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RSF Review

RSF Review

Diversity, Admissions, and Merit in the Ivy League and Oxbridge

April 25, 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.

On Tuesday, April 22, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 to allow states to ban affirmative action, or the use of race as a factor in admissions to state universities. The ruling, which upheld Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning affirmative action, came on the heels of last June’s controversial Fisher v. University of Texas case, in which a white applicant rejected for admission to the University of Texas sought to challenge the school’s race-conscious admissions policy.

Natasha Warikoo, a current RSF Visiting Scholar and Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is examining student perspectives on admissions policies at elite institutions in the U.S. and the U.K. Drawing from 144 in-depth interviews with undergraduates at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford, Warikoo’s research focuses on how students’ conceptions of diversity and merit, along with institutional supports for inter-cultural contact, inform campus experiences, especially related to race.

In a new interview with the Foundation, she discussed her ongoing comparative research, including the ways in which the different admissions policies across two regions can significantly influence how students view themselves and their fellow classmates.

Q. Your research here at RSF investigates the way undergraduate students at elite universities in the U.S. (Harvard and Brown) and the U.K. (Oxford and Cambridge) understand the relationship between meritocracy and admissions. Could you give a brief summary of the main differences between universities' admissions considerations in these two regions, and explain how the admission process subsequently shapes students' conceptions of merit?

Disaster Recovery and the Vietnamese Community in New Orleans

April 22, 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.

The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina unevenly impacted the residents of New Orleans along racial and class lines. While many scholars and politicians have focused on the lack of federal aid to low-income black neighborhoods in the wake of the disaster, Visiting Scholar Mark VanLandingham’s research examines a lesser known community—that of the Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in New Orleans in the 1970s. In his time in residence at the Foundation, VanLandingham is investigating the sources and limits of resilience within the Vietnamese American community in New Orleans, with a special focus on the community’s recovery during the post-Katrina era.

In a new interview with the Foundation, VanLandingham discussed the impact of the hurricane on this community, looking in particular at the combination of cultural and material advantages that may have aided the disaster recovery of the Vietnamese.

Q. Your research examines the Vietnamese immigrant community, which was largely overlooked in the post-disaster coverage of Hurricane Katrina. You found that overall this group fared better than other groups in the recovery. How do we measure “recovery” and what did the Vietnamese community’s post-disaster recovery look like in comparison to other groups in New Orleans?

New York Times’ Andrea Elliott to Join Russell Sage Foundation as Visiting Journalist

April 3, 2014

New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott will join the Russell Sage Foundation as a visiting journalist in residence for the period from April 7 through August 15, 2014.

In December 2013, the New York Times published Elliott’s groundbreaking five-part series, “Invisible Child,” which chronicled the life of an eleven-year-old homeless girl named Dasani, whose family of ten occupied a single room in a decrepit, city-run shelter in Brooklyn. So far this year, her project has received a George Polk award and a Scripps Howard award.

Elliott will be spending her time in residence at RSF writing a book based on these articles. She will examine the family’s story over three generations, illuminating the broader socioeconomic forces and policy dilemmas that shape the experiences of poor children growing up on the margins of a new Gilded Age.

A previous series by Elliott for the Times, “An Imam in America,” was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

New RSF Book Reviews in March Issue of Contemporary Sociology

March 27, 2014

A number of Russell Sage Foundation publications were featured in the March issue of Contemporary Sociology. Below are synopses of the books reviewed.

Family Consequences of Children’s Disabilities
By Dennis Hogan

The first comprehensive account of families of children with disabilities, Hogan’s book examines the financial and emotional costs of raising a child with a disability. Reviewer Gary Albrecht (University of Illinois at Chicago) states, “This volume sets a standard for accessible, contemporary scholarship which will appeal to researchers, students, and the general public alike.” He notes that “like much research with an edge,” Hogan’s work is informed by his own experiences—in this case, growing up with a disabled sibling. Family Consequences of Children’s Disabilities further employs data culled from seven national surveys and interviews with twenty-four mothers of children with disabilities, asking them questions about their family life, social supports, and how other children in the home were faring. As Albrecht concludes, “This is a thought-provoking book that confirms some common sense notions with data but surprises with analyses of the fine texture of family structure and relationships.”

Click here to read more about the book or purchase a copy.

Investigating the Link between Income Inequality and Marriage Rates

March 24, 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.

Current Visiting Scholar Andrew Cherlin’s ongoing research investigates the social consequences of increased polarization in the U.S. labor market over the last few decades. Combining analyses of longitudinal data with qualitative interviews with young men, Cherlin argues that deindustrialization of the American economy is a major factor in the decline of the working-class family.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Cherlin discussed the ways in which the polarization of the labor market has affected marriage rates, and what this means for low-income populations. Click here to read more about his work at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Q. Your research discusses the disappearance of a unified “working class” in the U.S. But at the same time, income inequality is higher than ever, and most job growth has been in the low-wage sector. Do we still have a “working class,” and if so, what does that look like today?

