Education and Stratification

Dalton Conley • Thomas J. Espenshade • Patricia Fernández-Kelly • Susan Fiske • Margaret Frye • Jean Grossman • Alejandro Portes • Marta Tienda • Yu Xie


“The Effect of Vietnam-era Conscription and Genetic Potential for Educational Attainment on Schooling Outcomes,” in Economics of Education Review by Lauren Schmitz (University of Michigan) and Dalton Conley examines whether draft lottery estimates of the casual effects of Vietnam-era military service on schooling vary by an individual’s genetic propensity toward educational attainment. They construct polygenic scores (PGS) for respondents in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) that aggregate thousands of individual loci across the human genome and weight them by effect sizes derived from a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) of years of education. Their findings suggest veterans with below average PGSs for educational attainment may have completed fewer years of school than comparable non-veterans.


In the New Jersey Families Study, Thomas Espenshade and his research team ask: How do families build skills in their young, pre-school children and help them get ready to learn? The study features a highly innovative “video ethnography.” They use direct observations of parent-child interactions as a way to deepen the understanding of the contextualized strategies families from a variety of backgrounds and in different social and economic circumstances use to build skills in their young children. Unobtrusive technologies in the form of video cameras placed strategically in up to four rooms in participants’ homes (rooms where most interactions occur) and activated continuously throughout the day and evening will constitute the primary means of data collection.

Interactions that hold particular interest are those thought to be linked to cognitive and social-emotional development—the amount of reading and talking parents do with children, children’s sleep routines, their diets and nutrition, their exposure to electronic screen time, structure versus chaos at home, and the way that stress outside the home affects parenting practices.

The New Jersey Families Study breaks new ground. It is the first time anyone has attempted an in-home naturalistic observation of this breadth, intensity, or duration. Taking a holistic approach to parent-child interactions and filming families in their natural habitats over an extended period will not only help more children become school-ready, this unprecedented study will lead to a better appreciation of the daily struggles facing many families and will also assist schools in becoming more “children-ready” and lead to a better appreciation of the daily struggles facing many families.


Thomas Espenshade is also leading a second project, ReachUp USA. This initiative is an early childhood intervention program modeled after Reach Up and Learn, a low-cost, highly successful, and internationally acclaimed early childhood intervention developed and applied in the 1980s in Jamaica. Reach Up and Learn is a home visitation program with a relatively short intervention period (two years) but with durable effects extending over a generation in a variety of domains including math and verbal ability, mental and socioemotional health, school retention, crime prevention, and labor-market earnings. Reach Up and Learn has never been implemented in any industrialized country. Espenshade aims to adapt it for use in the United States, beginning with a pilot project in Trenton, New Jersey, followed by a randomized controlled trial if the pilot program appears promising.


Patricia Fernández-Kelly is continuing her research on the making of the Cuban-American working class in Hialeah, Florida and is currently working on a book entitled, Hialeah Dreams: The Making of the Cuban-American Working Class in South Florida. The sunny climes of Hialeah, Florida, are not your typical academic research subjects. But Fernández-Kelly is so taken with the sociological richness of its predominantly Cuban exile population that she hopes to “place Hialeah on the academic map.” Born in Mexico City, she received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University and states that most of her scholarly work has gone into examining the Cuban-American working class in Hialeah and South Florida. Fernández-Kelly describes the city as “a place where different groups have left their imprint while trying to create a sample of what life should be like.” Her Hialeah research also covers the history of the city, which was envisioned as a playground for the rich until Cuban exiles fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959 turned it into a working-class community. Several other waves of Cuban exiles, including the Freedom Flights (1965—1973), the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, and the “Balseros,” or boat people, of the late 1990s eventually created in Hialeah the most economically successful immigrant enclave in U.S. history. According to Fernández-Kelly, Hialeah is the only U.S. industrial city that continues to grow.


