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RSF Review

Michèle Lamont Elected President of the American Sociological Association

September 4, 2015

Former RSF Visiting Scholar and grantee Michèle Lamont (Harvard University) has been elected the 108th president of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Her one-year term began in August 2015.

During her time as a Visiting Scholar at the Foundation, Lamont researched the class, racial, and cultural differences among low-status white-collar and blue-collar workers residing in the suburbs of New York and Paris. She is editor of the book The Cultural Territories of Race (1999), which was co-published by RSF and the University of Chicago Press, and a contributor to the RSF volumes The Colors of Poverty (2010) and Evangelicals and Democracy in America (2011).

Lamont is currently Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and professor of sociology and African and African American studies at Harvard University. Previously, she chaired the Council for European Studies and was a member of the High Council on Science and Technology to the prime minister of France. As president of ASA, Lamont succeeds Ruth Milkman (CUNY Grad Center), who was also previously a Visiting Scholar at RSF and co-editor of the 2014 RSF book What Works for Workers.

Of her ASA term, Lamont stated, "I plan to work on enhancing sociology's influence in education, politics, and the media in order to broaden our impact as an enlightening, empowering, democratizing, and diversifying force."

RSF Welcomes 2015-2016 Class of Visiting Scholars, MOS Scholars, Visiting Researchers

September 2, 2015

This month the Russell Sage Foundation welcomes sixteen leading social scientists as Visiting Scholars for the 2015-2016 academic year. While in residence, they will pursue research that reflects RSF’s commitment to strengthening the social sciences and applying research more effectively to important social problems.

This year, the Visiting Scholars’ projects include an analysis of the factors that contribute to racial wealth disparities, research on how increases in economic inequality have affected voter turnout in congressional elections, and a study of over 1,000 twins that examines the relationship between genetic and social factors in adolescent development and academic achievement.

The Foundation also welcomes Marta Tienda (Princeton University) and Christopher Jencks (Harvard University) as Margaret Olivia Sage Scholars for the 2015-2016 academic year. Named to honor RSF’s founder, Margaret Olivia Sage, these scholars are nominated and selected by the Board of Trustees on the basis of their outstanding career accomplishments and relationship with the Foundation.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, and labor journalist Steven Greenhouse (formerly of the New York Times) will also join RSF this fall as Visiting Researchers. Both researchers, who are recipients of Presidential Authority Awards, will work on book manuscripts during their time in residence.

New Fall 2015 Books from RSF

August 31, 2015

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Fall 2015. The list includes Parents Without Papers, a new investigation of the barriers to Mexican immigrant integration in the U.S.; Race, Class and Affirmative Action, a comparative study of the differing affirmative action policies in the U.S. and Israel; Unequal City, an examination of how disadvantaged Chicago youth navigate their neighborhoods, life opportunities, and encounters with the law; and Fear, Anxiety, and National Identity, a volume exploring the social and political backlashes to increasing immigration in North America and Western Europe. The first two issues of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, Severe Deprivation in America and Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 at Fifty and Beyond, will also be released this fall.

To request a printed copy of our Fall 2015 catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or view the complete list of RSF books on our publications page.

New Op-Eds by RSF Scholars

August 24, 2015

Several of the Foundation's former Visiting Scholars, and RSF Robert K. Merton Scholar Robert Solow, have recently published new op-eds detailing some of their ongoing research.

Last week, writing for the New York Times, former Visiting Scholar Mark VanLandingham outlined the factors that contributed to the high rate of return of the Vietnamese to New Orleans following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. While some commentators have attributed the post-Katrina success of the Vietnamese to cultural values specific to Asian immigrants, VanLandingham explained that their recovery was enabled by a confluence of several different advantages, including the economic and social capital they possessed prior to the hurricane. As he writes:

First, consider that Vietnamese-Americans in New Orleans represent a select group of Vietnamese. Specifically, those who came to the United States were wealthier than those who stayed behind in Vietnam. (A spot on a departing vessel was too expensive for many.) First-generation Vietnamese in New Orleans also score better on measures of general health than do their counterparts in Vietnam. Because of the forces of selection underlying migration, the Vietnamese in America are not representative of the Vietnamese overall — challenging the idea of some shared cultural superiority. Read more

