Skip to Navigation

RSF Review

RSF Review

How the Party of Lincoln Became the Party of the South

February 18, 2014

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.

For decades in U.S. politics, the South has loomed as a GOP stronghold. But according to Doug McAdam, a current RSF Visiting Scholar and Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, it took a complicated set of political shifts in order to transform what was once the party of Lincoln to the party of Dixie. Though today Democrats and Republicans in Congress are more politically polarized than ever before, McAdam notes that prior to the 60s, the two parties were far more similar, with Republicans consistently showing liberal voting records on issues related to race. What, then, accounts for the GOP’s modern incarnation as a right-leaning party with conservative views on race?

New RSF Research Examines the Effect of the Recession on State Tax Revenues

February 13, 2014

New research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation sheds important light on the impact of economic downturns on state tax revenues. In 2007, on the eve of the recession, 49 percent of state tax revenues came from consumption taxes, and 32 percent from income taxes. Conventional wisdom has held that since consumption is more likely to remain stable than income during economic recessions, revenue from consumption taxes will similarly be less volatile than revenue from income taxes.

RSF Research and Obama’s Agenda to Tackle Inequality

February 6, 2014

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 28, President Obama focused a significant portion of his speech on the issue of inequality in the U.S. Citing the expiration of unemployment insurance and a stagnant minimum wage as two major roadblocks to economic security for many Americans, the president outlined an ambitious plan to alleviate financial distress for low-income individuals, including raising the minimum wage. “Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here,” Obama stated, introducing a bill to fix that would lift the minimum wage to $10.10. He continued, “This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program.”

Newly published research from the Russell Sage Foundation sheds important new light on Obama’s plan of poverty relief. A new book, What Works for Workers?, examines the public policies that have already been developed to aid to low-income workers. In their chapter, “Low-Wage Workers and Paid Family Leave: The California Experience,” contributors Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum offer an analysis of California’s paid family leave program, a policy designed to benefit the working poor, who have few resources that allow them to take time off work to care for children or ill family members. Despite initial opposition, the paid leave program proved more acceptable than expected among employers and provided a much-needed system of wage replacement for low-income workers. In the wake of its success, the initiative has emerged as a useful blueprint for paid leave programs in other states. Though Obama did not propose a specific initiative for implementing paid leave for mothers, he acknowledged the importance of such programs, stating, “[Mothers] deserve to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship.”

Statement by RSF President Sheldon Danziger on Poverty and Inequality in the U.S.

January 29, 2014

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama spoke at length about increased economic disparities in the United States and announced a series of presidential initiatives to make sure that the benefits of economic growth are shared widely. My analysis of our experience since President Johnson declared War on Poverty in his State of the Union Address fifty years ago is that poverty will fall substantially and inequality will decline only if two factors are operating at the same time. First, the economy must be expanding and the unemployment rate must be below 5 percent. Second, government policies must stay focused on helping those among the poor and near-poor who are left behind by economic growth. The problem is that since the early 1970s, during most of the years when the economy was expanding, economic growth was not trickling down to the poor or even to the middle class, and government policies were not doing enough to help those not sharing in the economy’s increased productivity.

The relationship between economic growth and poverty in recent years refutes the view that poverty remains high because the government provides too much aid for the poor, and thus encourages idleness and other dysfunctional behaviors. Poverty would be somewhat lower today if fewer low-skilled men had withdrawn from the labor market and if marriage rates had not declined so much and if there had been less immigration of workers with little education. However, these effects are small compared to the poverty-increasing effects of a labor market that shifted from a quarter century of rapid economic growth following the end of World War II in which a rising tide lifted all boats to almost forty years of slower growth and rising inequality.

New RSF Book Reviews in Contemporary Sociology

January 28, 2014

Two Russell Sage Foundation books were recently reviewed in the January 2014 issue of Contemporary Sociology. Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (2012), a volume edited by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, received glowing praise from reviewer Linda Renzulli of the University of Georgia, who called the book “a must read for scholars in education, family, and labor markets.”

Is Unemployment Insurance Good for Workers?

