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RSF Review

RSF Review

New Report: The Case of Conspicuous Consumption

December 5, 2013

With each passing Thanksgiving, retailers inaugurate the holiday season with increasingly larger displays and deals. The past few years have seen the introduction of “Cyber Monday” as an extension of Black Friday, as well as longer lines and more advertisements in the lead-up to the notorious weekend of steep discounts. This year, several major retailers including Walmart and Best Buy opted not to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin their sales, and instead kicked off Black Friday on Thanksgiving afternoon.

As we head full-force into the holidays, a new report by Ricardo Perez-Truglia, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, provides some timely and valuable insight into conspicuous consumption in the U.S. A Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of Economics, Perez-Truglia argues that people use conspicuous consumption of market goods (such as clothing and jewelry) to signal their wealth and thereby increase the probability of obtaining non-market goods (such as admiration). The report abstract states:

Perez-Truglia is the first to exploit this relationship to measure the market value of those non-market goods by using a revealed-preference approach. He estimates a signaling model using nationally representative data on consumption in the U.S. He then uses this model to obtain welfare implications and perform a counterfactual analysis. His estimates suggest that for each dollar spent on clothing and cars, the average household obtains approximately 35 cents in net benefits from non-market goods.

Event: Legacies of the War on Poverty, Lessons for the Future Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 9:00-11:00 a.m

December 3, 2013

January 8, 2014, marks the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of “unconditional War on Poverty.” Yet 15 percent of Americans live in poverty today, and no presidential administration or Congress since the Johnson era has made fighting poverty a top priority.

Exactly fifty years after President Johnson’s declaration, you are invited to join us for a forum that will offer diverse perspectives on the effects of anti-poverty policies in the United States in areas such as educational attainment, employment, earnings and living standards, and health over the past five decades and in the years to come. The event, sponsored by the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Russell Sage Foundation, and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, will focus on research highlighted in a new book, Legacies of the War on Poverty (Russell Sage Foundation, September 2013). The panel will feature a discussion among the book’s editors and commentators from across the political spectrum who will address policy interventions that grew out of the War on Poverty and take a fresh look at strategies to fight poverty and promote opportunity.

The Limits of Self-Control: Roy Baumeister on the Effects of Willpower Depletion

December 3, 2013

This feature is part of a new RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

What might heighten your emotional responses to these pictures?

Try willpower depletion. In his ongoing research, Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University and a current RSF Visiting Scholar, demonstrates the ways in which human willpower operates like a muscle, including showing fatigue after exertion. When willpower is depleted, subjects exhibit a number of interesting behaviors, including amplified emotional responses to both negative and positive images.

A Broken Public? Americans’ Responses to the Great Recession

November 25, 2013

Clem Brooks and Jeff Manza have published an article—“A Broken Public? Americans’ Responses to the Great Recession”—in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review. The paper, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation’s Great Recession Initiative, examines why support for income transfer policies among the American public declined between 2008 and 2010. Here is the abstract:

Did Americans respond to the recent Great Recession by demanding that government provide policy solutions to rising income insecurity, an expectation of state-of-the-art theorizing on the dynamics of mass opinion? Or did the recession erode support for government activism, in line with alternative scholarship pointing to economic factors having the reverse effect? We find that public support for government social programs declined sharply between 2008 and 2010, yet both fixed-effects and repeated survey analyses suggest economic change had little impact on policy-attitude formation. What accounts for these surprising developments? We consider alternative microfoundations emphasizing the importance of prior beliefs and biases to the formation of policy attitudes. Analyzing the General Social Surveys panel, our results suggest political partisanship has been central. Gallup and Evaluations of Government and Society surveys provide further evidence against the potentially confounding scenario of government overreach, in which federal programs adopted during the recession and the Obama presidency propelled voters away from government. We note implications for theoretical models of opinion formation, as well as directions for partisanship scholarship and interdisciplinary research on the Great Recession.

Visiting Scholar Jane Waldfogel Elected President of APPAM

November 20, 2013

The Association of Public Policy and Analysis Management (APPAM) recently announced RSF Visiting Scholar Jane Waldfogel as its new president-elect. A professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University School of Social Work and a visiting professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, Waldfogel’s current research focuses on work-family policies, improving the measurement of poverty, and understanding social mobility across countries.  In her role on the leadership council of APPAM, she will oversee their 2014 Fall Research Conference.

Waldfogel is currently spending the 2013-2014 academic year in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation as part of a working group with Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, and Elizabeth Washbrook. The team will write a book on the transmission of inequality across generations, comparing the development of children in Australia, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. to analyze differences in school achievement among children of different socioeconomic status in these four countries. They will also examine whether achievement gaps between rich and poor children are related to differences between countries in public policies, private resources, and educational institutions.

