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RSF Announces Spring 2016 Visiting Researchers

November 16, 2015

The Foundation has selected two Visiting Researchers who will be in residence in Spring 2016. Ajay Chaudry (New York University) will work on a book that analyzes policy frameworks to provide early childhood services to children and families. He will also extend the research from his 2004 RSF book Putting Children First and explore the challenges faced by low-income single mothers when their children were growing up. Daniel S. Nagin (Carnegie Mellon University) will research how the experience of imprisonment affects rates of recidivism among offenders, using new methods to analyze merged data from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania State Police.

David Laibson Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 9, 2015

The Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of economist David Laibson to the Board of Trustees. Laibson is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University. He leads Harvard Universityʼs Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative and is the co-organizer of RSF’s Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics. His research focuses on behavioral economics, with emphasis on household finance, macroeconomics, aging, and intertemporal choice.

In addition to serving as a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, Laibson also serves on the boards of Harvardʼs Pension Investment Committee, the Social Science Genetics Association Consortium, and the Academic Research Council of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he co-directs the National Institute of Aging Roybal Center for Behavior Change in Health and Savings, and is a Research Associate in the Aging, Asset Pricing, and Economic Fluctuations Working Groups.

RSF Trustee Nicholas Lemann Joins Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

November 5, 2015

RSF trustee Nicholas Lemann (Columbia University) has been named a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ new Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education. The commission, whose members include national leaders in education, business, and government, will examine the current state of undergraduate education and project what the nation’s education needs will be by 2035. In support of this three-year initiative, the Academy has received $2.2 million in funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The commission will look at every type of postsecondary institution, including, for example, early college high schools, for-profit institutions, four-year universities, and community colleges. It will offer recommendations for addressing rising costs and for ways of financing postsecondary education that promote wide and equitable access for Americans of every socioeconomic background. Across all its efforts, the commission will pursue a greater understanding of the preparation that Americans will need to lead productive and fulfilling lives that contribute to the health of our country, its economy, culture, and democratic community.

RSF Author Carla Shedd and New RSF Book Unequal City in the News

November 2, 2015

Recently, Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina made headlines when video of a police officer pulling a black teenage student from her desk and throwing her to the ground went viral. The events sparked a national outcry over the use of police force in schools, and prompted the Department of Justice to begin an investigation into the incident.

While the Richland County police department has since fired the officer involved, the future of police presence in public schools remains unclear. RSF author and sociologist Carla Shedd—whose new book Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice explores in detail how marginalized youth navigate their interactions with law enforcement in and around their schools—spoke with several news outlets about the Spring Valley High incident. According to Shedd, schools play a crucial role in either reinforcing or ameliorating the social inequalities experienced by adolescents in city environments. As she told the Wall Street Journal, in many educational settings, black students are treated differently from white students when they act like teenagers. She added, in an interview with the Washington Post, “I talk about what the consequences are when young people are not given that developmental space to mess up, to act out or make mistakes like regular teenagers.”

Visiting Scholar Darity Co-Authors New Article on Reviving Historically Black Colleges and Universities

October 26, 2015

In a new article for the American Prospect, RSF Visiting Scholar William Darity and co-authors Darrick Hamilton, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Alan Aja, and Carolyn Ash examine the challenges faced by historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. today.

HBCUs have long played a crucial role in nurturing black scholars, writers, and politicians, with alumni that include Thurgood Marshall, Jesse Jackson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, today the existence of these schools is threatened by dwindling funds. Several HBCUs have reached out to alumni for increased donations, but Darity and his colleagues believe that alumni donations alone are unlikely to lift these institutions out of crisis. They write, “Do blacks generally have the financial capacity to save HBCUs with their own donations to their respective alma maters? Given the historical, cumulative, and persistent black-white wealth gap in the U.S., this is not only unlikely, but a distraction.”

Darity’s research at RSF focuses on the persistent racial wealth gap in the U.S. As he and his colleagues note in the American Prospect, the vast majority of black wealth is held in home equity, which cannot be tapped for alumni donations. Furthermore, the typical black family holds about $7,113 in net worth whereas the median net worth of white families is over $100,000. Instead, the authors recommend reviving HBCUs through a series of broader public policies that would not only fund education, but also help to build black wealth and income. Such initiatives could include a federal jobs-guarantee program, “baby bonds” that ensure trust funds to children born to families whose net wealth falls below the median, and the expansion of Pell Grants for nonprofit institutions.

RSF President Sheldon Danziger Delivers 2015 Bicknell Lecture on Economic Inequality

October 23, 2015

On October 21, RSF president Sheldon Danziger delivered the 2015 Bicknell Lecture, titled “Poverty, Public Policy and Public Health,” at the Boston University School of Public Health. Danziger, who is co-editor of the 2013 RSF book Legacies of the War on Poverty, has argued that since the early 1970s, economic gains in the U.S. have primarily benefited the elite, while wages for the average worker have remained stagnant.

“The conventional wisdom is that a rising economic tide lifts all boats. But it no longer works that way,” Danziger said in a new interview with BU Today. “The last 40 years have been a period of very slow wage growth and rising inequality.”