Former Visiting Scholars and RSF authors Karthick Ramakrishnan and Jennifer Lee also recently penned new articles drawing from their research. Responding in the Washington Post to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments on undocumented immigrants entering the U.S., Ramakrishnan pointed out in a new op-ed that

states have become much more robustly engaged on immigration regulation, a process that started in the 1970s and has accelerated in the past decade. Federal courts have limited the scope of some of these efforts. Most notably, in 2012, the Supreme Court’s United States v. Arizona decision severely restricted how much states could independently get involved in immigration enforcement. Nevertheless, states are much more central players on immigration regulation now than, say, during the 1930s. Back then, the federal government enlisted the help of states and counties to forcibly repatriate upwards of 1 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children to Mexico. Read more

Recent Immigration to Canada and the United States: A Mixed Tale of Relative Selection

August 19, 2015

The August issue of the International Migration Review contains a new report by former Visiting Scholars Neeraj Kaushal and Yao Lu (Columbia University). During their time in residence, Kaushal and Lu compared immigrant selection and assimilation in Canada and the U.S., focusing in particular on how immigration trends in both countries have shifted since 1990. They assessed the relative selection of immigrants to both countries with respect to levels of education, host country language proficiency, and initial earnings. They also investigated the relative economic well-being of immigrants in these two countries after adjusting for different levels of immigrant selection.

Their findings are contained in the new article for IMR, which is available for free download from the Foundation's website. The abstract states:

Using large-scale census data and adjusting for sending-country fixed effect to account for changing composition of immigrants, we study relative immigrant selection to Canada and the U.S. during 1990-2006, a period characterized by diverging immigration policies in the two countries. Results show a gradual change in selection patterns in educational attainment and host-country language proficiency in favor of Canada as its post-1990 immigration policy allocated more points to the human capital of new entrants. Specifically, in 1990, new immigrants in Canada were less likely to have a B.A. degree than those in the U.S.; they were also less likely to have a highschool or lower education. By 2006, Canada surpassed the U.S. in drawing highly educated immigrants, while continuing to attract fewer low-educated immigrants. Canada also improved its edge over the U.S. in terms of host-country language proficiency of new immigrants. Entry-level earnings, however, do not reflect the same trend: Recent immigrants to Canada have experienced a wage disadvantage compared to recent immigrants to the U.S., as well as Canadian natives. One plausible explanation is that while the Canadian points system has successfully attracted more educated immigrants, it may not be effective in capturing productivity-related traits that are not easily measurable.

The Asian American Achievement Paradox in the News

August 18, 2015

The Asian American Achievement Paradox, a new RSF book by sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, recently has been cited in the news. In the wake of a renewed conversation in the media on so-called “tiger” parenting and Asian Americans’ sizeable presence at elite universities, co-author Jennifer Lee spoke with several outlets about the findings in the book, including BBC World News, BlogHer, and Inside Higher Education. As Lee explained in an interview with The Gist, while many pundits have claimed that Asian Americans’ high educational attainment reflects unique cultural values, her research with Zhou bridges sociology and social psychology to explain how immigration laws, institutions, and culture all interact to foster high educational achievement among certain Asian American groups.

Lee also expanded these points in an August op-ed for CNN, writing, “Zhou and I explain what actually fuels the achievements of some Asian American groups: U.S. immigration law, which favors highly educated, highly skilled immigrant applicants from Asian countries.” These immigrants bring with them a specific “success frame,” which requires earning a degree from an elite university and working in a high-status field. These goals are reinforced in many local Asian communities, which make resources such as college preparation courses and tutoring available to group members, including their low-income members. And, Lee noted in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Because of the hyperselectivity of Asian immigrants, Asian-American students are benefiting from this perception that all Asian-Americans are highly educated and work hard and are high-achieving. Being viewed through the lens of the positive stereotype can enhance the performance of Asian-American students.”

New Report: Five Stories of Accidental Ethnography

August 14, 2015

The August 2015 issue of Qualitative Research journal contains a new report by former Visiting Scholar Lee Ann Fujii (University of Toronto). During her time in residence at the Foundation, Fujii investigated the processes that drive people to join in brutal forms of violence against neighbors in their communities. Using data from intensive interviews and primary documents, Fujii researched public displays of violence in three contexts: the Bosnian War, the Rwandan genocide, and Jim Crow Maryland.