Eugene Borgida (University of Minnesota) and Susan Fiske contributed the chapter entitled, “The Courts: How to Translate Research for Legal Cases,” in Making Research Matter: A Psychologist’s Guide to Public Engagement, which was edited by Linda R. Tropp (University of Massachusetts). In this volume, prominent experts, including academic psychologists, government officials, and leaders of professional organizations, discuss how researchers can forge and strengthen vital links between scholarship and public engagement by lending their scientific expertise to debates around social issues and current events. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court cited psychological evidence in overturning school segregation, is just one example of the powerful and far-reaching impact social science research can have on the world beyond academia. But, many researchers still find it challenging to share scientific knowledge with the broader public and to partner with key social institutions to have such impact. The contributing authors provide pointers on talking to the media, testifying as an expert witness, dealing with governmental organizations, working with schools and students, and influencing public policy.


Rachel Connor and Susan Fiske contributed a chapter entitled, “Warmth and Competence: A Feminist Look at Power and Negotiation in C.B. Travis and J.W. White’s (Editors.), APA Handbook of the Psychology of Women. As a formal field of study, the psychology of women has pushed the boundaries of traditional theory, produced breakthroughs in methodology, and built links to some of the most challenging problems of our time. It remains an intellectually vibrant and socially relevant area, including initiatives that not only have changed the epistemology of knowledge but also have expanded our understanding of ourselves and of the world.

In this two-volume set, chapter authors provide scholarly reviews and in-depth analyses of subjects within their areas of expertise. Themes of status and power inform many chapters. Volume one begins by outlining the emergence of the psychology of women and its connections with the women's movement. This is followed by feminist critiques of theory, descriptions of innovative methodologies, and discussions of difference and similarity, both between women and men and between gender and sexuality. The social and economic contexts surrounding these issues are reviewed, as are dichotomies sustained by sexism, stereotypes, and prejudice. Volume one concludes with chapters that address the uniquely intersecting components of individual experience.

Volume two focuses on applied subjects. It begins with a section on psychological well-being, including therapeutic models of gender, feminist goals of empowerment, multicultural feminism, and the borderlands of gender identity. Following is a discussion of close relationships, including issues of intimacy, equity, and changing models of family. Victimization and narratives of victimhood are described next, as are leadership, community, politics, and women in the workplace. The volume concludes with a discussion of women's roles and agency throughout the world, with special attention given to human rights and reproductive justice.


Rachel Connor, Peter Glick (Lawrence University), and Susan Fiske’s chapter entitled, “Ambivalent Sexism in the Twenty-First Century,” was published in The Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Prejudice, edited by Chris Sibley (University of Auckland) and Fiona Barlow (University of Queensland). Gender-based inequality is pervasive. Historically and cross-culturally, men have held more resources, power, and status than women. Despite general trends toward gender equality, male dominance remains a global reality. As of 2014, the global gender gap in economic participation and opportunity, which includes gender gaps in income, labor force participation, and professional advancement, stood at 60% (Hausmann, Tyson, Bekhouche, & Zahidi, 2014). If progress toward gender equality continues at the same pace, it will take until 2095 to completely close this gap. Yet in contrast to characterizations of intergroup relations as hostile and competitive, gender relations are predominantly cooperative – individual men and women consistently engage in and sustain close relationships with members of the other sex, whether friends, parents, siblings, or significant others. Herein lies the gender relationship paradox. How is the tension between male hegemony and male-female intimacy reconciled?

Ambivalent sexism theory (Glick & Fiske, 1996) recognizes that sexism entails a mixture of antipathy and subjective benevolence: Hostile sexism corresponds to classic definitions of prejudice as antipathy (Allport, 1954) and reflects the hostile derogation of women who pose a threat to the gender hierarchy (e.g., feminists); Benevolent sexism is “a set of interrelated attitudes toward women that are sexist in terms of viewing women stereotypically and in restricted roles but that are subjectively positive in feeling (for the perceiver)” (Glick & Fiske, 1996, p. 491). Benevolent sexism bestows affection on women who embrace limited but traditional gender roles (e.g., housewives). Hence, although benevolent sexism may appear positive, it presumes and reinforces women's subordinate status.

