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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.

New Spring 2016 Books from RSF

February 8, 2016

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2016. The list includes A Pound of Flesh, a new investigation of how monetary sanctions disproportionately punish the poor and perpetuate racial and economic inequality; Coming of Age in the Other America, a study of how neighborhoods and public policies affect the social mobility of low-income Baltimore youth; From High School to College, an analysis of how disparities across race, gender, and immigration status influence students’ paths to college completion; and Engines of Anxiety, an in-depth look at how law school rankings are reshaping legal education.

Three new issues of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences will also be released this spring, and include “Higher Education Effectiveness,” which investigates the extent to which colleges and universities today are accessible, cost-effective, and able to prepare students for the labor market; “Inequality of Economic Opportunity”, which examines the barriers to social mobility that exist in the U.S.; and “Immigrants Inside Politics/Outside Culture,” which draws from a recent survey of the Latino population to analyze the political activity of both native-born and immigrant Latinos, including the undocumented.

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

RSF Trustee Sara McLanahan and Author Andrew Cherlin to Speak on Family Policy and Child Well-Being

February 4, 2016

Update 2/17/16: Video of the event is available in full from CSPAN.

On Friday, February 12, Sara McLanahan (Princeton University), chair of the RSF board of trustees, and Andrew Cherlin (Johns Hopkins University), co-author of the RSF book The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood, will participate in a panel discussion hosted by the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the changing nature of American working class families.

The panel will explore how changes to family structures and marriage dynamics at a time of rising inequality and stunted social mobility have led to the decline of low-income children’s well-being. They will also evaluate the extent to which current policies have promoted healthy outcomes for children. Other panelists include Ron Haskins (Brookings Institution), Robert Putnam (Harvard University), and Michael Gerson (The Washington Post).

The event will take place at 10:30am EST on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and is free and open to the public.

Authors of RSF Book The Long Shadow Win Grawemeyer Award in Education

December 3, 2015

Authors Karl Alexander, the late Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson have been named winners of the 2016 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for their 2014 RSF book The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood. In their study, the authors followed nearly 800 Baltimore-area urban youths from first grade through adulthood and found that socioeconomic status trumps education when it comes to life outcomes. Their research spans nearly three decades and challenges the idea that access to public education means equal opportunity.

“Studies of this depth and breadth that include Census data, historical narratives, personal interviews, race, gender, family background, neighborhood and school conditions and social mobility over a lifetime are quite rare,” said award director Melissa Evans-Andris. The research featured in The Long Shadow has been profiled by outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, the Baltimore Sun, and Education Week.

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.

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