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RSF Review

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.

The Integration of Immigrants into American Society

September 24, 2015

A comprehensive report edited by RSF grantee Mary Waters and Marisa Pineau details new findings from a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on the Integration of Immigrants. Supported in part by the Russell Sage Foundation, the study examined the factors that affect immigrants’ integration into society, including legal status, racial disparities in socio-economic outcomes, and low naturalization rates.

Latino Attitudes About Spheres of Political Representation

September 22, 2015

Among the current Republican presidential candidates, immigration has arisen as a contentious talking point. Spurred by Donald Trump’s call to deport undocumented immigrants and end birthright citizenship, all GOP candidates professed strong support for strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border in their most recent CNN debate. As media commentators—including RSF author and former Visiting Scholar Karthick Ramakrishnan—have speculated, these remarks are likely to alienate Latino voters from the GOP.

The latest issue of the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences contains a new paper by RSF grantee Deborah Schildkraut (Tufts University) that examines Latino voters’ engagement with electoral politics. With support from the Foundation, Schildkraut studied how Latinos’ identification with their national origins or ethnic group impacts their beliefs about the adequacy of representative democracy in the U.S. She also examined how Latinos’ perceptions of discrimination in the U.S. shapes their beliefs about democratic representation. The abstract states:

This study examines whether ethnic attachments and concerns about Latinos as a group predict the representational priorities of Latinos, and if so, whether they make a preference for narrowly targeted spheres of representation more likely. It relies on nationally representative survey data (n = 434) and employs ordered probit statistical analysis. The results show that thinking of oneself primarily as a member of an ethnic group instead of as an American increases the importance placed on having members of Congress bring federal resources to the district and decreases the importance placed on the pursuit of national issues, and perceiving discrimination against one’s ethnic group increases the importance placed on casework and decreases the importance placed on oversight. Other factors associated with the Latino experience in the United States, including acculturation and having a Latino representative, also affect how Latinos rank spheres of representation.

New Reviews of Jamie Winders's Nashville in the New Millennium

September 18, 2015

Geographer Jamie Winders’ 2013 RSF book, Nashville in the New Millennium: Immigrant Settlement, Urban Transformation, and Social Belonging, was recently reviewed by the American Journal of Sociology and by Contemporary Sociology. In AJS, reviewer Amada Armenta (University of Pennsylvania) calls Winders’s work “meticulously researched” and a “significant addition” to a growing body of research on Latino immigration to the southeastern United States.

In Nashville in the New Millennium, Winders offers one of the first extended studies of the cultural, racial, and institutional politics of immigrant incorporation in a new urban destination. By carefully tracing the significant increase in Latino immigration to Nashville, Tennessee over the last several decades, Winders shows how Nashville’s long-term residents and its new immigrants experienced daily life as the city transformed into a multicultural destination. Because Nashville had little to no prior history of incorporating immigrants into local life, the arrival of new residents often led to community friction. As reviewer Armenta writes,

Although Latino immigrants and long-term residents lived side by side, they essentially occupied separate social worlds. For example, long-term residents and Latino immigrants had contradictory understandings of what it meant to be good neighbors. Latino immigrants thought that being neighborly required maintaining silence and avoiding interactions, whereas long-term residents expected communication based on what their neighborhood was like in the past. These local practices and understandings worked as barriers to immigrant inclusion and incorporation.

Immigration expert and RSF author Jennifer Lee, who reviewed Nashville in the New Millennium for the recent issue of Contemporary Sociology, discussed how these tensions manifested among students and teachers in Nashville’s public schools. She notes:

Winders shows that teachers have handled the new diversity by claiming not to see it, not acknowledging it, and not discussing it in their classrooms. They have sought to create a space of sameness, where everyone in the class is a child and a student despite the apparent ethno-racial, linguistic, and cultural differences among them. The teachers felt that this was especially important given burgeoning anti-immigrant rhetoric and intense debates about immigration reform at the local and national levels.

However, the teachers’ strategy of approaching diversity as sameness was challenged when they taught civil rights history to their students and had to answer questions from Latino students and Kurdish refugees about where they fit in the narrative about black/white history and relations.

New Report by RSF Grantees Examines Neighborhood Effects on Speech and Social Inequality

September 11, 2015

A new report published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal (PNAS) presents findings from research supported in part by the Russell Sage Foundation. In the study, a group of social scientists including RSF trustee Lawrence Katz, RSF grantees Jens Ludwig and Jeffrey Kling, and RSF author Greg Duncan, used data from the Moving to Opportunity program to examine how different neighborhoods affect low-income black youths’ use of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

Residential and economic segregation in the U.S. have contributed to growing differences within the population in AAVE use. While the use of AAVE has been shown to increase in-group solidarity and strengthen identity, it is also associated with discrimination in schools and workplaces, which may exacerbate the disadvantages of youths growing up in high-poverty areas. In their study, the authors present experimental evidence that suggests that neighborhood effects on speech that lower youths’ use of AAVE could increase their lifetime earnings by approximately $18,000 (or approximately 3–4% of lifetime income).