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Past Programs

The Russell Sage Foundation currently provides support to scholars at other institutions to pursue research projects that advance the Foundation’s objectives in five main research areas: Social Inequality, Behavioral Economics, Future of Work, Immigration, and Cultural Contact. In addition to the activities sponsored under our main programs, the Foundation also supports a range of special initiatives focused on other issues of current importance. For more detailed information on each of these programs, please choose your area of interest below.

There are many social scientific questions that only the census can answer, and many more that it answers with more authority than any other source of data. As the largest social survey of the United States, the census is capable of tracking small groups and finely distinguished slices of the population. It is, for example, our only source of information about smaller racial and ethnic minorities, specific occupations, and particular income categories.

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The Foundation’s Cultural Contact program is no longer accepting new grant proposals. The Immigration and Cultural Contact programs have been replaced by the Foundation’s new Research on Ethnicity and Immigration program. Please click here for more information about the new program.

The Foundation’s Cultural Contact program is concerned with understanding and improving relations between racial and ethnic groups in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and other key institutional settings. Founded in 1992, the program has examined the effectiveness of diversity training and affirmative action in work places and on college campuses. It has also sponsored a series of working groups looking at how the American legal, education, and health care systems are responding to increased ethnic and cultural diversity. The current working groups address two new areas: the interaction between police and minorities, and the cultural frictions between immigrants and local residents in new areas of immigrant settlement.

Funded Projects:

About the Program:

The Foundation’s Immigration program is no longer accepting new grant proposals. The Immigration and Cultural Contact programs have been replaced by the Foundation’s new Research on Ethnicity and Immigration program. Please click here for more information about the new program.

Since 1991, the Foundation’s Immigration program has looked beyond the immediate costs and benefits of immigration to the United States to examine how well immigrants and their children are adapting socially, politically, and economically. To assess the long-range progress of today’s immigrants, the program sponsored three large-scale surveys of second-generation immigrants to address a series of questions, including English proficiency, job history, and marriage patterns. Currently, the program has turned to two new areas of research: one on the entry of immigrants into the civic and political life of the nation, and another exploring how immigrants fare as they settle in new destinations outside traditional gateway cities.

In 1992, Russell Sage Foundation was invited by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help develop an initiative aimed at strengthening educational research to improve literacy levels in the United States. The program focused on applying findings from basic cognitive science to educational practice that would foster the ability of students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to read, write, and reason effectively. As the program developed, it moved away from support of basic cognitive research toward projects aimed at understanding how to disseminate innovations that promote active literacy and sustain educational change. Guiding the process were several research teams that combined educational innovators with specialists in evaluation, experts in teacher training, and social scientists who study the diffusion of innovation. The program eventually supported four major projects, all of which were concluded by 2001. For a discussion of the impetus behind the Literacy initiative, please visit the Mellon Foundation website.

The Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality, RSF's largest single effort in the 1990s, was aimed at finding out why high rates of joblessness have persisted among minorities living in America's central cities. Despite a robust U. S. economy, millions of low-skill, inner-city workers remain unemployed or stuck in low-paying, dead-end jobs. One explanation is that the economic restructuring of recent decades has increased the educational and skill requirements for most jobs and that most inner-city workers do not have the training and experience to qualify for these jobs. Many jobs, moreover, have moved from cities to the suburbs, stranding inner-city workers. The Multi-City Study found that these two factors, which researchers refer to as skill and spatial mismatches, tell only part of the story: persistent racial barriers, especially employer bias against hiring racial minorities, constitute an even more significant challenge to the job prospects of inner-city workers.

With the support of the Foundation, political scientists Theda Skocpol (Harvard University) and Lawrence Jacobs (University of Minnesota) formed a working group to track the course and fate of Obama's efforts to reorient domestic policy during 2009 and 2010. Members traced developments in eight specific policy areas: health reform, financial regulation, energy and climate change, tax policy, higher education funding, primary and secondary school reform, immigration policy, and labor law reform. Employing a variety of data sources, including interviews with key actors, the scholars in this project highlight the institutional and political constraints that channel and limit changes, especially changes intended to mitigate social and economic inequalities in the United States.

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The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 altered the political, social, and economic landscape of the United States and the world. On that day, thousands of lives were lost, the structure of the U.S. economy was shaken, and the bonds of community in a multi-cultural world were put to the test. To contribute in its own limited way to the nation's effort to respond to the challenges posed by the September 11 attacks, the Russell Sage Foundation devised several new initiatives designed to enlist the data and insights of social science in helping the country understand the implications of September 11 for our city and our national civic life.

In 1994 the Foundation approved the formation of a working group of political scientists interested in probing what they perceived as growing citizen disenchantment with the nation's political system. Specifically they have been interested in studying how the nation's two major political parties have each attempted to create a new political coalition organized around different ideological responses to the belief that government was not meeting the needs of its citizens. The specific focus of their study has been the social policy agenda of the Clinton administration and the partisan struggles that have ensued as a Democratic President--the first in twelve years--and a Republican majority in Congress--the first in over forty years--have attempted to enact major policy reforms.

In 2014 the Russell Sage Foundation completed a major initiative to assess the effects of the Great Recession on the economic, political, and social life of the country. Officially over in 2009, the Great Recession is now generally acknowledged to be the most devastating global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Prolonged economic stagnation is likely to transform American institutions and severely erode the life chances of many Americans. To understand these effects across a broad swath of social and economic life, the Foundation identified 15 areas of inquiry—such as retirement, education, income and wealth—and funded proposals for innovative projects from a distinguished team of scholars.

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Most of the Foundation’s programs are aimed at deepening our understanding of social problems and social trends that immediately impact the quality of national life. On occasion, however, RSF invests in social research for sheerly scientific reasons – when we believe that the long-term development of social science will yield eventual benefits in improved understanding of the causal forces underlie the flux of social events. Behavioral economics has been one such undertaking; our research initiative on the social role of trust is another.