Ambivalent sexism theory argues that hostile and benevolent sexism are, in fact, not conflicting but complementary ideologies that present a resolution to the gender relationship paradox. By offering male protection and provision to women in exchange for their compliance, benevolent sexism recruits women as unwitting participants in their own subjugation, thereby obviating overt coercion. Hostile sexism serves to safeguard the status quo by punishing those who deviate from traditional gender roles.

The authors’ chapter discusses ambivalent sexism as a coordinated system of control that serves male dominance and limits women's power across personal, economic, and political domains. First, they review ambivalent sexism theory, focusing on ambivalent sexism's system-justifying functions. The second section addresses how ambivalent sexism polices women's bodies through the threat of rape, sexual harassment, and violence, as well as oppressive beauty ideals.


“Movin’ on Up? How Perceptions of Social Mobility Affect Our Willingness to Defend the System,” was published by Martin Day (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada) and Susan Fiske in Social Psychology and Personality Science. People’s motivation to rationalize and defend the status quo is a major barrier to societal change. Three studies tested whether perceived social mobility—beliefs about the likelihood to move up and down the socioeconomic ladder—can condition people’s tendency to engage in system justification. Compared to information suggesting moderate social mobility, exposure to low social mobility frames consistently reduced defense of the overarching societal system. Two studies examined how this effect occurs. Compared to moderate or baseline conditions, a low social mobility frame reduced people’s endorsement of (typically strong) meritocratic and just-world beliefs, which in turn explained lower system defense. These effects occurred for political liberals, moderates, and conservatives and could not be explained by other system-legitimizing ideologies or people’s beliefs about their own social mobility. Implications for societal change programs are discussed.


Federica Durante (University of Milano-Bicocca) and Susan Fiske published, “How Social-Class Stereotypes Maintain Inequality,” in Current Opinion in Psychology. Social class stereotypes support inequality through various routes: ambivalent content, early appearance in children, achievement consequences, institutionalization in education, appearance in cross-class social encounters, and prevalence in the most unequal societies. Class-stereotype content is ambivalent, describing lower-SES people both negatively (less competent, less human, more objectified), and sometimes positively, perhaps warmer than upper-SES people. Children acquire the wealth aspects of class stereotypes early, which become more nuanced with development. In school, class stereotypes advantage higher-SES students, and educational contexts institutionalize social-class distinctions. Beyond school, well-intentioned face-to-face encounters ironically draw on stereotypes to reinforce the alleged competence of higher-status people and sometimes the alleged warmth of lower-status people. Countries with more inequality show more of these ambivalent stereotypes of both lower-SES and higher-SES people. At a variety of levels and life stages, social-class stereotypes reinforce inequality, but constructive contact can undermine them; future efforts need to address high-status privilege and to query more heterogeneous samples.


Federica Durante (University of Milano-Bicocca), Susan Fiske, Michele Gelfand (University of Maryland, College Park), Franca Crippa (University of Milano-Bicocca), Chiara Suttora (University of Milano-Bicocca), Amelia Stillwell (Stanford University), et al. published, “Ambivalent Stereotypes Link to Peace, Conflict, and Inequality Across 38 Nations, in PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. A cross-national study, 49 samples in 38 nations (n = 4,344), investigates whether national peace and conflict reflect ambivalent warmth and competence stereotypes: High-conflict societies (Pakistan) may need clear-cut, unambivalent group images distinguishing friends from foes. Highly peaceful countries (Denmark) also may need less ambivalence because most groups occupy the shared national identity, with only a few outcasts. Finally, nations with intermediate conflict (United States) may need ambivalence to justify more complex intergroup-system stability. Using the Global Peace Index to measure conflict, a curvilinear (quadratic) relationship between ambivalence and conflict highlights how both extremely peaceful and extremely conflictual countries display lower stereotype ambivalence, whereas countries intermediate on peace-conflict present higher ambivalence. These data also replicated a linear inequality–ambivalence relationship.


