Inside Philanthropy profiles Russell Sage Foundation’s crucial role in "moving inequality to the center of politics and policy”

April 15, 2015

“The [Russell Sage Foundation’s] research has played a crucial, if subtle role in moving inequality to the center of politics and policy in recent years” writes David Callahan for Inside Philanthropy.

The article, “Inside the Russell Sage Foundation’s epic dig into why inequality matters,” highlights the foundation’s “remarkably deep dig into the inequities of the second Gilded Age,” as well as the foundation’s more recent work under the direction of Sheldon Danziger, professor emeritus of the Ford School.

Callahan describes the foundation’s efforts to understand the impact of inequality on democracy, communities, education, healthcare, children, and families. “The stream of books, articles, and papers on inequality that have been produced with RSF support is remarkable,” he writes.

“What's been so powerful about this research is that the overarching picture that has emerged—of inequality slowly subverting core American ideals—is not coming from an ideological think tank or an opinion magazine or a politician. Rather, it's coming from the most respected social scientists in the nation, researchers who've piled up the evidence higher and higher.”

Callahan credits the foundation’s massive philanthropic investments in inequality research for helping to “bulldoze aside a small cottage industry that once existed on the right that denied or dismissed inequality.”

“Overall, inequality is now getting more traction as both a national and local issue [than at] any time since the early 1990s, and maybe since the New Deal era. And while various developments can account for that—the financial crisis, Occupy Wall Street, stagnant wages even as the economy rebounds—the research backed by RSF scholars seems to have played a key role in framing understanding of the inequality challenge, in its many dimensions.”

The article goes on to describe a new project Sheldon Danziger has launched in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to illuminate the social, economic, and political impact of the Affordable Care Act. “While plenty of researchers are looking at how the law will affect health and healthcare systems, Danziger thought it was important to look at how the most sweeping social policy legislation since Medicare would affect the nation's levels of equity and prosperity,” writes Callahan.

Sheldon Danziger is president of the Russell Sage Foundation and an emeritus professor of the Ford School.