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New Book Review of Fighting for Reliable Evidence

September 25, 2014

A new review of Fighting for Reliable Evidence by Judith Gueron and Howard Rolston praises the book’s groundbreaking contributions to public policy. In his assessment for the Public Administration Review, Lawrence M. Mead of New York University states, “This remarkable book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in evaluation on national social policy.”

How do we know whether social programs are doing what they’re designed to do? In Fighting for Reliable Evidence, Gueron and Rolston demonstrate the ways in which random assignment experiments can be used to evaluate complex social problems. Random assignment—or the process of sorting people at random into either a treatment group that participates in a particular program or a control group that does not, then comparing the results to determine the effects of the program on the treatment group—has long been a mainstay of medical clinical trials. Over the last several decades, the practice has gained prominence within the social sciences as a way of measuring the successes of programs ranging from microfinance and welfare reform to housing vouchers and teaching methods. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), which Gueron co-founded, was the firm that led the shift toward random assignment.

How Different “Spheres of Influence” Drive Inequality in the U.S. Today

September 12, 2014

In the wake of the police shooting and charged protests that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri in August, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar argued in TIME that despite the persistence of racial inequality in the U.S., class is quickly becoming the most significant measure of disadvantage. “This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.

Is class in fact replacing race as the great divider in the U.S.? A new book from the Russell Sage Foundation by Douglas S. Massey and Stefanie Brodmann, Spheres of Influence: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality, investigates this claim. The authors trace how the civil rights movement, the increase in immigration from Asia and Latin America, and the restructuring of the economy in favor of the rich over the last several decades have begun to alter the contours of inequality in the U.S. They show that rather than operating in isolation, race and class are increasingly interacting in complex ways in order to produce and reproduce disadvantage for certain groups.

New Fall 2014 Books from RSF

August 29, 2014

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Fall 2014. The list includes Labor’s Love Lost, a major new study on the rise and fall of the American working class by former Visiting Scholar Andrew Cherlin; Unequal Time, an in-depth look at how employment schedules reproduce social inequalities in the health care sector; and Redefining Race, a historical analysis of the processes through which “Asian American” became a panethnic label and identity in the U.S. To request a hard copy of the full catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at bruce@rsage.org, or click here to visit our publications page.

The American Non-Dilemma Winner of the 2013 C. Wright Mills Award

August 22, 2014

The Society for the Study of Social Problems named Nancy DiTomaso’s book The American Non-Dilemma the winner of the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award at its annual meeting on August 16, 2014 in San Francisco. Selected from 77 nominated books, The American Non-Dilemma explores the ways in which racial inequality in the post-Civil Rights era plays out in today's economic and political context.

In addition to winning the C. Wright Mills Award, this month The American Non-Dilemma was also named the winner of the 2014 Outstanding Book Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association, as well as the runner-up for the George R. Terry Book Award by the Academy of Management, in which 65 books were nominated.

Drawing from her interviews with working, middle, and upper-class whites, The American Non-Dilemma shows 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.

As DiTomaso finds, most whites see themselves as part of the solution rather than part of the problem with regard to racial inequality. Yet they continue to harbor strong reservations about public policies—such as affirmative action—intended to ameliorate racial inequality.

Nancy DiTomaso Runner-Up for George R. Terry Book Award

August 7, 2014

On August 3, at its 74th annual meeting, the Academy of Management named The American Non-Dilemma by Nancy DiTomaso (Rutgers) the runner-up for the 2014 George R. Terry Book Award. This award is granted annually to the book judged to have made the most outstanding contribution to the global advancement of management knowledge during the last two years.

The American Non-Dilemma convincingly argues that America's enduring racial divide is sustained more by whites' preferential treatment of members of their own social networks than by overt racial discrimination. Drawing on research from sociology, political science, history, and psychology, as well as her own interviews with a cross-section of non-Hispanic whites, DiTomaso provides a comprehensive examination of the persistence of racial inequality in the post-Civil Rights era and how it plays out in today's economic and political context.