“Poor but Warm, Rich but Cold (and Competent): Social Classes in the Stereotype Content Model,” was published by Federica Durante (University of Milano-Bicocca), Courtney Bearns Tablante, and Susan Fiske in the Journal of Social Issues. Social class divides worsened during and after the Great Recession; this article documents one cultural feature of this divide, social-class stereotypes, both at the societal level (across nations) and at the individual level (personal beliefs about social-class groups and individuals). The Stereotype Content Model provides the shared theoretical framework focused on perceived warmth and competence of different social classes. In the international data, across cultures, people with high SES (socioeconomic status) are perceived ambivalently as competent but cold, their warmth even lower in more unequal societies. Low-SES people are seen as less competent but warmer, their alleged incompetence exaggerated under high inequality. The exaggerated warmth-competence trade-off helps justify the social-class system, especially under inequality. For personal stereotypes, predictions focus on warmth-competence trade-offs for each social-class target, and these results are most stable for the competent-but-not-so-warm high-SES targets. Consistent with the international results, high-SES people as a group are generally rated as more competent than warm. Similarly, a high-SES individual exemplar is judged as competent but less warm, whereas lower-SES individuals are seen as either more warm than competent or equally as warm as they are competent. Like the society-level data, perceptions of high-SES people are more stable than perceptions of lower-SES people, within these American samples.


Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor’s (University of California, Los Angeles) essay, “Collaboration: Interdependence in Action,” was a part of Richard Zweigenhaft (Guilford College) and Eugene Borgida (University of Minnesota), Editors, book, Collaboration in Psychological Science: Behind the Scenes, published by Worth. This remarkable collection of essays gives students and other researchers a firsthand look at how collaborative scientific research is done. The 35 contributors here are leading psychological and social scientists with extensive experience working as members of a research team. Each author offers a distinctive perspective on the collaborative research process—its pros and cons, challenges and benefits, practical implications and ethical dilemmas. Each essay focuses on a set of guiding questions: What motivated the collaboration? What about the collaboration made the research work more effective (or less?) Does the substantive domain in which the collaboration occurs shape the nature of the collaboration? How have technological advances changed collaboration? Are there particular issues that arise for students collaborating with faculty members, or faculty members collaborating with students?


Cydney Dupree and Susan Fiske’s chapter, “Universal Dimensions of Social Cognition,” was published in Social Signal Processing, edited by Judee K. Burgoon (University of Arizona), Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann (Université de Genève), Maja Pantic (Imperial College, London), and Alessandro Vinciarelli (University of Glasgow) and published by Cambridge University Press. The book’s summary states that humans have long developed the automatic ability to prioritize social perception. Whether traveling ancient, dusty roads thousands of years past or meandering metropolitan blocks long after midnight, people must immediately answer two critical questions in a sudden encounter with a stranger. First, one must determine if the stranger is a friend or foe (i.e., harbors good or ill intent), and second, one must ask how capable the other is of carrying out those intentions. Since ancestral times, these two questions have been crucial for the survival of humans as social animals. The ability to quickly and accurately categorize others as friend or foe would have profoundly influenced the production and perception of social signals exchanged between agents. In developing computational analyses of human behavior, researchers and technicians alike can benefit from a thorough understanding of social categorization – the automatic process by which humans perceive others as friend or foe. This chapter will describe over a decade of research emerging from social psychological laboratories, cross-cultural research, and surveys that confirm two universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth (friendliness, trustworthiness) and competence (ability, efficacy) (see Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007, for an earlier review).