These growing disparities in income have led to disparities in health—which, in turn, exacerbate cycles of inequality. As Danziger noted, “Health disparities are tied to poverty rates. Those at the bottom have lower life expectancies, higher unemployment. And the causation goes both ways—people in poor health are less likely to work.”

Danziger’s Bicknell Lecture, which explored the connections between inequality and public health, was followed by a panel discussion with Charles E. Carter (Harvard), Molly Baldwin (Roca Inc.), and Perri Klass (NYU).

RSF President Sheldon Danziger on the Consequences of Global Inequality

October 19, 2015

RSF president Sheldon Danziger recently participated in a panel discussion titled “Consequences of Global Inequality” with Leila Janah (The Sama Group), Edmund Phelps (Columbia University), and Emira Woods (Thought Works) as part of the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit. Moderated by journalist Eduardo Porter of the New York Times, the panelists discussed the causes and consequences of the decades-long rise of economic inequality among industrialized nations, and in particular, the United States.

Danziger attributed the growing national interest in the topic of income inequality in the U.S. to economic shifts that occurred after the 1960s. Unlike the economic boom following World War II, which allowed many Americans to prosper, the country’s economic gains since the early 1970s have largely failed to reach the poor and the middle class. For several decades, wage increases for most workers have not kept up with inflation, and the social safety net has weakened considerably. As Danziger noted, “For the last thirty years, a rising tide has not lifted all boats.” He added, “The economy has become more hostile to the typical worker.”

The panelists also discussed policies that could alleviate the widening income gap, changes to the global labor market, and the role of the private sector in combating inequality.

More Than a Feeling: The Role of Empathetic Care in Promoting Patient Safety and Worker Attachment in Healthcare

October 8, 2015

Carrie Leana (University of Pittsburgh), a member of RSF’s working group on care work and contributor to the RSF book For Love and Money, has co-authored a new working paper drawing from research supported by the Foundation. In the study, Leana and colleagues Jirs Meuris and Cait Lamberton look at how empathy affects turnover and patient safety among nursing aides who care for the elderly. What does it mean to perform caregiving job with empathy, and how does empathy affect the outcomes of both those who receive care and those who provide it? The abstract states:

In this paper we use inductive and deductive methods to explore the role of empathy in caregiving jobs: Specifically, the relationship between empathetic care, patient safety and employee turnover. We argue that empathetic care is evidenced by extra-role behavior, emotional engagement, and relational richness between paid caregivers and clients. We develop our model using qualitative interviews with paid caregivers, and test it using quantitative case studies in six skilled nursing facilities. We find that empathetic care predicts patient safety but not employee turnover. Moreover, we find that job and life circumstances moderate the relationship between empathetic care and safety. Specifically, patient load, overtime work, and financial hardship dampen the otherwise positive relationship between empathetic care and safety. We find some evidence of a moderating effect of employee self-efficacy in influencing the relationship between empathetic care and turnover. We discuss the implications of these findings for the design of care jobs.

RSF Journal Issue Editor Matthew Desmond Wins MacArthur Award

October 1, 2015

RSF grantee Matthew Desmond (Harvard University) was recently named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow along with 23 other recipients. The prestigious MacArthur Award recognizes scholars, journalists, artists, and other public figures that are “shedding light and making progress on critical issues, and pushing the boundaries of their fields.”

Desmond is an urban sociologist whose work focuses on poverty and the low-income rental market, among other topics. He is the editor of the forthcoming inaugural double issue of RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, which will examine severe deprivation in America.

Jane Waldfogel Discusses Poverty Rate and Socioeconomic Achievement Gap in the News

September 28, 2015

Following the recent publication of the RSF book Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective, co-author and former Visiting Scholar Jane Waldfogel has appeared in several media outlets to discuss the annual U.S. Census Bureau report on the national poverty rate and the troubling and persistent socioeconomic achievement gap in the U.S.

While the official Census poverty rate has remained steady for the fourth year in a row, at 14.8%, Waldfogel pointed out in interviews with NPR and CNN Money that this measure does not take into account social safety net programs designed to aid low-income families.

According to Waldfogel, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which reflects non-cash benefits such as food stamps and social security, may provide a more accurate picture of how low-income families in America make ends meet. As she told CBS Moneywatch, the Supplemental Poverty Measure “illustrates that the social safety net is helping lift American children out of poverty, with programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps particularly effective.”

Yet, in an interview with Buzzfeed, Waldfogel explained that even these important benefits may not be doing enough to alleviate poverty in the U.S. “Child poverty in the U.S. is dismally high, especially when we compare the U.S. to our peer countries,” she said.

The consequences of ongoing poverty and economic inequality include the persistence of an academic achievement gap between students from different backgrounds. In Too Many Children Left Behind, Waldfogel and co-authors Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, and Elizabeth Washbrook use international data to show how social mobility varies in the United States compared with Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They demonstrate that the social inequalities that children experience before they start school contribute to large gaps in test scores between low- and high-socioeconomic-status students that are present at school entry and that persist as they move through school.