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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.”

RSF Author Karl Alexander Discusses Racial and Socioeconomic Inequality in Baltimore

May 1, 2015

The death of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody has drawn renewed scrutiny to the ongoing problem of the excessive use of force by police in African American communities across the U.S. Gray’s death from spinal damage—likely caused in the back of the police van in which he was detained—led to days of protests in Baltimore, with repeated clashes between demonstrators and the police. Recently, Baltimore lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would be pursuing homicide charges against the officers who had unlawfully arrested Gray.

Tensions between community members and the police have simmered for decades in West Baltimore, where Gray was stopped. An area with high rates of poverty, low life expectancies, and limited educational opportunities, West Baltimore was the site of a 25-year study on the persistence of racial and socioeconomic inequality conducted by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson. Their findings, presented in the RSF book The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014), offer a detailed examination of the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations of city residents. In their study, the authors traced the outcomes of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children, and monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults.

RSF Author Becky Pettit on the 1.5 Million “Missing” Black Men

April 22, 2015

A sobering new report in the New York Times reveals the disproportionate number of black men “missing” from their communities due to incarceration or early deaths. The Times found that black women between the ages of 25 to 54 who are not incarcerated outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million. Furthermore, about 900,000 fewer black men than women are alive today due to high mortality rates caused by homicide, heart disease, and respiratory disease—conditions that afflict black men more than any other demographic group.

Topping the list of places with the highest proportion of these “missing” black men was Ferguson, Missouri, the site of the racially charged police shooting of Michael Brown last November. As the authors of the article put it, “More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life.”

The Times quoted Russell Sage Foundation author Becky Pettit (University of Texas-Austin), who stated, “The numbers are staggering.” Her book Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, published in 2012 by the Russell Sage Foundation, explores the extent to which mass incarceration has excluded scores of black men from national surveys, thereby concealing decades of racial inequality. As Pettit shows, because prison inmates are not included in most survey data, statistics that seem to indicate a narrowing black-white racial gap—on educational attainment, work force participation, and earnings—instead fail to capture persistent racial, economic, and social disadvantage among African Americans.

New Reviews of RSF Books Unequal Time and The Long Shadow

February 25, 2015

Unequal Time, a 2014 RSF book by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel, was recently reviewed by Matthew M. Piszczek in ILR Review: The Journal of Work and Policy. Piszczek praised the book as “an interesting and much-needed expansion on the conceptualization of work schedules that aptly recognizes the limitations of more typical perspectives.” In Unequal Time, Clawson and Gerstel the ways in which social inequalities permeate the workplace, reverberating through a web of time in which the schedules of one person 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, largely shaped by the intersection of gender and class.

As Piszcek points out in his review, the book deftly demonstrates how workplace scheduling is a collective, rather than individual, affair. He concludes, “I recommend this book for anyone interested in the broad area of gender and class in the workplace, but especially for those interested in moving forward the work schedule and working-time research domains.”

New Spring 2015 Books from RSF

February 5, 2015

Below is a first look at new and forthcoming books from the Foundation for Spring 2015. The list includes Beyond Obamacare, a major new analysis of how to reorient the broken health care system in the U.S.; The Asian American Achievement Paradox, an investigation of the “model minority” stereotype and why certain immigrant groups succeed; Too Many Children Left Behind, a comparative study across four countries of the socioeconomic achievement gap among grade-school children; and Gender and International Migration, a historical evaluation of the changes in gendered migration patterns over several centuries.

To request a printed copy of our Spring 2015 catalog, please contact Bruce Thongsack at, or view the complete list of RSF books on our publications page.

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