New York Times and TIME Magazine Discuss New RSF Research

July 29, 2014

The New York Times and TIME magazine recently covered a new study by Fabian T. Pfeffer, Sheldon Danziger, and Robert Schoeni, released as part of the Russell Sage Foundation’s Recession Trends collaboration with the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. In the study, the authors explore the extent to which the Great Recession altered the level and distribution of American families’ wealth. Their research concludes that for typical American households, net worth fell by about a third between 2003 and 2013. Yet, as Anna Bernasek notes in the NYT, “The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 95 percent of the population had less wealth.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14 percent over the same 10 years.” In other words, the study uncovers not just the losses sustained by American households during the Recession, but also the troubling and still-growing increase in wealth inequality in the U.S.

The New York Times also recently highlighted new research by Andrew Cherlin, a former Visiting Scholar and the author of Labor’s Love Lost (to be published by the Russell Sage Foundation in December 2014). In his forthcoming book, Cherlin offers a new historical assessment of the rise and fall of working-class families in America, demonstrating how momentous social and economic transformations have contributed to the collapse of this once-stable social class and what this seismic cultural shift means for the nation’s future. As Cherlin explained to the Times, in the 50s and 60, most working class families were sustained by a male breadwinner. But the collapse of industrial blue-collar jobs and the increase in the number of women in the workforce have eroded this family structure.

Legacies of the War on Poverty Panel at ASA

July 28, 2014

A panel session at the upcoming American Sociological Association (ASA) will feature a discussion of the 2014 Russell Sage Foundation publication, Legacies of the War on Poverty, co-edited by RSF president Sheldon Danziger and Martha J. Bailey (University of Michigan). The book—published on the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of an unconditional war on poverty—evaluates the success of the anti-poverty programs established during Johnson’s administration, many of which still form the basis of the social safety net in the U.S. today.

While some accounts portray the War on Poverty as a costly experiment that failed, the contributors featured in Legacies draw from fifty years of empirical evidence to show that this view is too simplistic and document many ways that War on Poverty programs improved the educational attainment, incomes and health of the poor and the elderly.

The panelists at the upcoming ASA talk are Legacies co-editor Sheldon Danziger and contributors Kathleen McGarry (UCLA) and Harry Holzer (Georgetown), in conversation with David B. Grusky (Stanford).

The Long Shadow in the News

July 1, 2014

In The Long Shadow, a new book published by the Russell Sage Foundation, sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olsen present new and sobering findings on the life opportunities of low-income children in west Baltimore. For 25 years, the authors tracked the life progress of a group of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children through the Beginning School Study Youth Panel (BSSYP). The study 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.

Several new articles on inequality in the U.S. cite Alexander, Entwisle, and Olsen’s original research. At Colorlines, Kai Wright’s comprehensive overview of unemployment and African American men uses the authors’ Baltimore study to explore the shortcomings of education as the sole path out of poverty. As The Long Shadow finds, education primarily enhanced the privileges of those who were already middle-class, rather than boosting up poor children. While many low-income youth profiled in the Baltimore study pursued higher education, only 4% had earned a bachelor’s degree by age 28, due to barriers such as the cost of college and family obligations. As Wright notes, The Long Shadow further shows that black men in the study were penalized more for “problem behaviors”—including dropping out of school and getting arrested—than their white counterparts. In other words, race and class interact closely to limit poor Baltimoreans’ life opportunities.

Neighborhood Segregation and the Concentration of Poverty

June 17, 2014

A new book from the Foundation, Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools (2014), examines the complex relationships between schools, neighborhood social networks, and larger patterns of inequality in order to offer new perspectives on the way that residential segregation continues to affect access to education.

In his chapter, “Segregation, Neighborhoods, and Schools,” public policy scholar Paul Jargowsky (Rutgers University-Camden) traces shifts in residential segregation over the last four decades, along both class and racial lines. He assesses the extent to which race drives class segregation, and vice versa, and finds that though a small amount of racial segregation is due to poverty status—and a larger amount of segregation by class is due to race—both largely work independently of each other to shape residential segregation.

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