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RSF Review

How Federal Drug Laws Shape Local Courts and Prison Sentencing

June 9, 2015

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

The recent deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of police in cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore have renewed a national discussion on the racial inequalities that permeate law enforcement and the judicial system. Yet, while most have focused attention on excessive police force in black communities, Visiting Scholar Mona Lynch (UC Irvine) presents compelling new evidence that federal prosecutors have been a crucial part of the driving force behind mass incarceration—in particular, following the federal crackdown on drugs in the 1980s. As she wrote recently in an op-ed for the New York Times, "For decades, our federal court system has been quietly perpetrating some of the deepest injustices in the name of the war on drugs."

During her time in residence at the Foundation, Lynch is writing a book on how ongoing changes in federal drug sentencing laws have manifested at the local court level. Among other topics, she is examining the ways in which entrenched norms, practices, and incentives within federal courts contribute to racial disparities in drug sentencing. In a new interview, Lynch discussed her ongoing research on how drug cases are adjudicated in trial-level federal courts.

RSF Merton Scholar Robert Solow Discusses Inequality with Paul Krugman

May 28, 2015

Robert Solow, the Russell Sage Foundation’s Robert K. Merton Scholar and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, joined New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and moderator Janet Gornick (Director of the Luxembourg Income Study Center and a former RSF Visiting Scholar) at the Foundation for a conversation on Inequality: What Can Be Done?, a new book by British inequality scholar Anthony B. Atkinson. In the book, Atkinson argues that economic inequality has reached unacceptable levels in many countries and lays out an agenda for reducing inequality. His policy proposals span five areas: technology, employment, the sharing of capital, taxation, and social security.

Solow and Krugman examined the desirability, viability, and feasibility of Atkinson’s policy recommendations, including whether his solutions could be achieved in the United States.

RSF Author and Scholar Rubén G. Rumbaut Elected to AAAS

May 22, 2015

RSF author and former Visiting Scholar Rubén G. Rumbaut (UC Irvine) has been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As one of the founding members of the UC-CUBA Academic Initiative, Rumbaut is internationally known and widely cited for his research on children and young adults raised in immigrant families of diverse nationalities and socioeconomic classes. Rumbaut, who testified before the U.S. Congress at hearings on comprehensive immigration reform, was elected in 2013 to the National Academy of Education in recognition of his outstanding contributions in educational research and policy development.

Rumbaut is the co-editor of the 2003 RSF book Immigration Research for a New Century and a contributor to several RSF volumes on immigration, including The New Second Generation (1996), Handbook of International Migration (1999), and The Changing Face of Home (2006). In his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation during the academic year of 1997-98, Rumbaut studied the participation of children of immigrants in American educational, social and economic life. Drawing upon large bodies of research in San Diego and Miami, Rumbaut focused on the progress of Latin, Asian, and Caribbean youth. His work provided a nuanced and cross-group understanding of how these second-generation youth varied in their language and ethnic identity, school aspirations and achievement, and psychological well-being. He also explored how their adaptation was shaped by family, school, and factors like racial discrimination.

Toward Socioeconomic Policy as Health Policy

May 19, 2015

Beyond Obamacare: Life, Death, and Social Policy (2015), a new book by sociologist and public health expert James S. House, advances a provocative new analysis of America’s health care crisis. How is it possible that the United States spends more than any other nation on health care and insurance, yet has simultaneously witnessed a decline in population health relative to other wealthy—and even some developing—nations? In Beyond Obamacare, House shows that health care reforms, including the Affordable Care Act, cannot resolve this crisis because they do not focus on the underlying causes for the nation’s poor health outcomes, which are largely social, economic, environmental, psychological, and behavioral. And it is these poor health outcomes that drive America’s unparalleled spending on health care, now approaching 20% of GDP.

As House notes, socioeconomic determinants such as education and income have significant consequences for individuals’ health outcomes. For example, though mortality rates declined for the population as a whole between 1960 and 1986, they declined more rapidly among the highly educated. As the figure below shows, educational differences in death rates grew for both men and women during this time period. And, House points outs, “Analyses in Canada found much the same, even after a quarter-century of national health insurance.”

New Report: The Transmission of Educational Attainment Within Immigrant Families

May 13, 2015

Second Generation Trajectories, a project funded under the Foundation’s past Immigration program, focused on the long-term prospects of second generation immigrants—or children of post-1965 immigrants who were born in the United States or were brought from abroad at an early age. Sociologists Roger Waldinger (UCLA) and Renee Reichl Luthra (University of Essex) studied ethnicity, politics, and socio-economic mobility among the contemporary immigrant second generation, drawing on data from three large original data-collection projects funded by the Russell Sage Foundation: the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (IIMMLA) study, and the Immigrant Second Generation in Metropolitan New York (ISGMNY) study. The investigators examined the data in concert to analyze the variation in second generation outcomes and assess whether immigrant offspring moved beyond, moved ahead, or simply reproduced their parents’ socioeconomic status.

Luthra’s most recent report, published in the latest issue of Demography, examines the intergenerational transmission of educational attainment between parents and children. The abstract states:

One in five U.S. residents under the age of 18 has at least one foreign-born parent. Given the large proportion of immigrants with very low levels of schooling, the strength of the intergenerational transmission of education between immigrant parent and child has important repercussions for the future of social stratification in the United States. We find that the educational transmission process between parent and child is much weaker in immigrant families than in native families and, among immigrants, differs significantly across national origins. We demonstrate how this variation causes a substantial overestimation of the importance of parental education in immigrant families in studies that use aggregate data. We also show that the common practice of "controlling" for family human capital using parental years of schooling is problematic when comparing families from different origin countries and especially when comparing native and immigrant families. We link these findings to analytical and empirical distinctions between group- and individual-level processes in intergenerational transmission.

