Bruce Western Named New President of the Russell Sage Foundation

May 6, 2024

The Russell Sage Foundation, the principal American foundation devoted exclusively to research in the social sciences, announced today the appointment of Bruce Western, Bryce Professor of Sociology and Social Justice and Director of the Justice Lab at Columbia University, as its eleventh president. Professor Western has been named president-elect and on July 1, 2025, he will succeed Sheldon Danziger, who has led the Foundation since 2013.

In making the announcement today, Michael Jones-Correa, Chair of the search committee and former Chair of the Russell Sage Foundation Board of Trustees, and Jennifer Lee, current Chair of the Board of Trustees, shared "We are thrilled to have Professor Western as the next president of the Russell Sage Foundation. He embodies a unique combination of qualities: a distinguished academic record, keen administrative skills and experience, a long history with the Foundation, and an exceptional capacity to work across the domains of research, policy, and the public square. His appointment will continue the Russell Sage Foundation's tradition of groundbreaking social science research that addresses important policy issues that contribute to improving the social and living conditions in the United States. The Foundation has benefitted from more than a decade of outstanding leadership by its current president, Sheldon Danziger. When Professor Western becomes president upon Sheldon's retirement, we are assured of continued strong leadership in driving the Foundation's vision and executing its research agenda."

Professor Western is an internationally renowned expert on poverty and inequality who studies the connections between political institutions and social and economic inequality, with a focus on criminal justice policy and incarceration. His recent research examines the causes, scope, and consequences of the historic growth in U.S. prison populations. Western is the Principal Investigator of the Square One Project, which re-imagines the public policy response to violence under conditions of poverty and racial inequality. He is author of two prize-winning Russell Sage Foundation books, Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (2018) and Punishment and Inequality in America (2006), and is author, editor, or co-editor of nine books and monographs. He has recently co-chaired expert panels for the National Research Council on COVID-19 in U.S. prisons (2020) and reducing racial inequality in the criminal justice system (2022-2023). Western is the co-founder and director of the Justice Lab at Columbia University and will continue in that role until moving to the Foundation in 2025.

Western is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the American Philosophical Society. Prior to joining Columbia University, he held faculty appointments at Harvard University and Princeton University, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Born in Canberra, Australia, Western received his B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Queensland and his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Commenting on the appointment of Professor Western as his successor, RSF president Sheldon Danziger said, "I'm delighted that the Board of Trustees selected Bruce Western to be RSF's next president. His commitment to social science research and its policy implications makes him an excellent choice. His distinguished research record will serve the Foundation well in furthering its mission of bringing social science research to bear on the nation's most pressing social, political, and economic problems."

"I am deeply honored to be asked to lead the Russell Sage Foundation," Western said. "Today, we face significant challenges, from economic inequality to immigration policy, from strengthening democracy to criminal justice reform. At a time like this, rigorous research is keenly needed in public conversations and policy debates. The Foundation has made major contributions to the study of social and economic problems in the United States. With the trustees, staff, and the extraordinary network of Russell Sage scholars, I'm looking forward to continuing the effort at this historically urgent time.”

Professor Western is a long-time participant in a wide range of Russell Sage-supported research projects. He was a visiting scholar at the Foundation in 1999-2000. In addition to authoring the two previously mentioned RSF books, Homeward and Punishment and Inequality in America, he also co-edited the RSF books Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration (with David Weiman and Mary Patillo) and The Great Recession (with David B. Grusky and Christopher Wimer). He also contributed chapters to the RSF volumes Barriers to Reentry? The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America; Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in an Age of Inequality; The New Institutionalism in Sociology; and Social Inequality. He was a member of the editorial board for the Foundation's journal, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, and has contributed articles to two issues of the journal. He is the recipient of multiple RSF research grants under the Foundation's Future of Work and Social, Political, and Economic Inequality programs, and he was a contributor to the Foundation's special initiative on the Social and Economic Effects of the Great Recession.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


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