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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.

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.

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.”

RSF Research and Obama’s Agenda to Tackle Inequality

February 6, 2014

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 28, President Obama focused a significant portion of his speech on the issue of inequality in the U.S. Citing the expiration of unemployment insurance and a stagnant minimum wage as two major roadblocks to economic security for many Americans, the president outlined an ambitious plan to alleviate financial distress for low-income individuals, including raising the minimum wage. “Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here,” Obama stated, introducing a bill to fix that would lift the minimum wage to $10.10. He continued, “This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program.”

Newly published research from the Russell Sage Foundation sheds important new light on Obama’s plan of poverty relief. A new book, What Works for Workers?, examines the public policies that have already been developed to aid to low-income workers. In their chapter, “Low-Wage Workers and Paid Family Leave: The California Experience,” contributors Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum offer an analysis of California’s paid family leave program, a policy designed to benefit the working poor, who have few resources that allow them to take time off work to care for children or ill family members. Despite initial opposition, the paid leave program proved more acceptable than expected among employers and provided a much-needed system of wage replacement for low-income workers. In the wake of its success, the initiative has emerged as a useful blueprint for paid leave programs in other states. Though Obama did not propose a specific initiative for implementing paid leave for mothers, he acknowledged the importance of such programs, stating, “[Mothers] deserve to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship.”

New RSF Book Reviews in Contemporary Sociology

January 28, 2014

Two Russell Sage Foundation books were recently reviewed in the January 2014 issue of Contemporary Sociology. Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (2012), a volume edited by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, received glowing praise from reviewer Linda Renzulli of the University of Georgia, who called the book “a must read for scholars in education, family, and labor markets.”

Is Unemployment Insurance Good for Workers?

January 24, 2014

At the close of 2013, Republicans in Congress blocked the renewal of Emergency Unemployment Insurance, a measure that has allowed long-term unemployed Americans to continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits beyond the maximum 26-week benefit period. The failure to renew this extension ended benefits for 1.3 million Americans. Unemployment insurance has long been at the center of fierce debates over the nature of the U.S. social safety net. Conservatives claim that such benefits create a disincentive for the unemployed to seek work, while progressives argue that they are a crucial source of income for those who have lost jobs, especially during periods during and after recessions, when the labor market is at its most competitive and jobs remain scarce.

A new volume from the Russell Sage Foundation assesses the effectiveness of unemployment insurance alongside other policy measures designed to aid workers. What Works for Workers?, edited by Stephanie Luce, Jennifer Luff, Joseph A. McCartin, and Ruth Milkman, provides a comprehensive analysis of policies focused on low-wage workers and the expanding income gap in the U.S. Featuring contributions from an eminent group of social scientists, What Works for Workers? evaluates the most high-profile strategies for poverty reduction, including innovative “living wage” ordinances, education programs for African American youth, and better regulation of labor laws pertaining to immigrants. The contributors delve into an extensive body of scholarship on low-wage work to reveal a number of surprising findings.

RSF Author Catherine Lee Discusses the Role of Families in U.S. Immigration Policies, Past and Present

January 16, 2014

Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification—policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration—is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In her 2013 RSF book, Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Immigration, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Lee discusses some of the groundbreaking research from her book and offers recommendations for future immigration policies. To learn more about Fictive Kinship or to purchase a copy, click here.

Q. As you point out in your book, family reunification has long been a guiding theme of U.S. immigration policy and has significantly influenced the changing demographics of the country. Can you give some examples of how family reunification policies have shaped the way we think about race and ethnicity in the U.S. today?

New Spring 2014 Books from RSF

January 14, 2014

Below is an early look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2014. The list includes a major new study on the role of private equity firms in today’s economy, an in-depth analysis of how Obama’s 2008 campaign has changed racial attitudes in the U.S., and a volume examining what we know about policies to help low-wage workers. To request a hard copy of the full catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or click here to visit our publications page.

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