February 2013 Issue • Volume 41 • Issue 2

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Russell Sage Foundation Names a New President


Sheldon H. Danziger

In early February, the Russell Sage Foundation, announced the appointment of Sheldon H. Danziger, the Henry J. Meyer Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, as the tenth president of the Foundation. Professor Danziger will join the Foundation on September 1, 2013. He will succeed Eric Wanner, who has led the Foundation since 1986.

The Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) is the principal American foundation devoted to research in the social sciences as well as the publisher of ASA’s Rose Book Series in Sociology. In making the announcement, Robert E. Denham, Chairman of the Russell Sage Foundation Board of Trustees, said “Professor Danziger’s appointment will continue the Russell Sage Foundation’s great tradition of distinguished and groundbreaking social science research that addresses important policy issues and contributes to improving the human condition. The Foundation has benefitted from 26 years of strong leadership by its current president, Eric Wanner. When Professor Danziger becomes president upon Eric’s retirement, we are assured of continued strong leadership in setting and executing our research agenda.”

Danziger is a nationally recognized expert on the effects of economic, demographic, and public policy changes on trends in poverty and economic inequality, and on social welfare policies in the United States. His work includes an examination of how the 1996 welfare reform affected the work effort, family income, and material well-being of single mothers and of the impact of poverty on children and youth. In examining the roots of poverty in America, he has written, “Poverty remains high not because of a shortage of effective antipoverty options but because the public and policymakers have not made reducing poverty a priority.”

Having published widely on the effectiveness of federal anti-poverty programs, Danziger did important early work on rising inequality in the United States, long before it was recognized as a national problem. In addition to his professorship at the University of Michigan, Danziger is Director of the National Poverty Center, Director of the Research and Training Program on Poverty and Public Policy, Research Professor at the Population Studies Center, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Commenting on the appointment of Professor Danziger as his successor, Wanner said, “I’m delighted that Sheldon Danziger has agreed to take over the reins at Russell Sage. Sheldon’s strong commitment to rigorous social science research and its implications for policy will make him an excellent steward of the Foundation’s long tradition of working to strengthen social science and apply it more effectively to the analysis of social problems and the design of social policy.”

In accepting the appointment, Danziger said, “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the Russell Sage Foundation. My goal is to advance the Foundation’s stellar accomplishments in the social sciences and continue to focus on the key economic, political, and social challenges facing the nation. I look forward to working with the trustees, the staff, and the many scholars whose research is the basis for the Foundation’s success.”

A History with RSF

Professor Danziger is a long-time participant in a wide range of Russell Sage-sponsored research projects. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Foundation in 2002-2003, a member of the Foundation’s Poverty Research and Future of Work Advisory Committees from 1989 to 2007 and the recipient of several RSF awards for external research projects, dating back to his research on inequality in the early 1990s. That research resulted in the book America Unequal (co-authored with Peter Gottschalk), one of the first comprehensive studies regarding the implications of rising inequality in the United States. He was also a key participant in the Foundation’s massive study of urban inequality in four U.S. cities in the mid-1990s and co-authored the RSF volume, Detroit Divided (with Reynolds Farley and Harry Holzer), analyzing the causes and consequences of economic and social inequality in the Motor City.

His most recent RSF-funded project, part of the Foundation’s research initiative on the social and economic consequences of the Great Recession, is a detailed study of inequalities in the loss and recovery of wealth in the wake of the Great Recession. With his co-researchers, he is tracking changes in the national distribution of wealth during and after the recession, determining the characteristics of households that have been slowest to recover and charting the intergenerational transfers of wealth within families.

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