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Dina Okamoto on the Construction of Panethnicity

January 20, 2015

The category “Asian American” currently encompasses more than forty-five Asian-origin groups, from countries ranging from Bangladesh to Vietnam to South Korea. How did one label come to include such a wide range of ethnicities, national origins, and languages, and represent individuals across vastly different social and economic standings? In Redefining Race, a new book from the Russell Sage Foundation, sociologist Dina G. Okamoto traces the complex evolution of “Asian American” as a cohesive identity, emphasizing how it has been a deliberate social achievement negotiated by group members, rather than an organic and inevitable process.

As Okamoto explains, a combination of broad social conditions in the post-Civil Rights era created an environment for Asian American panethnicity to develop. While the expansion of immigration policies in the 1960s allowed greater numbers of Asian immigrants into the U.S., these new immigrant groups were subsequently subject to racial discrimination by the state and larger society. At the same time, movements led by African Americans, women, and students provided Asian groups with models for political organizing and sparked the push for greater political representation among minorities. These conditions laid the groundwork for a collective identity among Asian immigrants of different ethnicities:

Andrew Cherlin on Income Inequality and the Marriage Gap

December 12, 2014

A new RSF book by Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin, Labor’s Love Lost, provides an in-depth historical assessment of the rise and fall of working-class families in America. While industrial occupations were once plentiful and sustained middle-class families, they have all but vanished over the past forty years. As Cherlin shows, in their absence, ever-growing numbers of young adults now hold precarious, low-paid jobs with few fringe benefits. Facing such insecure economic prospects, less-educated young adults are increasingly forgoing marriage and are having children within unstable cohabiting relationships. This has created a large marriage gap between them and their more affluent, college-educated peers.

In a review of Labor’s Love Lost for TIME, Belinda Luscombe notes, “What Cherlin finds that this is not the first time that there has been a wide disparity between the marital fortunes of the rich and the poor: the situation looked similar during the last Gilded Age. Inequality in bank accounts and in marital status go hand in hand.” As the graph below shows, marriage disparities widen in times of significant income inequality:

Source: New York Times

RSF Authors Discuss Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration

November 25, 2014

On November 21, President Obama delivered an historic executive order to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. “Today,” he stated, “our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.” Citing the ongoing political deadlock in Congress as a major barrier to the implementation of meaningful immigration reform, the president announced a set of actions designed to grant temporary relief from deportation to undocumented parents of US-born children, high-skilled immigrant workers and graduate students, and others.

Several RSF authors and immigration experts participated in a recent roundtable discussion on The Conversation about the executive order, which has drawn fire from Republican leaders. Katharine Donato, co-author of the forthcoming RSF publication Gender and International Migration (2015), applauded the president for taking “action that many families have desperately needed.” She continued, “Most of us don’t understand how damaging the fear of deportation is. But for the last two decades, many immigrant parents—with children who are US citizens—have lived with this very real fear every day.”

Diversity and Disparities: Residential Segregation by Income

November 6, 2014

Diversity and Disparities, edited by sociologist John Logan, assembles impressive new studies that interpret the population, labor market, and housing market changes in the U.S. over the last decade. The book, now available for free download in its entirety from the Russell Sage Foundation, raises concerns about the extent of socioeconomic immobility in the United States today, showing how the U.S.—while more diverse than ever before—has also witnessed a significant rise in economic inequality. Drawing on detailed data from the decennial census, the American Community Survey, and other sources, the leading social scientists featured in the book chart the deepening disparities among different groups in the U.S.

In their chapter on residential segregation, Kendra Bischoff and Sean F. Reardon explore the rise of class segregation within racial groups as higher-income Americans move away from others into separate and privileged neighborhoods and communities. They find that since the 1970s, black and Hispanic families have lived in increasingly income-segregated communities. As the graph below shows, four decades ago, income segregation among African Americans in metropolitan areas was lower than that of other racial groups. By 2009, it had risen to the highest—65% greater than that of white families:

Unequal Time Featured in NBC News, the Guardian, and Elsewhere

November 3, 2014

A new Russell Sage Foundation book, Unequal Time, has gained significant press coverage over the past few weeks, including profiles in The Nation and Slate, and op-eds by authors Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel in The Guardian and The American Prospect. In their book, Clawson and Gerstel illustrate how social inequalities permeate the workplace and exacerbate differences between men and women, the privileged and disadvantaged. They investigate the connected schedules of four health sector occupations: professional doctors and nurses, and working-class EMTs and nursing assistants. Though these workers all experience schedule uncertainty, they do so in distinct ways that vary by gender and class.

In a Q&A with NBC News, Clawson noted, “The thing about health care is that there has to be someone on duty all the time. You can’t have a nurse walk off and have the patients not covered for an hour. That’s uncontroversial, but the way that plays out is unequal by gender and class, and it’s absolutely unsustainable for the lives of low wage workers and women.”

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, 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.

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