January 24, 2014

At the close of 2013, Republicans in Congress blocked the renewal of Emergency Unemployment Insurance, a measure that has allowed long-term unemployed Americans to continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits beyond the maximum 26-week benefit period. The failure to renew this extension ended benefits for 1.3 million Americans. Unemployment insurance has long been at the center of fierce debates over the nature of the U.S. social safety net. Conservatives claim that such benefits create a disincentive for the unemployed to seek work, while progressives argue that they are a crucial source of income for those who have lost jobs, especially during periods during and after recessions, when the labor market is at its most competitive and jobs remain scarce.

A new volume from the Russell Sage Foundation assesses the effectiveness of unemployment insurance alongside other policy measures designed to aid workers. What Works for Workers?, edited by Stephanie Luce, Jennifer Luff, Joseph A. McCartin, and Ruth Milkman, provides a comprehensive analysis of policies focused on low-wage workers and the expanding income gap in the U.S. Featuring contributions from an eminent group of social scientists, What Works for Workers? evaluates the most high-profile strategies for poverty reduction, including innovative “living wage” ordinances, education programs for African American youth, and better regulation of labor laws pertaining to immigrants. The contributors delve into an extensive body of scholarship on low-wage work to reveal a number of surprising findings.

RSF Author Catherine Lee Discusses the Role of Families in U.S. Immigration Policies, Past and Present

January 16, 2014

Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification—policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration—is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In her 2013 RSF book, Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Immigration, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Lee discusses some of the groundbreaking research from her book and offers recommendations for future immigration policies. To learn more about Fictive Kinship or to purchase a copy, click here.

Q. As you point out in your book, family reunification has long been a guiding theme of U.S. immigration policy and has significantly influenced the changing demographics of the country. Can you give some examples of how family reunification policies have shaped the way we think about race and ethnicity in the U.S. today?

New Spring 2014 Books from RSF

January 14, 2014

Below is an early look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2014. The list includes a major new study on the role of private equity firms in today’s economy, an in-depth analysis of how Obama’s 2008 campaign has changed racial attitudes in the U.S., and a volume examining what we know about policies to help low-wage workers. To request a hard copy of the full catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or click here to visit our publications page.

RSF Visiting Scholars Jane Waldfogel and Miles Corak at Social Mobility Summit

January 10, 2014

On Monday, January 13, 2014, RSF Visiting Scholars Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University) and Miles Corak (University of Ottawa) will lead a working session at the Social Mobility Summit hosted by the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families. With Bruce Bradbury (University of New South Wales) and Elizabeth Washbrook (University of Bristol), Waldfogel and Corak are currently part of an RSF working group investigating educational inequality in four countries.

Monday’s Social Mobility Summit will open with a public keynote address from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the morning and close with a public keynote address from Congressman Paul Ryan. Senator Gillibrand and Representative Ryan will each lay out their personal vision for how we can promote social mobility in the U.S. today. During the day, the Center on Children and Families will hold a series of private working sessions with leading scholars. Each session will address a critical life stage for the promotion of social mobility: family formation, the early years, K-12 education, college education, and transitions into work. Click here to register to attend this event, or sign up to join the live webcast.

A Chance for Immigration Reform in the New Year

January 10, 2014

In a move that could signal the end of the deadlock on immigration reform that stifled Congress for the better part of 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner has indicated his willingness to address immigration laws. As the New York Times reports, though Boehner continues to voice reservations about a single, comprehensive bill to create additional pathways to U.S. citizenship, he also condemned the hardline stance of conservative Tea Party groups opposed to any immigration compromises.

Republicans have increasingly struggled to find a balance between appeasing their conservative constituents while also attempting to court Latino voters. According to the New York Times, Romney won only 27% of the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election due to his views on immigration. But the Democratic Party has also suffered for its failure to implement significant immigration reform. A September 2013 Pew study showed that the Obama administration deported more immigrants annually than the George W. Bush administration, and that 59% of Latinos disapproved of Obama’s handling of deportations.

The 2013 RSF book Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality, co-edited by David Card and Steven Raphael, explores the rapid rise in immigration to the U.S. since the 1960s and analyzes the economic and political shifts that have occurred as a result of this increase—including changes in the national poverty rate, labor market fluctuations, and the evolution of immigration policies. In his chapter, “Immigration Enforcement as a Race-Making Institution,” sociologist Douglas Massey traces the surge in deportations, border patrol budgets, and border enforcement agents over the last several decades: