether the income-class relationship is linear or not, and whether inequality affects happiness. General happiness dropped significantly during the Great Recession, suggesting that the income-happiness relationship might also exist at the macro level. People with extremely low incomes are not as unhappy as a linear model expects, but there is no evidence of a threshold beyond which personal happiness stops increasing. Comparing happiness over the long term, the affluent were about as happy in 2012 as they were in the 1970s, but the poor were much less happy. Consequently, the gross happiness gap by income was about 30 percent bigger in 2012 than it was in the 1970s. A multivariate model shows that the net effect of income on happiness also increased significantly over time.

Spring 2016 Presidential Awards

February 23, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in three program areas—Future of Work; Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; and Social Inequality—as well as a conference for an upcoming issue of the RSF journal. The Foundation is also co-funding two new projects on the Affordable Care Act with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

RSF Journal Conference:

The Underground Gun Market
Philip J. Cook (Duke University) and Harold A. Pollack (University of Chicago)

For an upcoming issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, economist Philip J. Cook and public policy expert Harold A. Pollack will organize a symposium featuring nine invited articles based on the findings of the Multi-City Gun Project, a multi-disciplinary group of experts studying the sources of guns to criminal offenders.

Martha Minow Joins RSF Board of Trustees

February 19, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Martha Minow to its board of trustees. Minow is the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she has taught since 1981, and a lecturer in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is co-editor of the RSF books Just Schools (2010), Engaging Cultural Differences (2004), and a contributor to Fathers Under Fire (2001).

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, Minow received a master’s degree in education from Harvard and a law degree from Yale. She clerked for Judge David Bazelon of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Minow is an expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities. She served on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and helped to launch Imagine Co-existence, a program of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to promote peaceful development in post-conflict societies. Her five-year partnership with the federal Department of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology worked to increase access to the curriculum for students with disabilities and resulted in both legislative initiatives and a voluntary national standard opening access to curricular materials for individuals with disabilities. She has also worked on the Divided Cities initiative which is building an alliance of global cities dealing with ethnic, religious, or political divisions.

New Spring 2016 Books from RSF

February 8, 2016

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2016. The list includes A Pound of Flesh, a new investigation of how monetary sanctions disproportionately punish the poor and perpetuate racial and economic inequality; Coming of Age in the Other America, a study of how neighborhoods and public policies affect the social mobility of low-income Baltimore youth; From High School to College, an analysis of how disparities across race, gender, and immigration status influence students’ paths to college completion; and Engines of Anxiety, an in-depth look at how law school rankings are reshaping legal education.

Three new issues of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences will also be released this spring, and include “Higher Education Effectiveness,” which investigates the extent to which colleges and universities today are accessible, cost-effective, and able to prepare students for the labor market; “Inequality of Economic Opportunity”, which examines the barriers to social mobility that exist in the U.S.; and “Immigrants Inside Politics/Outside Culture,” which draws from a recent survey of the Latino population to analyze the political activity of both native-born and immigrant Latinos, including the undocumented.

To request a printed copy of our Spring 2016 catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or view the complete list of RSF books on our publications page.