Susan Fiske’s “Prejudices in Cultural Contexts: Shared Stereotypes (Gender, Age) Versus Variable Stereotypes (Race, Ethnicity, Religion), was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. Some prejudices share cross-cultural patterns, but others are more variable and culture specific. Those sharing cross-cultural patterns (sexism, ageism) each combine societal status differences and intimate interdependence. For example, in stereotypes of sex and age, lower status groups—women and elders—gain stereotypic warmth (from their cooperative interdependence) but lose stereotypic competence (from their lower status); men and middle-aged adults show the opposite trade-off, stereotypically more competent than warm. Meta-analyses support these widespread ambivalent (mixed) stereotypes for gender and age across cultures. Social class stereotypes often share some similarities (cold but competent rich vs. warm but incompetent poor). These compensatory warmth versus competence stereotypes may function to manage common human dilemmas of interacting across societal and personal positions. However, other stereotypes are more variable and culture specific (ethnicity, race, religion). Case studies of specific race/ethnicities and religions reveal much more cultural variation in their stereotype content, supporting their being responses to particular cultural contexts, apparent accidents of history. To change stereotypes requires understanding their commonalities and differences, their origins and patterns across cultures.


Susan Fiske, Daniel Ames, Jillian Swencionis (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), and Cydney Dupree contributed the chapter entitled, “Thinking Up and Talking Up: Restoring Control through Mindreading,” in Coping with Lack of Control in a Social World, edited by Mark Bukowski (Jagiellonian University, Poland), Immo Fritsche (Leipzig University, Germany), Ana Guinote (University of College London, U.K.) and Miroslaw Kofta (University of Warsaw, Poland). The book offers an integrated view of cutting-edge research on the effects of control deprivation on social cognition. The book integrates multi-method research demonstrating how various types of control deprivation, related not only to experimental settings but also to real life situations of helplessness, can lead to variety of cognitive and emotional coping strategies at the social cognitive level. The comprehensive analyses in this book tackle issues such as: Cognitive, emotional and socio-behavioral reactions to threats to personal control; How social factors aid in coping with a sense of lost or threatened control; Relating uncontrollability to powerlessness and intergroup processes; How lack of control experiences can influence basic and complex cognitive processes.

This book integrates various strands of research that have not yet been presented together in an innovative volume that addresses the issue of reactions to control loss in a socio-psychological context. Its focus on coping as an active way of confronting a sense of uncontrollability makes this a unique, and highly original, contribution to the field. Practicing psychologists and students of psychology will be particularly interested readers.


Tod Nelson’s (Editor) book, Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons, published by Oxford University Press includes Michael North and Susan Fiske’s chapter, “Succession, Consumption, and Identity: Prescriptive Ageism Domains. Along with race and gender, people commonly use age to categorize—and form stereotypes about—others. Of the three categories, age is the only one in which the members of the in-group (the young) will eventually join the out-group (the old). Although ageism is found cross-culturally, it is especially prevalent in the United States, where most people regard growing older with depression, fear, and anxiety. Older people in the United States are stigmatized and marginalized, with often devastating consequences.

Although researchers have paid a great deal of attention to racism and sexism, there has been a dearth of research on ageism. A major reason for this neglect is that age prejudice is still considered socially acceptable. As baby boomers approach retirement age, however, there has been increased academic and popular interest in aging. This volume presents the current thinking on age stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination by researchers in gerontology, psychology, sociology, and communication. The book presents theoretical and empirical findings on the origins and effects of ageism, as well as suggestions on how to reduce ageism for the approaching "graying of America."


Jillian Swencionis (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), and Cydney Dupree and Susan Fiske published, “Warmth-Competence Tradeoffs in Impression Management Across Race and Social Class Divides,” in the Journal of Social Issues. The Great Recession widened social-class divides, so social interactions across gaps in workplace status and in race generally may be more salient and more fraught. Different statuses and races both carry stereotypes that targets know (meta-perceptions, how they expect to be viewed by the outgroup). In both cross-status and cross-race interactions, targets may aim to manage the impressions they create. Reviewing literature and our own recent work invokes (a) the role of the Stereotype Content Model's two dimensions of social perception, namely warmth and competence; (b) the compensation effect, a tendency to tradeoff between them, especially downplaying one to convey the other; and (c) diverging warmth and competence concerns of people with lower and higher status and racial-group positions. Higher-status people and Whites, both stereotyped as competent but cold, seek to warm up their image. Lower-status people and Blacks, both stereotyped as warm but incompetent, seek respect for their competence. Overviews of two previously separate research programs and the background literature converge on shared findings that higher-status people, comparing down, display a competence downshift, consistent with communicating apparent warmth. Meanwhile, lower-status people, comparing up, often display less warmth, to communicate competence. Previous research and our diverse samples—online workplace scenarios, online cross-race interactions, and presidential candidates’ speeches—suggest a novel, robust interpersonal mechanism that perpetuates race, status, and social-class divides.


