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RSF Trustee Sara McLanahan and Author Andrew Cherlin to Speak on Family Policy and Child Well-Being

February 4, 2016

Update 2/17/16: Video of the event is available in full from CSPAN.

On Friday, February 12, Sara McLanahan (Princeton University), chair of the RSF board of trustees, and Andrew Cherlin (Johns Hopkins University), co-author of the RSF book The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood, will participate in a panel discussion hosted by the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the changing nature of American working class families.

The panel will explore how changes to family structures and marriage dynamics at a time of rising inequality and stunted social mobility have led to the decline of low-income children’s well-being. They will also evaluate the extent to which current policies have promoted healthy outcomes for children. Other panelists include Ron Haskins (Brookings Institution), Robert Putnam (Harvard University), and Michael Gerson (The Washington Post).

The event will take place at 10:30am EST on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and is free and open to the public.

Diversity is in the Eye of the Beholder

February 3, 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.

With factors such as increased immigration and interracial unions propelling racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S., many have predicted that the nation will become “majority minority” in a few decades’ time. Yet, some researchers, such as former Visiting Scholar Richard Alba (CUNY Graduate Center), have argued that the U.S. is likely to remain majority-white as racial boundaries shift and more groups are incorporated into the mainstream. In other words, our idea of diversity today is contingent upon our society’s perception of who “counts” as white.

Perceptions of diversity also deeply inform how we view our environments at the individual level. Visiting Scholar Cara Wong (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is currently studying individuals’ ideas about the racial and ethnic diversity of their neighborhoods. Using a new map‐drawing measure of people’s “local communities” and multiple survey datasets, Wong and her colleagues are exploring how individuals’ perceptions of the racial makeup of their locales affect their intergroup attitudes.

In an interview with the Foundation, Wong explained how the social sciences have traditionally examined people’s neighborhoods, and discussed how further investigation of people’s perceptions of race and diversity can help provide new frameworks for more effective housing policies.

Q. Your current research examines the gap between people's "objective" neighborhood contexts and their perceptions of those contexts, focusing in particular on race and ethnicity. What kinds of problems do social scientists face when they attempt to analyze people's environments, and how does studying perceptions add a new dimension to research on racial inequality?

Danziger, Mincy, and Mead Join Panel on Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security

January 29, 2016

On Thursday, February 4, RSF president Sheldon Danziger, Visiting Scholar Ron Mincy (Columbia University), and RSF grantee Lawrence Mead (New York University) will join a number of other experts on a panel discussion hosted by the Ford Foundation and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. The panel will discuss findings from a report, “Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security,” which was released by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute in December 2015.

The report outlines a comprehensive, non-partisan plan for addressing poverty and economic mobility and was authored by an interdisciplinary working group of researchers, including Danziger, Mincy, Mead, and a number of other RSF scholars and grantees. The report can be downloaded in full from both the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

The February 4 panel discussion will take place at the Ford Foundation from 9am-12pm EST and is free to the public. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity will livestream the event from their site.

RSF Authors and Grantees Discuss 2016 Presidential Election

January 28, 2016

With the Iowa caucuses only a few days away, the candidates for both the Democratic and Republican 2016 presidential nominations have found themselves in the midst of tight races. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have sparred over issues such as health care, gun control, and affordable college education, while GOP contenders including Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants and combat terrorism.

A number of RSF authors and grantees recently spoke to the press about these leading election issues. In an interview with the International Business Times, Arne Kalleberg, author of the RSF book Good Jobs, Bad Jobs and an incoming Visiting Scholar, commented on the Democratic candidates’ promises to raise wages and create jobs for the middle class. He noted that although 2015 saw modest job growth, wages have remained stagnant. “There’s been a growing divide,” said Kalleberg, “in the quality of jobs that people have. People are falling way behind.”

In interviews with the New York Times, RSF trustee Richard Thaler and RSF grantees Nicholas Bloom and David Autor discussed the persistence of economic inequality, which has emerged as the central focus of Sanders’s campaign. In one study, Bloom and his colleagues analyzed 35 years of Social Security data and found that most of the economic gains over the last few decades have been going to those at the very top of the income distribution. Even now, Thaler added, “It’s pretty much indisputable that the percentage of income being earned by the top 1 percent, or the top quarter of 1 percent, is going up.” Research by RSF grantees Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page—cited in a recent column by Nicholas Kristof—has further shown that the wealthy hold disproportionate influence over public policy, in part because politicians seeking office rely so heavily on fundraising.

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.