Skip to Navigation

RSF Review

RSF Review

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).

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.”