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RSF Author Carla Shedd and New RSF Book Unequal City in the News

November 2, 2015

Recently, Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina made headlines when video of a police officer pulling a black teenage student from her desk and throwing her to the ground went viral. The events sparked a national outcry over the use of police force in schools, and prompted the Department of Justice to begin an investigation into the incident.

While the Richland County police department has since fired the officer involved, the future of police presence in public schools remains unclear. RSF author and sociologist Carla Shedd—whose new book Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice explores in detail how marginalized youth navigate their interactions with law enforcement in and around their schools—spoke with several news outlets about the Spring Valley High incident. According to Shedd, schools play a crucial role in either reinforcing or ameliorating the social inequalities experienced by adolescents in city environments. As she told the Wall Street Journal, in many educational settings, black students are treated differently from white students when they act like teenagers. She added, in an interview with the Washington Post, “I talk about what the consequences are when young people are not given that developmental space to mess up, to act out or make mistakes like regular teenagers.”

Jane Waldfogel Discusses Poverty Rate and Socioeconomic Achievement Gap in the News

September 28, 2015

Following the recent publication of the RSF book Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective, co-author and former Visiting Scholar Jane Waldfogel has appeared in several media outlets to discuss the annual U.S. Census Bureau report on the national poverty rate and the troubling and persistent socioeconomic achievement gap in the U.S.

While the official Census poverty rate has remained steady for the fourth year in a row, at 14.8%, Waldfogel pointed out in interviews with NPR and CNN Money that this measure does not take into account social safety net programs designed to aid low-income families.

According to Waldfogel, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which reflects non-cash benefits such as food stamps and social security, may provide a more accurate picture of how low-income families in America make ends meet. As she told CBS Moneywatch, the Supplemental Poverty Measure “illustrates that the social safety net is helping lift American children out of poverty, with programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps particularly effective.”

Yet, in an interview with Buzzfeed, Waldfogel explained that even these important benefits may not be doing enough to alleviate poverty in the U.S. “Child poverty in the U.S. is dismally high, especially when we compare the U.S. to our peer countries,” she said.

The consequences of ongoing poverty and economic inequality include the persistence of an academic achievement gap between students from different backgrounds. In Too Many Children Left Behind, Waldfogel and co-authors Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, and Elizabeth Washbrook use international data to show how social mobility varies in the United States compared with Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They demonstrate that the social inequalities that children experience before they start school contribute to large gaps in test scores between low- and high-socioeconomic-status students that are present at school entry and that persist as they move through school.

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 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.

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.”

RSF President Sheldon Danziger on the Successes of the War on Poverty

August 5, 2015

RSF president Sheldon Danziger recently appeared on Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America—a program on WNET-13, New York public television—to discuss the lasting impact of several of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives. While some politicians and pundits have dismissed the War on Poverty as a failure, Danziger argues that the poverty rate in America would be much higher without programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and food stamps—all of which were established under the War on Poverty.

Danziger is the co-editor with Martha J. Bailey of the 2013 RSF book Legacies of the War on Poverty, which draws from fifty years of empirical evidence to offer an assessment of some of the policy successes of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Prior to joining the Russell Sage Foundation, Danziger was the Henry J. Meyer Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Research Professor at the Population Studies Center, and Director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan.

Watch Danziger’s interview with Chasing the Dream below:

RSF Books Win Max Weber Award, Frank Luther Mott Award

August 4, 2015

Several RSF titles have recently received book awards for their distinguished contributions to the social sciences. In June, Unequal Time (2014) by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel was named the winner of the Max Weber Award for Distinguished Scholarship by the Organizations, Occupations, and Work (OOW) Section of the American Sociological Association. In Unequal Time, Clawson and Gerstel explore the ways in which social inequalities permeate the workplace and show how the schedules of some workers can shape the schedules of others in ways that exemplify and often exacerbate gender and class differences. Focusing on four occupations in the health sector—doctors, nurses, EMTs, and nursing assistants—the authors show how all of these workers experience the effects of schedule uncertainty but do so in very distinct ways for each occupation.

The OOW also awarded an honorable mention to Nancy DiTomaso for her RSF book The American Non-Dilemma (2013). In the book, DiTomaso draws from interviews with working, middle, and upper-class whites to show 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.

RSF Author Jennifer Lee Interviewed by U.S. Embassy in New Zealand

July 14, 2015

RSF author and former Visiting Scholar Jennifer Lee (University of California, Irvine) recently visited New Zealand to deliver a keynote address at the Population Association of New Zealand conference. During her time in Wellington, she participated in an interview at the U.S. Embassy and discussed diversity and population trends in America.

RSF Author Jennifer Lee Named Chair-Elect of ASA Section on International Migration

June 17, 2015

RSF author and former Visiting Scholar Jennifer Lee (UC Irvine) has been selected as chair-elect of the American Sociological Association Section on International Migration. One of 52 special interest groups within the association, the International Migration section aims to stimulate, promote, and reward the development of original theory and research on international migration. During her term, Lee aims to make scholarly research in the field of international migration more accessible to the public audience by connecting it to pressing policy debates.

Lee was a Visiting Scholar at the Foundation during the academic year of 2011-2012. She is co-author with Frank Bean of the RSF book The Diversity Paradox (2010), and co-author with Min Zhou of the newly released RSF book The Asian American Achievement Paradox (2015). In The Asian American Achievement Paradox, Lee and Zhou offer a compelling account of the academic achievement of the children of Asian immigrants—which pundits have long attributed to unique cultural values. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the adult children of Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese refugees and survey data, Lee and Zhou bridge sociology and social psychology to correct this myth and explain how immigration laws, institutions, and culture interact to foster high achievement among certain Asian American groups.

Lee's one-year term as chair of the ASA Section on International Migration begins in August 2015.

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.”

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