Mary C. Waters

Harvard University

Election Year: 2010
Primary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

I am a sociologist and demographer who studies the meaning and measurement of racial and ethnic identities, and the mechanisms by which racial and ethnic inequality is produced and changes over time. I have studied the patterns and meanings associated with white ethnic identities in the US--characterizing them as optional and voluntary in later-generation whites. I found that black immigrants and their children have ethnic identities which co-exist with their racial identities but are frequently overlooked by native born black and white Americans. The patterns of identification of the second generation were related to socioeconomic mobility, with the children of less successful immigrants more likely to identify as American. In recent studies of the second generation in young adulthood I have found that the children of immigrants are experiencing social mobility vis a vis their immigrant parents, and rapid assimilation into mainstream American society, although their fates are still tied to continuing racial stratification. My current work includes a longitudinal study of the migration and psychological and economic adjustments of a cohort of young people who survived Hurricane Katrina.

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