In her new article, Fujii discusses the ethnographic field research she undertook to study group violence, focusing in particular on how "accidental" interactions that took place outside of formal interviews and surveys informed her conclusions. The abstract states:

Observations of daily life are the bread and butter of ethnography but rarely feature as data in other kinds of work. Could non-ethnographic studies also benefit from such observations? If so, how? This article proposes ‘accidental ethnography’ as a method that field researchers can use to gain better understanding of the research context and their own social positioning within that context. Accidental ethnography involves paying systematic attention to the unplanned moments that take place outside an interview, survey, or other structured methods. In these moments the researcher might hear a surprising story or notice an everyday scene she had previously overlooked. The importance of these observations lies not in what they tell us about the particular, but rather what they suggest about the larger political and social world in which they (and the researcher) are embedded. The paper illustrates the argument by presenting five stories from the author’s experiences conducting research on local violence in Rwanda, Bosnia, the US, and elsewhere.

Announcing RSF Visiting Researchers, 2015-16

August 11, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce that two recipients of Presidential Authority Awards will be in residence at the Foundation this year.

Robert Kuttner will be in residence from September 15, 2015 to January 31, 2016. He is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine and visiting professor of social policy at Brandeis University’s Heller School. He was a founder of the Economic Policy Institute and serves on its board and executive committee. Kuttner is author of ten books, including the 2008 New York Times bestseller, Obama's Challenge: American's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. He is a two-time winner of the Sidney Hillman Journalism Award, the John Hancock Award for Financial Writing, the Jack London Award for Labor Writing, and the Paul Hoffman Award of the United Nations Development Program for his lifetime work on economic efficiency and social justice.

During his time in residence at the Foundation, Kuttner will work on a book that assesses how globalization has complicated the project of managing capitalism and even affected democracy itself. He will investigate the extent to which globalization, technology, cultural shifts, and domestic policies have contributed to growing wealth and income inequality in the U.S. and other countries.

Steven Greenhouse will be in residence from September 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. He is a labor and workplace reporter, formerly for the New York Times (1995 to 2014). He has covered topics including poverty among the nation’s farm workers, labor’s role in politics, the shortcomings of New York State's workers compensation system and the battles to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees. Greenhouse is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut (1973), the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (1975) and the New York University School of Law (1982). He is the author of The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (2008).

RSF President Sheldon Danziger on the Successes of the War on Poverty

August 5, 2015

RSF president Sheldon Danziger recently appeared on Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America—a program on WNET-13, New York public television—to discuss the lasting impact of several of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives. While some politicians and pundits have dismissed the War on Poverty as a failure, Danziger argues that the poverty rate in America would be much higher without programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and food stamps—all of which were established under the War on Poverty.

Danziger is the co-editor with Martha J. Bailey of the 2013 RSF book Legacies of the War on Poverty, which draws from fifty years of empirical evidence to offer an assessment of some of the policy successes of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Prior to joining the Russell Sage Foundation, Danziger was the Henry J. Meyer Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Research Professor at the Population Studies Center, and Director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan.

Watch Danziger’s interview with Chasing the Dream below:

RSF Books Win Max Weber Award, Frank Luther Mott Award

August 4, 2015

Several RSF titles have recently received book awards for their distinguished contributions to the social sciences. In June, Unequal Time (2014) by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel was named the winner of the Max Weber Award for Distinguished Scholarship by the Organizations, Occupations, and Work (OOW) Section of the American Sociological Association. In Unequal Time, Clawson and Gerstel explore the ways in which social inequalities permeate the workplace and show how the schedules of some workers can shape the schedules of others in ways that exemplify and often exacerbate gender and class differences. Focusing on four occupations in the health sector—doctors, nurses, EMTs, and nursing assistants—the authors show how all of these workers experience the effects of schedule uncertainty but do so in very distinct ways for each occupation.

The OOW also awarded an honorable mention to Nancy DiTomaso for her RSF book The American Non-Dilemma (2013). In the book, DiTomaso draws from interviews with working, middle, and upper-class whites to show that while the vast majority of whites profess strong support for civil rights and equal opportunity regardless of race, they continue to pursue their own group-based advantage, especially in the labor market where whites tend to favor other whites in securing jobs protected from market competition. This “opportunity hoarding” leads to substantially improved life outcomes for whites due to their greater access to social resources from family, schools, churches, and other institutions with which they are engaged.