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RSF Review

RSF Review

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:

Legacies of the War on Poverty Co-Editor Martha J. Bailey Wins IZA Young Labor Economist Award

January 6, 2014

At the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associates in Philadelphia, the University of Michigan’s Martha J. Bailey, co-editor of the 2013 Russell Sage Foundation book Legacies of the War on Poverty, received the 2013 IZA Young Labor Economist Award for her paper “The Opt In Revolution,” co-authored with Brad Hershbein (Upjohn Institute) and Amalia Miller (University of Virginia). The paper examines the role of the birth control pill in increasing women’s human capital investments and, ultimately, wages. It concludes the Pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence of the gender wage gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s.

The IZA Young Labor Economist Award, awarded annually since 2002, recognizes one outstanding paper each year in labor economics by an author or authors younger than 40 years of age. The recipients are awarded €5,000 between them for their research.

Robert Solow, RSF Robert K. Merton Scholar, Takes on Greenspan

December 20, 2013

On Monday, December 16, the Federal Reserve celebrated its centennial. Among those who delivered speeches were current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and former chairmen Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan. Greenspan focused his remarks on the stock market crash of October 19, 1987, which marked the steepest one-day drop in stock prices in U.S. history. At the time Greenspan was credited with successfully diverting the economy from a deeper financial crisis, but his role in the financial crash that would occur 20 years later proved less positive.

In a new review of Greenspan’s book, The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting, RSF Robert K. Merton Scholar Robert Solow assesses Greenspan’s theory of how people can better predict the economic future. “Greenspan’s new book is obviously intended to show that his errors were only partial and that he has found useful ways to correct them, and thus to refurbish his reputation as oracle-in-chief,” Solow writes. “It fails.”

Solow elucidates the shortcomings of Greenspan’s “Iron Law,” or the claim that whenever the U.S. adds money to programs such as Social Security or Medicare, it also forces a reduction in family and business savings, or an increase in government deficits. Solow points out that many of the linear regressions Greenspan offers in his book are too general to provide solid proof for the claims of his theory. As Solow puts it, “Greenspan’s Iron Law is built not so much on evidence as on ideology.” That ideology is the argument that an unregulated or only lightly regulated market is the solution to the failures of the economy.

Visiting Scholar Kathleen Vohs Receives Anneliese Maier Research Award

December 19, 2013

On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation announced the eight winners of their 2014 Anneliese Maier Research Award, including Kathleen Vohs, a current RSF Visiting Scholar and Land O'Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing at the University of Minnesota. The award funds research collaboration between humanities and social science scholars in Germany and candidates from other countries, who are nominated by their colleagues at German universities and research institutions. Each award recipient is granted €250,000 to pursue their research interests.

Vohs was nominated by the Institute of Psychology at the University of Heidelberg for her influential research on self-regulation and experimental consumer psychology. In her time at the Russell Sage Foundation, Vohs is working in collaboration with Roy Baumeister to further develop a model of self-control as a limited resource. The two scholars are also researching 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.

Why Study Violence?

December 13, 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.

For years Lee Ann Fujii of the University of Toronto has focused in depth on a subject that most people would prefer to avoid: graphic displays of violence. A 2013-2014 Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, Fujii’s current research examines violent incidents in three disparate geographical regions in order to form a theory of why people participate in killings and atrocities within their own communities.

The three episodes that Fujii examines are a 1992 massacre of Muslim men in Bosnia, the mob lynching of a black man named George Armwood in Maryland in 1933, and the killing of a prominent Tutsi family during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Though these occurrences span both time and geography, Fujii’s research shows how each instance constitutes what she calls a performative violent display—an act of violence intended to communicate a message to various audiences. How do violent displays differ from ordinary violence? Fujii argues that violent displays shift and transform social reality, opening a space for participants to act in ways they normally would not and fostering opportunities for participants to enact and define new identities. Violent displays, she argues, leave a mark.

Recent RSF Research Supports Obama's Remarks on Economic Inequality

December 9, 2013

On Wednesday, December 4, President Obama gave a speech on economic opportunity that addressed the stalling of economic mobility in the U.S. Calling the steadily widening gap between rich and poor “the defining challenge of our time,” Obama invoked the reforms of his predecessors, including programs implemented by Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, as models for action to address the problem. Among other solutions, he proposed raising the minimum wage, closing corporate tax loopholes, and the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act as methods of alleviating hardship and raising Americans out of economic distress.

Obama also stressed the importance of early life opportunities for children, stating, “By the time she turns three years old, a child born into a low-income home hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a well-off family, which means by the time she starts school she’s already behind, and that deficit can compound itself over time.” These remarks echo the research on educational inequality presented in the recent RSF book Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances edited by Greg J. Duncan of Northwestern University and Richard Murnane of Harvard University. The most ambitious study of educational inequality to date, the book analyzes how social and economic conditions surrounding schools affect school performance and children’s educational achievement, and finds—as Obama asserted—that rising inequality may now be compromising schools’ functioning, and with it the promise of equal opportunity in America. For example, as the graph below shows, research by contributor Sean Reardon shows that the gap between rich and poor children’s math and reading achievement scores is much larger than it was fifty years ago, and now surpasses the disparity between black and white students.

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.