RSF President Sheldon Danziger to Speak at Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty

May 11, 2015

Russell Sage Foundation president Sheldon Danziger will deliver remarks at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University on May 12, 2015. He will join Bradford Wilcox (University of Virginia) and moderator Lisa Hamilton (Annie E. Casey Foundation) on a panel titled “Poverty Research and Realities: Economic and Family Factors.” With Martha J. Bailey, Danziger is co-editor of the 2013 RSF book Legacies of the War on Poverty, which evaluates the successes of the anti-poverty programs established during President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, many of which still form the basis of the social safety net in the U.S. today.

Also scheduled to appear at the summit is President Barack Obama, who will discuss the topic of poverty and opportunity. Other speakers include Harvard public policy professor Robert Putnam, American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks, and journalist E.J. Dionne. Conference participants will address key questions related to the moral, human and economic costs of poverty in the United States.

New Report: Gatekeepers of the American Dream

May 5, 2015

The journal Social Science Research recently published a new paper co-authored by RSF grantee Chandra Muller (University of Texas, Austin) and Sarah Blanchard. In her 2006 RSF project, Muller explored how schools facilitated the integration of immigrant youth into civic society through exposure to civics related curricula. She also examined how the retention or loss of a native language affected young immigrants’ integration into civic society, and whether having peers who spoke the same native language affected their integration.

In her most recent paper, Muller draws from this research to look specifically at how teachers' perceptions of their immigrant, language-minority students affects those students' academic achievement. The abstract of the paper states:

High school teachers evaluate and offer guidance to students as they approach the transition to college based in part on their perceptions of the student's hard work and potential to succeed in college. Their perceptions may be especially crucial for immigrant and language-minority students navigating the U.S. educational system. Using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), we consider how the intersection of nativity and language-minority status may (1) inform teachers' perceptions of students' effort and college potential, and (2) shape the link between teachers' perceptions and students' academic progress towards college (grades and likelihood of advancing to more demanding math courses). We find that teachers perceive immigrant language-minority students as hard workers, and that their grades reflect that perception. However, these same students are less likely than others to advance in math between the sophomore and junior years, a critical point for preparing for college. Language-minority students born in the U.S. are more likely to be negatively perceived. Yet, when their teachers see them as hard workers, they advance in math at the same rates as nonimmigrant native English speaking peers. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering both language-minority and immigrant status as social dimensions of students' background that moderate the way that high school teachers' perceptions shape students' preparation for college.

RSF Author Karl Alexander Discusses Racial and Socioeconomic Inequality in Baltimore

May 1, 2015

The death of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody has drawn renewed scrutiny to the ongoing problem of the excessive use of force by police in African American communities across the U.S. Gray’s death from spinal damage—likely caused in the back of the police van in which he was detained—led to days of protests in Baltimore, with repeated clashes between demonstrators and the police. Recently, Baltimore lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would be pursuing homicide charges against the officers who had unlawfully arrested Gray.

Tensions between community members and the police have simmered for decades in West Baltimore, where Gray was stopped. An area with high rates of poverty, low life expectancies, and limited educational opportunities, West Baltimore was the site of a 25-year study on the persistence of racial and socioeconomic inequality conducted by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson. Their findings, presented in the RSF book The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014), offer a detailed examination of the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations of city residents. In their study, the authors traced the outcomes of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children, and monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults.

Improving Wages and Job Quality for Home Care Aides

April 27, 2015

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

Paul Osterman (MIT) is co-author of the 2011 RSF book Good Jobs America and a current Visiting Scholar. During his time in residence, Osterman is examining strategies for improving job quality in the low-wage labor market, specifically through initiatives that encourage employers to improve their human resource policies. In order to aid the development of policies that lead to better wages and benefits in the private sector, he will investigate the conditions that incentivize firms to improve their employment practices, focusing on the health care and manufacturing industries.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Osterman focused on low-wage home care aides, discussing the existing barriers to increasing their pay, and offering solutions for improving job quality for this group in the future.

Q. Your current research examines the plight of low-wage home care aides. What makes this group of workers especially vulnerable in ways that other professions in the medical industry are not?

RSF Trustee Bartels and Former RSF Visiting Scholar Tetlock Named Carnegie Fellows

April 23, 2015

RSF trustee Larry M. Bartels (Vanderbilt University) and former RSF Visiting Scholar Philip E. Tetlock (University of Pennsylvania) were recently named 2015 Andrew Carnegie Fellows. They will join an inaugural class of 30 other scholars, journalists, and authors as part of the Carnegie Corporation’s annual fellowship program that provides support for researchers in the social sciences and humanities.

Larry Bartels is currently May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His scholarly work focuses on American democracy, including public opinion, electoral politics, public policy, and representation. His most recent book, Unequal Democracy (2008), was cited by Barack Obama on the campaign trail and appeared on the New York Times’ list of economics books of the year. Bartels is also a contributor to the RSF book Inequality and American Democracy (2007) and continues to serve on the RSF board of trustees.

Philip Tetlock is currently Leonore Annenberg University Professor of Psychology and Management at the University of Pennsylvania. During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation (2005-2006), Tetlock studied the political implications of the ways in which people make decisions and systematically err in judgment. His work explored the decision-making of political experts, the ways in which a society’s moral boundaries limit new thinking, and how a person’s willingness to consider historical counterfactuals relates to their understanding of the past and the future.