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How Did Children and Families Fare During the Great Recession?

August 24, 2016

Many working families continue to struggle in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. A new book from RSF, Children of the Great Recession, explores in depth the effects of the recession on parents and young children. The book is now available in full for free download from the foundation.

In Children of the Great Recession, a group of leading scholars draw from the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study, a unique survey of nearly 5,000 economically and ethnically diverse families in twenty cities. By exploring the discrepancies in outcomes between these families—particularly between those headed by parents with college degrees and those without—this timely book shows how the most disadvantaged families have continued to suffer as a result of the Great Recession.

For example, in their chapter, Irwin Garfinkel and Natasha Pilkauskas examine changes in families’ household income, poverty levels, and economic insecurity throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century. They estimate the relationship between the local unemployment rates for parents in the study and their economic well-being, then use this estimate to predict what the economic well-being of these families would be given an increase in the unemployment rate from 5 percent to 10 percent (approximately the size of the increase brought about by the Great Recession).

New Fall 2016 Books from RSF

August 10, 2016

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Fall 2016. The list includes Abandoned Families, a study of how increasing economic and residential segregation has led to the social isolation of many low-income workers; Hard Bargains, an investigation of how the expansion of punitive federal drug sentencing has exacerbated mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system; Framing Immigrants, a look at the way the mainstream media frames the issue of immigration and how these discussions influence public opinion and the creation of new immigration policies; and Children of the Great Recession, a volume that draws from a study of nearly 5,000 economically and ethnically diverse families in twenty cities to analyze the effects of the Great Recession on parents and young children.

Four new issues of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences will also be released this fall, and include “A Half Century of Change in the Lives of American Women,” which investigates women’s changing work and family roles and the implications of these shifts for gender equality; “The Coleman Report and Educational Inequality Fifty Years Later,” which analyzes ongoing barriers to educational opportunity today in the context of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity Report (EEO); “Wealth Inequality: Economic and Social Dimensions,” which examines the causes of contemporary wealth inequality and its consequences for social mobility, racial equity, education, and more; and “Big Data in Political Economy,” which investigates how the proliferation of “big data” since the 1980s can help social scientists gain new insights into such issues as social inequality, political polarization, and the influence of money in politics.

To request a printed copy of our Fall 2016 catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or view the complete list of RSF books on our publications page.

Spotlight on Poverty Interviews RSF Author Stefanie DeLuca

June 21, 2016

Stefanie DeLuca (Johns Hopkins University), co-author of the recent RSF book Coming of Age in the Other America, sat down this month with Jodie Levin-Epstein to discuss some of the book’s findings in a new video interview for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

In Coming of Age in the Other America, authors Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin explore how some disadvantaged urban youth manage to achieve upward mobility despite overwhelming odds. Based on over a decade of the authors’ original fieldwork with parents and children in Baltimore, the book illuminates the profound effects of neighborhoods on impoverished families and shows how the right public policies can help break the cycle of disadvantage.

New RSF Book: A Pound of Flesh

June 14, 2016

Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society.

A new book from the Russell Sage Foundation, A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system and shows how they permanently marginalize the poor. Author Alexes Harris exposes the damaging effects of a little-understood component of criminal sentencing and shows how it further perpetuates racial and economic inequality.

Harris, who investigated court practices in Washington state for over eight years, reveals how fees for public defenders and other processing charges—known as legal financial obligations (LFOs) in the court system—penalize low-income defendants. Until these debts are paid in full, individuals remain under judicial supervision, subject to court summons, warrants, and jail stays. As a result of interest and surcharges that accumulate on unpaid financial penalties, these monetary sanctions often become insurmountable legal debts which many offenders carry for the remainder of their lives.

In her research, Harris shows that because Washington charges 12% interest and an annual $100 collection fee, legal debts continue to build even when defendants make regular payments. As the graph below shows, an individual making the minimum monthly payment ($5) on the average LFO amount sentenced in Washington ($1,347) would accumulate an additional debt of nearly $500 after five years.


RSF Books Win ASA Section Awards

June 9, 2016

Three books published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 2015 have received American Sociological Association (ASA) Section Awards. ASA sections represent different areas of interest within sociology and grant awards annually to recognize achievements in their respective areas of academic expertise.

The Asian American Achievement Paradox, by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, received the 2016 Pierre Bourdieu Award for Outstanding Book from the Sociology of Education Section, the 2016 Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award from the International Migration Section, and the 2016 Best Book on Asian America from the Asia and Asian American Section. In their book, Lee and Zhou correct the long-standing myth that the success of the children of Asian immigrants is due to unique cultural values. They show that a combination of immigration laws, institutions, and culture interact to foster high achievement among certain Asian American groups.

Parents Without Papers: The Progress and Pitfalls of Mexican American Integration by Frank D. Bean, Susan K. Brown, and James D. Bachmeier, received the 2016 Otis Dudley Duncan Book Award from the Sociology of Population Section. The book explores how the “membership exclusion” experienced by unauthorized Mexican immigrants—that is, their fear of deportation, lack of civil rights, and poor access to good jobs—inflicts multiple hardships not just on the immigrants themselves, but also on their children and grandchildren, even those who are U.S.-born.

