The post-1965 immigrant second generation
Over the last decades, a robust literature has emerged that focused on how the immigrant second generation has incorporated into American society. At twelve percent of the total U.S. population, the immigrant second generation is diverse in ethnic origin, socioeconomic status, and racial status. As the second generation transitions into adulthood, their integration into American society has generated significant scholarly and public debate.
My research examines the integration of Asian and Latino immigrants and their children into American society as well as its implications for American culture, politics and society. My theoretical and empirical contributions focus on the immigrant second generation, how ethnic neighborhoods and cultural processes affect their social mobility, and how the American society has transformed as a result of their integration. While my earlier focus has been on the Latino population, my recent work has adopted a comparative approach to the study of second-generation groups, including Asian Americans. My publications on the assimilation of the second generation have examined multiple dimensions of the integration experience, including the cultural, linguistic, civic and political, socioeconomic, and spatial assimilation.
The social life of Amsterdam Avenue
The Social Life of Amsterdam Avenue examines the impact of neighborhood gentrification on the social lives of residents and businesses along Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan’s West Side in the aftermath of the most recent housing crisis in New York City. Amsterdam Avenue is a major north-south thoroughfare that runs through multiple neighborhoods in Manhattan's West Side, with a strong mix of both residential dwellings and commercial establishments, making it ideal to investigate the relationship between both processes of gentrification. This project is an innovative study of urban change, focusing on ten contiguous neighborhoods from West Chelsea to Inwood. These include Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project and Manhattanville, the current sites of two major real estate redevelopment projects in New York City.
While prior work has amply documented the impact of residential or commercial gentrification, my work integrates both perspectives, focusing on the relationship between these two micro-level social processes. The study not only examines consequences of neighborhood gentrification for local businesses and residents, but also provides an intimate glimpse into the social life of Amsterdam Avenue. Drawing on a range of sources, the project connects the origin of the housing affordability crisis with the astronomical rise of luxury real estate over the last decade as a cultural symbol of conspicuous consumption fueled by the influx of global capital into New York City. One specific focus is on the impact of gentrification on neighborhood social processes—including perceptions of disorder, social cohesion and collective efficacy within diverse neighborhoods—and how such perceptions systematically vary across newcomers and long-term residents.
Asian Americans and affirmative action policy
Asian Americans are enjoying a rare moment in the national spotlight. Once marginalized due to a long history of racism, Asian Americans have recently moved into the center of American life. In Fall 2018, a lawsuit against Harvard alleges that the university discriminates against Asian applicants, with implications for the future of affirmative action and diversity in higher education. While Asian Americans comprise only 6.3 percent of the total U.S. population in 2018, they account for over 20 percent of undergraduates at the Ivy League.
While prior research has documented the educational achievement among second-generation Asian Americans, whether this educational advantage translates from education to work remains an open empirical question. The combination of high educational achievement and persistent limits in the workplace points to the existence of a “bamboo ceiling” facing Asian Americans, an invisible barrier akin to the “glass ceiling” that women face. While affirmative action is important in university admissions and in the workplace to promote racial and gender equity in American society since the 1960s, the policy mostly does not apply to Asian Americans today. Where do Asian Americans stand on this critical issue and what are their attitudes towards affirmative action policy? With Jennifer Lee, I examine these questions to provide empirical evidence on how Asian Americans view this important set of policies as well as the social psychological drivers of their support for the policy, using a series of innovative survey framing experiments.
Intervening in attitudes about immigration
Since the election of Donald Trump, anti-immigration sentiment has been on the rise. And yet, this sentiment has been guided mostly by emotions and misinformation, not by social scientific knowledge and facts about immigration. How can we intervene in public attitudes about immigration? Will providing the average Americans with the accurate facts about immigration trends and incorporation patterns of immigrants and their children help shift attitudes towards immigrants, Asians and Latinos? With Maria Abascal and Jennifer Lee, we are designing a new experimental study with a nationally representative sample on immigration attitudes in the U.S. to answer these questions.
The results may shed light on the nature and sources of anti-immigrant attitudes. A substantial academic literature has examined whether anti-immigrant attitudes are rooted in competition for economic resources, cultural threat or status concerns. Our project approaches this with a different goal: how to effectively intervene in immigration attitudes. If we understand the kinds of information that mitigate anti-immigrant attitudes, we will learn something about the source(s) of such attitudes. On the policy front, the results could be used in messaging campaigns designed to counteract the effects of demographic threat.