On Wednesday, September 29, former Russell Sage Visiting Journalist Andrea Elliott held a seminar for RSF trustees, visiting scholars, and staff to discuss her new book Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House). The book, which Elliott wrote in part during her time at RSF, is an expansion of her 2013 five-part series for The New York Times. The series follows 11-year-old Dasani, a homeless girl living in a city run shelter in Brooklyn, New York. A follow-up article based on her new book was recently published in The New York Times Magazine.
During the seminar, Elliott discussed the process of researching and writing the book. She spoke in particular about her fruitful collaborations with RSF visiting scholars and members of the Columbia Population Research Center and how her exposure to social science research deepened her understanding of the challenges faced by Dasani and her family. Elliott referenced being introduced to the Moving to Opportunity Study (MTO) by RSF visiting scholar Greg Duncan. MTO shows that if a child is moved out of public housing and into a private home in a less distressed neighborhood before the age of 13, he or she is more likely to experience positive outcomes as adult, such as moving out of poverty, being employed, and getting married. Such research helped Elliott provide context for the difficulties Dasani experienced when she left her family at the age of 13 to attend the Milton Hershey School, a free private boarding school for low-income children.
The exposure to social science research and input that Elliott received from RSF visiting scholars and grantees exemplifies the primary aim of RSF’s Visiting Journalist fellowships: during their residence, visiting journalists work alongside visiting scholars who might help inform the development of the journalist’s project as well as put their reporting into broader context.
Elliott is currently on leave as an investigative reporter for The New York Times. Since joining The Times in 2003, Elliott has specialized in long-form, immersive journalism projects. She has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a George Polk award, an Overseas Press Club award, and other honors for her work. Prior to joining The New York Times, Elliott was a reporter at The Miami Herald. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received her B.A. from Occidental College.