Suzanne M. Bianchi, 1952-2013

November 18, 2013

The Russell Sage Foundation is saddened to report the passing of Suzanne M. Bianchi, a former Visiting Scholar and co-author of several RSF books. Bianchi, who held faculty positions in sociology at the University of Maryland and UCLA, rose to prominence for her groundbreaking research on the changing dynamics of late-20th-century American families, and in particular, for her demographic surveys on “time use”—or analyses of where, how, and with whom people spend their time. Her influential findings included the discovery that working mothers in the 1990s spent as much time with their children as stay-at-home mothers of the 1960s, averaging a weekly twelve hours of hands-on, close-contact time.

At the Russell Sage Foundation, Bianchi was a member of the working group Care Work in the United States and additionally served on the advisory committee of the U.S. 2010 program. A Visiting Scholar at the Foundation during the 2010-2011 academic year, she worked in collaboration with Judith Seltzer and Joseph Holtz to assess three primary pathways through which families transmit advantage or disadvantage to subsequent generations: genes and biology, economic resources and skills, and social ties and family obligations.

Bianchi was also the co-author of several books published by the Foundation, including American Women in Transition, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, and Balancing Act: Motherhood, Marriage, and Employment Among American Women.

New Paper: Residential Segregation by Income, 1970-2009

November 14, 2013

The Foundation’s U.S. 2010 project has published a new report, “Residential Segregation by Income, 1970-2009,” by Kendra Bischoff and Sean F. Reardon. The paper describes the patterns and trends in family income segregation over the last 40 years. The main findings include:

  • Family income segregation grew in every decade from 1970-2009. The proportion in poor or affluent neighborhoods increased by 4.1 percentage points in the 1970s, by 4.6 percentage points in the 1980; by 4.2 percentage points in the 1990s, and by 5.1 percentage points from 2000-2009. The rate of growth in segregation in the 2000s was faster than in any of the three prior decades.
  • Segregation by income among black families was lower than among white families in 1970, but grew four times as much between 1970 and 2009. By 2009, income segregation among black families was 65 percent greater than among white families.
  • During the last four decades, the isolation of the rich has been consistently greater than the isolation of the poor. Although much of the scholarly and policy discussion about the effect of segregation and neighborhood conditions focuses on the isolation of poor families in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage, it is perhaps equally important to consider the implications of the substantial, and growing, isolation of high-income families.

Money Talks: Kathleen Vohs on the Self-Sufficiency Theory of Money

November 8, 2013

This feature is part of a new RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which will highlight some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

In this first installment, we focus on the work of Visiting Scholar Kathleen Vohs, Professor of Marketing and Land 'O Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing at the University of Minnesota. In collaboration with Professor Roy Baumeister, Vohs will spend the 2013-2014 academic year in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation investigating the self-sufficiency theory of money, or the idea that money is a source of independence for people that has both negative and positive effects on their behavior. How do people behave after they’ve been exposed to money?

RSF President Sheldon Danziger on the Release of the Supplemental Poverty Measure

Sheldon Danziger, Russell Sage Foundation
November 6, 2013

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) released by the U.S. Census Bureau today (November 6, 2013) shows that the poverty rate for all persons was 16.0 percent in 2012, virtually the same as in 2011, 16.1 percent. A key finding in today’s Census release is that millions of people would have been poor in 2012 in the absence of our safety net programs. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) raised about 5 million people above the poverty line; the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other refundable tax credits raised more than 9 million people above the poverty line.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is important because, unlike the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) which counts only money income (e.g., wages and cash transfers from the government), the SPM also includes non-cash government benefits such as SNAP, the school lunch program, housing subsidies and the EITC. These noncash benefits have grown more rapidly than cash benefits in recent decades.

RSF Author Greg J. Duncan Wins Jacobs Research Prize

October 31, 2013

The Russell Sage Foundation congratulates Greg J. Duncan, Distinguished Professor at the UC Irvine School of Education, who recently won the 2013 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for his extensive and influential research on the long-term effects of poverty on child development. For over 25 years, Duncan and his colleagues followed a sample of American families and their children to measure the correlations between poverty in early life and life circumstances as adults. The resulting data showed that children from poor families are less likely to finish school and go on to work, and that they earn less than their peers from higher income families. Duncan and his colleagues additionally found that childhood poverty during the first five years of children’s lives has a greater impact on their later lives.
A former RSF Visiting Scholar (2004-2005), Duncan is also the co-author or co-editor of several RSF books exploring the impact of poverty on children, including Consequences of Growing Up Poor, Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and their Children, Neighborhood Poverty Volume One and Volume Two, and For Better and For Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families. With Richard J. Murnane, Duncan most recently co-edited Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances, which examines the corrosive effects of unequal family resources, disadvantaged neighborhoods, insecure labor markets, and worsening school conditions on children’s K-12 education.