Most of the research literature explaining the level of economic mobility in the United States focuses on characteristics of individuals or families. This article expands the focus beyond the individual and the family to consider features of communities and cities. Although evidence is strong that features of neighborhoods and cities have causal effects on individual economic mobility, there is much less evidence on the most relevant mechanisms. The article reviews the available evidence at both levels of analysis before concluding with a discussion of the implications for social policy.
Russell Sage Foundation
Over the last thirty years, the U.S. penal population increased from around 300,000 to more than two million, with more than half a million prisoners returning to their home communities each year. What are the social costs to the communities from which this vast incarcerated population comes? And what happens to these communities when former prisoners return as free men and women in need of social and economic support?
Using data from the 2008 and 2010 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to analyze the determinants of material hardship among individuals ages sixty-five and older, I look at five self-reported hardships: food insecurity, skipped meals, medication cutbacks, difficulty paying bills, and dissatisfaction with one's financial situation. One-fifth of the elderly report one or more of these hardships. Although hardship is more likely for those with low incomes, most older Americans experiencing hardship are not poor.
Low-skilled women in the 1990s took widely different paths in trying to support their children. Some held good jobs with growth potential, some cycled in and out of low-paying jobs, some worked part time, and others stayed out of the labor force entirely. Scholars have closely analyzed the economic consequences of these varied trajectories, but little research has focused on the consequences of a mother’s career path on her children’s development.
Now that the welfare system has been largely dismantled, the fate of America’s poor depends on what happens to them in the low-wage labor market. In this timely volume, Katherine S. Newman explores whether the poorest workers and families benefited from the tight labor markets and good economic times of the late 1990s. Following black and Latino workers in Harlem, who began their work lives flipping burgers, she finds more good news than we might have expected coming out of a high-poverty neighborhood.
Over the past three decades, job training programs have proliferated in response to mounting problems of unemployment, poverty, and expanding welfare rolls. These programs and the institutions that administer them have grown to a number and complexity that make it increasingly difficult for policymakers to interpret their effectiveness. Learning to Work offers a comprehensive assessment of efforts to move individuals into the workforce, and explains why their success has been limited.
The vast disparities in college attendance and graduation rates between students from different class backgrounds is a growing social concern. Economic Inequality and Higher Education investigates the connection between income inequality and unequal access to higher education, and proposes solutions that the state and federal governments and schools themselves can undertake to make college accessible to students from all backgrounds.
The growing number of immigrants living and working in America has become a controversial topic from classrooms to corporations and from kitchen tables to Capitol Hill. Many native-born Americans fear that competition from new arrivals will undermine the economic standing of low-skilled American workers, and that immigrants may not successfully integrate into the U.S. economy. In Color Lines, Country Lines, sociologist Lingxin Hao argues that the current influx of immigrants is changing America’s class structure, but not in the ways commonly believed.
In Poor Kids in a Rich Country, Lee Rainwater and Timothy Smeeding ask what it means to be poor in a prosperous nation - especially for any country's most vulnerable citizens, its children. In comparing the situation of American children in low-income families with their counterparts in fourteen other countries—including Western Europe, Australia, and Canada—they provide a powerful perspective on the dynamics of child poverty in the United States.
In recent years, a flurry of reports on downsizing, outsourcing, and flexible staffing have created the impression that stable, long-term jobs are a thing of the past. According to conventional wisdom, workers can no longer count on building a career with a single employer, and job security is a rare prize. While there is no shortage of striking anecdotes to fuel these popular beliefs, reliable evidence is harder to come by.