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How Norms of Affluence on College Campuses Affect Inequality

January 20, 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.

In a time of rising college tuitions and soaring student loan debt, higher education has become increasingly inaccessible to all but the affluent. Though a number of policymakers—including several of the 2016 presidential candidates—have sought to make post-secondary education more affordable for the middle class, new research shows that college campuses themselves may play a role in exacerbating inequality.

At the Foundation, Visiting Scholar Tali Mendelberg (Princeton University) is conducting an in-depth analysis of the consequences of affluence on U.S. college campuses, looking at how concentrations of high-income students at universities may reinforce economic inequality. She is exploring whether the presence of many affluent students creates social norms on campuses that prioritize the wealthy and marginalize low-income students, thereby leading to lower rates of leadership and future political participation among low-income young adults.

In an interview with the Foundation, Mendelberg explained how these norms are established, how they exacerbate inequality, and what kinds of policies might ameliorate them. A paper on this topic will be published later this year (a working paper can be found here).

Q. Recent studies of social inequality, including work by RSF author Martin Gilens, have shown that affluent Americans (those in the top 10% of the income distribution) hold significant influence over public policy and tend to oppose policies that reduce inequality. Your current work expands this body of research to look at the role of college campuses in shaping the economic preferences of the affluent. Although colleges have long been thought to "liberalize" students' beliefs, you've found that they can also conservatize. How has this worked in terms of students' economic beliefs? What kinds of norms around money and affluence are established on college campuses?

Announcing the RSF Visiting Scholar Class of 2016-2017

January 14, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of nineteen leading social scientists as Visiting Scholars for the 2016-2017 academic year. During their time in residence, they will pursue research and writing projects that reflect the Foundation's commitment to strengthening the social sciences and conducting research "for the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States."

Several incoming scholars will undertake research on immigration, including an investigation of how low-income Latino parents navigate the family court system, an analysis of how race and gender affect immigrant incorporation in the U.S. today, and a working group that will examine how the Great Recession has affected the second-generation immigrants’ transitions to adulthood. Other scholars will work on projects related to socioeconomic inequality, including a historical study of the relationship between the rise of corporate power and economic inequality, and an investigation of how social relations and personal networks influence the health outcomes of disadvantaged groups. Others in the incoming class will investigate the changing nature of work and the labor force, including a study of precarious scheduling practices in retail firms, and an analysis of how education and skills development influence midlife labor force participation among racially diverse workers.

To read more about the individual scholars’ research topics, click the links below or visit the Incoming Scholars page on our website.

  • Toni C. Antonucci, Elizabeth M. Douvan Collegiate Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Saurabh Bhargava, Assistant Professor of Economics, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Mesmin Destin, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education, Northwestern University
  • Katharine Donato, Professor of Sociology, Vanderbilt University
  • Greg J. Duncan, Distinguished Professor at the School of Education, University of California, Irvine
  • Cynthia Feliciano, Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies, University of California, Irvine
  • Paola Giuliano, Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Hilary W. Hoynes, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, University of California, Berkeley
  • James S. Jackson, Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Chinhui Juhn, Henry Graham Professor of Economics, University of Houston
  • Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Vikki S. Katz, Associate Professor of Communication, Rutgers University
  • Susan J. Lambert, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
  • Helen Levy, Research Associate Professor at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • Mark Lilla, Professor of Humanities, Columbia University
  • Chandra Muller, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin
  • Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Stanford University
  • Rubén G. Rumbaut, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine
  • Jay J. Van Bavel, Associate Professor of Psychology, New York University

Announcing the Twelfth Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics

January 13, 2016

The Russell Sage Foundation’s Behavioral Economics Roundtable will sponsor the twelfth Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics, to be held in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire from June 27 to July 9, 2016. The purpose of this workshop is to introduce graduate students and beginning faculty in economics and related disciplines to the findings and methods of behavioral economics—the application of psychological theory and research to economics. The program will include topics on psychological foundations such as decision-making under risk and uncertainty, intertemporal choice, biases in judgment, mental accounting, and social preferences, as well as the implications of these foundations for savings behavior, labor markets, development economics, finance, public policy, and other economic topics.

Faculty who have completed their Ph.D. program since April 2015 or Ph.D. students who will have completed at least one year of their graduate program by July 2016 are eligible to apply. Complete applications, including letters of recommendation, must be received by Friday, March 11, 2016.

New Recession Briefs Investigate Great Recession’s Effects on Parents’ Health, Assets of Families with Children, and More

January 5, 2016

In 2014 the Russell Sage Foundation completed a major initiative to assess the effects of the Great Recession on the economic, political, and social life of the country. Officially over in 2009, the Great Recession is now generally acknowledged to be the most devastating global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Prolonged economic stagnation is likely to transform American institutions and severely erode the life chances of many Americans. To understand these effects across a broad swath of social and economic life, the Foundation identified 15 areas of inquiry—such as retirement, education, income and wealth—and funded proposals for innovative projects from a distinguished team of scholars.

Four new Recession Briefs summarizing research from the Great Recession initiative now are available for download. These reports include investigations of the impact of the recession on the health of families with children, research on changes to the criminal justice system as a result of the recession, and an analysis of the recession’s impact on car and home ownership, particularly for minority families.