Carla Shedd’s book Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice received the 2016 Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the Race, Gender and Class Section. Unequal City investigates how disadvantaged youth in Chicago navigate their neighborhoods, life opportunities, and encounters with the law, focusing in particular on how schools either reinforce or ameliorate the social inequalities that shape the worlds of these adolescents.

New RSF Book Engines of Anxiety in the News

May 23, 2016

Each spring the U.S. News & World Report releases its law school rankings to the media and the public. These rankings of over 200 law schools allow prospective students and the public to assess and compare differences in the quality of law schools. However, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability, just published by the foundation, shows that the increasing reliance on these rankings has negative consequences for students and educators and has implications for all educational programs that are ranked using similar methods.

Based on a wealth of observational data and over 200 in-depth interviews with law students, university deans, and other administrators, authors Wendy Espeland (Northwestern University) and Michael Sauder (University of Iowa) show how the scramble for high rankings has affected the missions and practices of many law schools. For instance, admissions officers face pressure to admit applicants with high test scores over lower-scoring candidates who possess other favorable credentials in order to boost their school’s ranking. As a new profile of Engines of Anxiety in Inside Higher Ed puts it, “The authors found an overwhelming focus on LSAT scores—above everything else and sometimes regardless of other indications of whether an applicant would be a good or bad law student or lawyer.”

New Book: Coming of Age in the Other America

April 19, 2016

In a new book published today by the Russell Sage Foundation, Coming of Age in the Other America, Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin explore how some disadvantaged urban youth manage to achieve upward mobility despite overwhelming odds. Based on over a decade of the authors’ original fieldwork with parents and children in Baltimore, the book illuminates the profound effects of neighborhoods on impoverished families and shows how the right public policies can help break the cycle of disadvantage.

Several news articles have already cited research from the book, including a profile in the Atlantic which outlines the authors’ study in detail, including how they interviewed 150 young adults and tracked “how those kids had fared in various areas between 2003 and 2012, including education, employment, family status, mental, and physical health and risk behaviors.” In their research, the authors found that youth who had been able to move to better neighborhoods—either as part of the Moving to Opportunity program or by other means—achieved much higher rates of high school completion and college enrollment than their parents.

RSF Grantees and Authors Discuss U.S. Labor Market

March 31, 2016

A number of RSF grantees and authors recently appeared in the news to discuss ongoing shifts in the U.S. labor market. Following the release of the February jobs report, Harry Holzer, co-author of the 2011 RSF book, Where Are All the Good Jobs Going?, spoke to several outlets about the addition of 242,000 new jobs to the economy. “I view this mostly as a good report. The job creation number was very good,” he told NBC News. In an interview with the Washington Post, he added that middle-aged workers who had dropped out of the workforce during the recession were starting to re-enter in significant numbers. Their re-entry, he said, has been “going on consistently since October. So it doesn’t look like a blip anymore. That seems important to me.”

Yet, longer-term changes to the labor market have presented cause for concern. The New York Times highlighted research by RSF trustee Lawrence Katz and former trustee Alan Kreuger that shows that the percentage of workers in “alternative work arrangements”—or contract and temporary workers—has increased by over 5 percent in the last decade. Katz told the Times that in addition to high unemployment rates during the recession, new technology has likely played a role in accelerating the rise of temporary, “flexible” work arrangements. “Call center workers can be at home. Independent truck drivers can be monitored for the efficiency of their routes. Monitoring makes contracting more feasible,” he said.

Supreme Court Amicus Brief Cites RSF-Funded Books and Research

March 14, 2016

In late 2014, President Obama announced two new executive actions concerning undocumented immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). While immigrant rights advocates have argued that both programs—which create paths for qualifying noncitizens to avoid deportation and receive work permits—could deliver much-needed relief to vulnerable segments of the population, legal opposition from Texas and twenty-five other states has suspended their implementation. The fates of DACA and DAPA now rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear the case, United States v. Texas, in April 2016.

In preparation for the court case, First Focus, a bipartisan child and family advocacy organization, and a number of other education and children’s advocacy groups have filed a new amicus brief on how the implementation of the DACA and DAPA programs will “help promote the healthy development of the over five million children living in mixed-status families in the United States.” The brief cites a range of RSF-funded research on immigration, the labor market, and inequality, including trustee Hiro Yoshikawa’s RSF book Immigrants Raising Citizens—which provides an in-depth look at the challenges undocumented immigrants face as they raise children in the U.S.—and former Visiting Scholar Sean Reardon’s chapter from the RSF book Whither Opportunity, which shows that parents’ socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of children’s academic achievement. As the brief points out, issuing work authorization to undocumented parents can be expected to raise their wages by 6-10 percent.

RSF Authors Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou to Speak at Yale on The Asian American Achievement Paradox

March 1, 2016

On Thursday, March 3, Jennifer Lee (University of California, Irvine) and Min Zhou (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and University of California, Los Angeles), authors of the 2015 RSF book The Asian American Achievement Paradox, will give a talk at Yale University on the research from their book.

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.

The authors’ upcoming talk is sponsored by the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University and will begin at 4pm on Thursday, March 3.

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