Margaret Frye is currently working on three projects. The first uses survey data from 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to examine the relationship between educational composition and marital behavior. In addition to being an attribute of individual women, educational attainment is also an aggregate phenomenon, in that the social meaning of a woman’s educational attainment is dependent on the educational composition of the population in which she lives, particularly the composition of her own birth cohort. For a population in which almost no one has gone to school, five years of schooling might be perceived as a symbol of elite status, whereas in another setting with more widespread access to education, five years of schooling might be a marker of extreme disadvantage. Frye explores how differences in educational composition alter the relationship between individual-level educational attainment and the timing of first marriage for women. She is also examining how educational expansion has shaped marriage markets, focusing on age and educational hypergamy among married couples. Articles from this project have recently been accepted for publication at Demography and Socius, and a third article is currently under review. This work is a collaboration with Sara Lopus, (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo).


Margaret Frye’s second research project focuses on the recent expansion of higher education in Uganda, which has coincided with a contraction in the labor market. Three decades ago, Uganda had only one university; today, there are more than 40 universities in the country. In the capital of Kampala, the proportion of youth aged 25-29 who completed a post-secondary degree increased from 2-29% between 1995 and 2010. This increase in enrollment numbers has coincided with efforts to diversify the student population along gender and class lines. Yet this expansion in education has corresponded with a contraction in employment. Uganda currently has Africa’s highest level of youth unemployment: there are enough jobs for only 20% of university graduates each year. As new graduates navigate this virtually jobless economy, what significance does their degree hold for them? What strategies do graduates pursue to maintain their precarious position as part of the elite? And how do class and gender inequalities continue to structure opportunities among graduates in the era of expanded access to universities? This project seeks to address these questions through following a cohort of new graduates during their first year out of college. Funded by a Fulbright grant, Frye will spend eight months of 2018 in Kampala conducting interviews with 60 graduates from four universities as well as over 70 employers in businesses that frequently employ new graduates. She is currently working on articles, as well as a book manuscript, from this project with two Princeton graduate students.


In “Cultural Meanings and the Aggregation of Actions: The Case of Sex and Schooling in Malawi,” published in American Sociological Review, Margaret Frye asks, “How can cultural meanings simultaneously diverge from and contribute to aggregate patterns of action?” This article examines the relationship between cultural and aggregate behavioral patterns in social life. Sociological investigations of this relationship have largely proceeded in two distinct directions, which appear incongruous with one another. On one hand, shared cultural understandings guide people’s everyday actions and decisions, and the accumulation of these actions and decisions constitutes the aggregate behavioral patterns that sociologists seek to understand. Demographers have recently pointed to the need to examine the extent to which population dynamics are “shaped and sustained” by cultural beliefs. On the other hand, people’s behavior often contradicts these shared cultural understandings, and cultural patterns conform to distinct causal logics than do aggregated behavioral patterns.


Jean Grossman’s current research projects include Evaluating Accelerating Academic Achievement through Standards-Aligned Expanded Learning. She is leading a second, larger RCT of Higher Achievement (funded by i3) with co-PIs Leigh Linden (University of Texas) and Dr. Carla Herrera (Independent Consultant). This study uses data from two RCTs to examine the short- and long-term impacts on students’ college outcomes of participation in higher achievement, an academically-oriented four-year expanded learning time program. The study consists of a new RCT of middle school students across approximately 20 sites, and a long term follow up of the sample randomized in the first RCT.

