Russell Sage Foundation

Russell Sage Foundation seal (link) by Russellsage is licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 (link)



Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $73,421,630
Expenses: $12,569,645
Assets: $281,068,928

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The Russell Sage Foundation is a left-leaning social science research funder founded in 1907 with a $10 million grant from Margaret Olivia Sage, a progressive activist and the widow of railroad tycoon Russell Sage. Its first 57 years focused on a variety of industrial, labor, and social science research and reforms. In 1964, social science became its largest program, and its focus began to become more left-leaning after New Left critics said the organization should be focused on action benefiting segments of the U.S. population perceived to be or actually disenfranchised. 1

Its recent research areas have included, but are not limited to, women in society, immigration assimilation, and post-9/11 social change. Current programming prioritizes social inequality, immigration, and how lower-educated Americans are affected by the nation’s changing work opportunities. 23

Mission and History

The Russell Sage Foundation was created in memory of Margaret Olivia Sage’s husband, Russell, who died in 1906. Olivia Sage wanted the Foundation to stand apart from other social research organizations by seeking deep solutions to major challenges, and then to create alliances for crafting solutions. 4

The Foundation played critical roles in early housing and labor research which led to left-progressive social and legal changes. In 1950, it began issuing reports based upon the 10-year federal census about U.S. economics and social equality. Later research assessed changing immigration demographics (specifically, how European immigrants at the start of the 20th century differed from late 20th century immigrants from the Americas), women in the workforce, and treatment of Muslims and Arab-Americans after 9/11.

The Foundation’s major programs are under three umbrellas: internal publications, visiting fellows and other specialized staff, and research funding. 5

One of the Foundation’s 2019 papers concluded that black immigrants and blacks who move from their home state are often better off than native blacks because of educational and other advantages seen in their home circumstances. 6 Another 2019 paper assessed how the U.S. automobile industry created structural inefficiencies in the mid-twentieth century which led to higher costs and less efficiency. 7

As of January 2020, the Foundation’s visiting scholars included a number of researchers whose Foundation-funded work focuses on left-leaning social change. Here are four examples:

  • Monica McDermott, Associate Professor of Sociology at Arizona State University, will be one of three people researching how white working-class Americans view racial minorities. The research will be based on surveys, interviews, and experiments, with the backdrop of how white working-class Americans view economic opportunity as America becomes increasingly racially diverse. 8
  • Marisa Chappell, Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University, will write a book on how the defunct, left-leaning voter outreach and get-out-the-vote group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) accomplished its agenda through engaging poor and middle-class Americans. Chappell is the author of multiple books which take an explicitly left-leaning view of racial and civil rights politics in the last 50 years of the 20th century. 910
  • University of Massachusetts Assistant Professor of Sociology Sofya Aptekar is one of two visiting scholars researching illegal immigrants attending colleges in the City University of New York system. Their research will look at educational opportunities for illegal immigrants and look at how the politics of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program affects illegal immigrants. 11
  • Harvard University’s Frank Dobbin will look at the effectiveness of 670 college programs designed to increase faculty diversity. Dobbin’s work will look at the most effective programs based upon race, ethnicity, gender, parental status, and discipline. The end goal is to create a “rubric for increasing diversity” for use by university administrators. 12

Eugenics History

Like many organizations and individuals in the early twentieth century, the Russell Sage Foundation endorsed eugenics. While it does not appear to have endorsed some of the racist notions of the time such as those promoted by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, two of its papers endorsed sterilization of the prisoners and separation of “feeble-minded” people, respectively. Hastings Hart endorsed the prisoner solution in a 1912 paper, especially for violent criminals and rapists, and Henry Goddard endorsed segregating the feeble-minded from the rest of society in 1913. Hart was Director of the Department of Child-Helping of the Foundation in 1912; Goddard was a professor of research at the Vineland Training School for Feeble-Minded Children. Both men said the proposed solutions were not panaceas, despite what each said were widespread belief to the contrary. 1314

A 2012 Hudson Institute paper accused foundations like the Russell Sage Foundation of ignoring their eugenics-supporting history by not apologizing or acknowledging the errors in those past efforts. Author William Schambra also urged foundations to put their eugenics histories online to be transparent and less insulated from the rest of society;15 as of January 2020, the Sage Foundation had some of its old eugenics papers available on its website.

