One of the oldest American foundations, the Russell Sage Foundation was established by Mrs. Margaret Olivia Sage in 1907 for "the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States." In its early years the Foundation undertook major projects in low-income housing, urban planning, social work, and labor reform. The Foundation now dedicates itself exclusively to strengthening the methods, data, and theoretical core of the social sciences as a means of diagnosing social problems and improving social policies. The Russell Sage Foundation is an operating foundation directly involved in the conduct and dissemination of social science research.

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