A New Model for Talking About Race at Work

March 14, 2014

Since the 1960s, the dominant model for fostering diversity and inclusion in the United States has been the “color blind” approach, which emphasizes similarity and assimilation and insists that people should be understood as individuals, not as members of racial or cultural groups. This approach is especially prevalent in the workplace, where discussions about race and ethnicity are considered taboo. Yet, as widespread as “color blindness” has become, many studies show that the practice has damaging repercussions, including reinforcing the existing racial hierarchy by ignoring the significance of racism and discrimination.

How might we implement alternative models for addressing the sensitive issue of race in the workplace? In their new RSF book, The Color Bind, authors Erica Foldy and Tamara Buckley offer a theory of “color cognizance” to describe a more effective method of confronting issues related to race and ethnicity. Color cognizance, as they define it, is the practice of recognizing and openly discussing the profound impact of race and ethnicity on life experiences (including acknowledging histories of discrimination) while also affirming the importance of racial diversity for society. Based on an intensive two-and-a-half-year study of employees at a child welfare agency, The Color Bind outlines how color cognizance is successfully deployed in a workplace setting, using three work teams in particular to illustrate the factors that enable color cognizance to flourish.

Upcoming Event with RSF Authors Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane

March 11, 2014

In their landmark 2011 volume, Whither Opportunity?, co-published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane traced the contours of deepening educational inequality in the U.S. Now, in their recent follow-up volume, Restoring Opportunity, the authors present a thoroughly researched and hopeful education agenda. Co-published by Harvard Education Press and the Russell Sage Foundation, Restoring Opportunity provides extensive information about how to improve schools so that students from poor families can boost their learning and increase their chances of going to college or attaining vocational skills.

Combating Implicit Racial Bias

March 7, 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.

Though by many accounts the U.S. is becoming a more egalitarian society in terms of racial attitudes, unconscious biases still linger. Though people may be less likely to admit to these biases in public, the persistence of racial prejudice continues to shape not only our interpersonal interactions, but also the way in which resources are distributed in society. Stacey Sinclair, Associate Professor of Psychology & African American Studies at Princeton and a current RSF Visiting Scholar, studies the connections between people’s implicit prejudices and their interpersonal interactions, and maps out how these interactions on the micro level translate to larger societal attitudes about race and ethnicity.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Sinclair discussed some of her recent research on implicit prejudice and offered solutions for rectifying some of the inequalities caused by these unconscious biases. To read more about her work during her time in residence, click here.

Q. Your current research investigates implicit prejudice, specifically implicit racial prejudice. What is implicit prejudice and how is it measured in a lab setting?

Local Alternatives to Raising the Federal Minimum Wage

February 28, 2014

A report released in February 2014 by the Congressional Budget Office contains both hopeful and sobering news related to a possible increase of the federal minimum wage. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, championed by President Obama in his State of the Union address in January, aims to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The CBO predicts that this initiative would lift 900,000 families out of poverty and increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers in an average week. However, their report also warns that the increase could also reduce total employment by as many as 500,000 workers by the second half of 2016.

According to Stephanie Luce, a professor of labor studies at the Murphy Institute at CUNY and a contributor to the new RSF book What Works for Workers?, the idea that raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses has persisted since the 1970s. While some research has indicated that a minimum wage increase could potentially lead to job losses for teenagers, Luce points out that the vast majority of workers who hold minimum-wage jobs are over twenty, and likely to benefit from a federal increase. As Luce notes, over 650 economists (including five Nobel Prize winners) have signed a letter calling for a federal increase in the minimum wage.

RSF Authors Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane Discuss Education Gaps in the U.S.

Rohan Mascarenhas, Harvard Kennedy School
February 20, 2014

As a follow up to their landmark volume, Whither Opportunity?, Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane have written a new book that shows how—in a time of spiraling inequality—strategically targeted interventions and supports can help schools significantly improve the life chances of low-income children. Co-published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Harvard Education Press, Restoring Opportunity presents a deeply researched and hopeful education agenda that can counteract the corrosive effects of unequal family resources, disadvantaged neighborhoods, and worsening school conditions on American schools.

During a forum at the Harvard Graduate School of Education earlier this month, Murnane and Duncan summarized the worrying gaps in education that have emerged as inequality has increased. One problem is the different amounts that families spend on their children’s education: high-income families now spend around $9,000 a year on “enrichment activities,” such as books, computers, and summer camps, while poorer families in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution manage only $1,300. "That’s a huge gap,” Duncan said, "and it leads to a huge difference at the point of school entry.” Another issue is the rise in income residential segregation, which has concentrated the number of low-income children in particular neighborhoods. “Think about the kind of burdens that places on schools,” Duncan said. “It concentrates behavior problems. It makes it more difficult to attract high quality teachers.”