Call for Papers: Early-Career Behavioral Economists

December 21, 2015

The newly founded Behavior and Inequality Research Institute has announced that the second Early-Career Behavioral Economics Conference will take place in Bonn, Germany on June 24-25, 2016. The first Early-Career Behavioral Economics Conference was held in July 2015 and was sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation.

The goal of the conference is to allow researchers at the early stages of their career to present their work and receive feedback from peers and junior faculty members, who will serve as discussants. It will also help develop a strong community of junior behavioral economists. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and assistant professors who received their Ph.D. after Spring 2011 are all eligible to apply.

Click here to visit the Early-Career Behavioral Economist Conference home page for more information on the conference and on how to submit papers.

New RSF Journal Issue: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at Fifty and Beyond

December 17, 2015

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, a key component of President Johnson's War on Poverty, was designed to aid low-income students and to combat racial segregation in schools. The newest iteration of ESEA, now titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was just reauthorized on December 10, 2015, with bipartisan support. The ESEA has long served as the federal government's main source of leverage on states and school districts to enact its preferred reforms, including controversial measures such as standardized testing.

In a new open-access issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, an esteemed group of education scholars examine the historical evolution of the ESEA, its successes and pitfalls, and what they portend for the future of education policies. Edited by David A. Gamson (Pennsylvania State University), Kathryn A. McDermott (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), and Douglas S. Reed (Georgetown University), the nine articles include an investigation of how the ESEA helped accelerate desegregation in the South in the 1960s; a study of the ESEA's effects on high school graduation rates for low-income students; and several explorations of how renewals of the ESEA—including the No Child Left Behind Act—have reshaped public education, sometimes to the detriment of English-language learners and disadvantaged students. This issue serves as an excellent foundation for developing a better understanding of the new ESSA of 2015.

Fall 2015 Awards Approved in Russell Sage Foundation’s Core Programs

December 14, 2015

Several new research projects in three of the Russell Sage Foundation’s core programs were funded at the Foundation’s November meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Future of Work:

Fast Food Franchises and Low-Wage Work
Rosemary Batt and Wilma B. Liebman (Cornell University)

Batt, Liebman, and a group of multi-disciplinary collaborators will extend a previous study on fast food franchises to investigate how the franchising business model affects job quality, pay, and labor law compliance, and how franchises are currently shaping low-wage work.

Visiting Scholar Prudence Carter Appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley

December 10, 2015

RSF Visiting Scholar Prudence Carter has been appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Her new position will begin on June 30, 2016.

Carter is currently the Jacks Family Professor of Education and Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, where she teaches a range of courses on racial and ethnic relations, social and cultural inequality, the sociology of education, urban schooling, and research methods. She is also the Faculty Director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities and a former co-director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity in Policy in Education. Carter is the author of Keepin’ It Real: School Success beyond Black and White (2005) and Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools (2012), and co-editor of Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance (2013).

The Historical Roots of New York City’s Growing Tech Economy

December 4, 2015

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.

It may be Silicon Valley that has become synonymous with technological innovation, but over the last decade, some of the most high-profile and successful tech companies—including Tumblr, Venmo, Birchbox, and Etsy—have made their home across the country, in New York City. Now the second largest in the U.S., Manhattan’s tech economy flourished unexpectedly in the wake of the Great Recession, at a time when many Silicon Valley firms were struggling. What factors account for the surprising growth of a tech industry in a city better known as a center of finance, media, and real estate?

During his time in residence, Visiting Scholar Victor Nee (Cornell University) is analyzing data from a three-year research project on the emergence of the new tech industry in lower Manhattan following the Great Recession. Among other factors, he is investigating how the high level of immigrant involvement in this industry has shaped its rapid expansion, as well as the ways in which political and economic institutions aided the growth of the Manhattan tech economy.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Nee discussed the historical precedents of New York’s tech boom and how norms of cooperation among tech workers and entrepreneurs helped jumpstart a new tech economy.

Q. Your current research explores the growth of a new tech economy in lower Manhattan, which you have identified as a bottom-up phenomenon that now makes up the second largest tech economy in the U.S. What factors gave rise to the relatively rapid emergence of these startups? Why was New York an ideal spot for tech firms to prosper, especially in the wake of the recession?

New Report from Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity

December 3, 2015

Fourteen months ago, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institution convened a working group of experts from across the political spectrum in order to craft a comprehensive plan for addressing poverty and economic mobility in the U.S. today. Now, after over a year of work, the group has succeeded in creating a non-partisan policy report drawn from the best ideas proposed by an interdisciplinary group of researchers. The report, which addresses the domains of family, work, and education simultaneously, is based on common values supported by nearly all Americans: opportunity, responsibility, and security.

Members of the joint Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity include RSF president Sheldon Danziger, and a number of RSF authors, scholars, and grantees, including Lawrence Aber (New York University), David Ellwood (Harvard University), Judith Gueron (MDRC), Ron Haskins (Brookings Institution), Harry Holzer (Georgetown University), Lawrence Mead (New York University), Ronald Mincy (Columbia University), and Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University).