In 2012, Russell Sage Foundation visiting scholar Dalton Conley condemned eugenics as a way to keep people separate or treat people as undesirables. He argued that genetics are less controllable and more diverse than previously understood. 16


The Russell Sage Foundation was founded with a $10 million grant from Margaret Olivia Sage. That grant is worth the equivalent of $262 million in 2019 dollars. 17

As of 2018, the Foundation had over $347 million in assets, earnings of over $16.7 million, and expenses of nearly $14.4 million. It gave $4 million in grants that year, mostly to universities and colleges as well as to Russell Sage Foundation initiatives. 18


The Russell Sage Foundation leadership and staff largely come from educational institutions. 19

Claude Steele is an author, researcher, and professor of psychology in addition to being the Foundation’s board chair. Steele’s work focuses on the impacts of stereotypes and related actions on minorities’ educational attainment. 20

Former journalist, editor, and Columbia University dean Nicholas Lemann is the Foundation’s vice chairman. 21

Sheldon Danziger is president of the Foundation after years as a professor of public policy, population, and poverty at the University of Michigan. He has published a number of books through the Foundation since 2000. 22

The Foundation’s chief financial officer, William Moon, previously worked as a CPA at PricewaterhouseCoopers and in senior roles with prominent foundations such as the College Board. 23


  1. Russell Sage Foundation, History, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  2. Russell Sage Foundation, Programs, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  3. Russell Sage Foundation, Funding Proposals, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  4. Russell Sage Foundation, History, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  5. Russell Sage Foundation, What we do, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  6. Tod Hamilton, “Immigration and the remaking of black America,” May 2019. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  7. Joshua Murray, Michael Schwartz, “Wrecked,” June 2019. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  8. Russell Sage Foundation, Monica McDermott, Accessed January 23, 2020.
  9. Russell Sage Foundation, Marisa Chappell, Accessed January 23, 2020.
  10. Oregon State University, Marisa Chappell, Accessed January 23, 2020.
  11. Russell Sage Foundation, Sofya Aptekar, Accessed January 23, 2020.
  12. Russell Sage Foundation, Frank Dobbin, Accessed January 23, 2020.
  13. Hastings Hart, “Sterilization as a practical measure,” November 12, 1912. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  14. Henry Goddard, “Sterilization and segregation,” March 1913. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  15. William Schambra, “Philanthropy’s arrogance and insularity on eugenics offer cautionary tale,” December 2, 2012. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  16. Dalton Conley, “How genetics can enrich the way we study social inequality,” May 22, 2014. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  17. Bureau of Labor & Statistics, Inflation Calculator, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  18. ProPublica, Russell Sage Foundation 2018 990, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  19. Russell Sage Foundation, Who we are, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  20. Claude Steele, Bio, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  21. Columbia University, Nicholas Lemann, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  22. Russell Sage Foundation, Sheldon Danziger, Accessed January 20, 2020.
  23. Russell Sage Foundation, William Moon, Accessed January 20, 2020.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: August - July
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1959

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Aug Form PF $73,421,630 $12,569,645 $281,068,928 $3,449,987 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Aug Form PF $16,387,245 $13,641,998 $292,613,281 $2,843,929 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Aug Form PF $13,055,581 $12,865,501 $253,480,388 $1,639,203 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Aug Form PF $8,630,991 $13,019,256 $227,873,545 $1,448,992 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Aug Form PF $7,921,328 $11,988,088 $218,096,723 $1,133,952 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Russell Sage Foundation

    112 E 64TH ST
    NEW YORK, NY 10065-7307