Jean Grossman also continues her work in the area of improving education on her project, Evaluation of the Technology-Facilitated Scale up of a Proven Model of Mathematics Instruction. A proven cooperative learning model of mathematics instruction is being scaled up through professional development delivered using innovative uses of computer, video conferencing, and other technologies. As PI of this school-level RCT, Dr. Grossman will be examining how effective the model transmitted in this manner is at improving math performance.


Alejandro Portes and Bryan Lagae (Florida International University) co-authored chapter 14 in U.S. Latinization: Education and the New Latino South, titled “Immigration, social change, and reactive ethnicity in the second generation”. Wherein, they present that, the literature on international migration generally makes a great deal over the changes that such flows wreak in the host societies. Such assertions confuse impressions of the surface of social life with actual changes in the basic culture and social structure of the receiving society. While major immigration movements such as the great transatlantic waves before and at the start of the 20th century can have great impact in the demographic composition of the population, it is an open question whether such changes led to transformations in more fundamental elements of the host nations. In the case of the United States, it is clear that, despite much handwringing by the nativists of the time, the value system, the constitutional order, and the class structure of American society remained largely intact. Native white elites kept firm control of the levers of economic and political power and existing institutions, such as the schools and the court system, proved resilient enough to withstand the foreign onslaught and gradually integrate newcomers into the citizenry. This is, after all, what assimilation was all about.


Marta Tienda published, “Public Education and the Social Contract: Restoring the Promise in an Age of Diversity and Division,” in Education Researcher. Building on the premise that closing achievement gaps is an economic imperative both to regain international educational supremacy and to maintain global economic competitiveness, she asks whether it is possible to rewrite the social contract so that education is a fundamental right—a statutory guarantee—that is both uniform across states and federally enforceable. Tienda argues that the federal government was complicit in aggravating educational inequality by not guaranteeing free, public education as a basic right during propitious political moments; by enabling the creation of a segregated public higher education system; by relegating the Department of Education and its predecessors to a secondary status in the federal administration, thereby compromising its enforcement capability; and by proliferating incremental reforms while ignoring the unequal institutional arrangements that undermine equal opportunity to learn. History shows that a strong federal role can potentially strengthen the educational social contract.


Marta Tienda and Linda Zhao (Harvard University) published, “Institutional and Ethnic Variations in Postgraduate Enrollment,” in Journal of Higher Education. Using the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey of 1992/93 longitudinal cohort survey, they investigated (a) whether and how much variations in the timing of enrollment, the type of undergraduate institution attended, and type of graduate program pursued contribute to observed racial and ethnic differentials in post-baccalaureate enrolment; and (b) whether the observed enrollment differentials carry over to degree attainment. Dynamic event history methods that account for both the timing of matriculation and the hazard of enrolling revealed that compared with Whites, underrepresented minorities enrolled earlier and were more likely to enroll in doctoral and advanced professional degree programs relative to non-enrollment. Their results revealed sizable differences in the cumulative probability of advanced-degree attainment according to the undergraduate institutional mission, with graduates from research institutions enjoying a decided advantage over liberal arts college graduates. The conclusion discusses limitations of the analysis, directions for further research, and implications for strengthening the minority pipeline to graduate school.


Alarmists argue that the United States urgently needs more and better-trained scientists to compete with the rest of the world. Their critics counter that, far from facing a shortage, we are producing a glut of young scientists with poor employment prospects. Both camps have issued reports in recent years that predict the looming decline of American science. Drawing on their extensive analysis of national data sets, Yu Xie and Alexandra A. Killewald (Harvard University) have welcome news to share: American science is in good health.

Is American Science in Decline? does reveal areas of concern, namely scientists’ low earnings, the increasing competition they face from Asia, and the declining number of doctorates who secure academic positions. But the authors argue that the values inherent in American culture make the country highly conducive to science for the foreseeable future. They do not see globalization as a threat but rather a potential benefit, since it promotes efficiency in science through knowledge-sharing. In an age when other countries are catching up, American science will inevitably become less dominant, even though it is not in decline relative to its own past. As technology continues to change the American economy, better-educated workers with a range of skills will be in demand. So as a matter of policy, the authors urge that science education not be detached from general education.