Major Projects

Race, Immigration, and the Contemporary American Welfare State

In recent years, many social scientists have suggested there is a universal tradeoff between diversity and redistribution.  Drawing on multiple data sources from the 1996 U.S. welfare reforms, Hana Brown's research casts doubt on these findings and presents a racialized conflict theory to explain when and how racial dynamics lead states to restrict their cash welfare programs. 

Articles from this study include a piece in the American Journal of Sociology that presented the racialized conflict theory and applied it to explain Georgia and Alabama's late 20th century welfare reforms, an article in the American Sociological Review that examined the effects of the growing Latino population and anti-immigrant movements on social policy, and an article in Social Services Review that examined how racial dynamics affect public welfare discourse.  

Related research, published in Sociological Perspectives with Rachel Kahn Best (University of Michigan), examines whether major U.S. social programs are governed by distinct logics of redistribution. Earlier work with Richard Speiglman (Child and Family Policy Institute of California), published here and here in the Journal of Children and Poverty, investigated the growing number of TANF child-only cases in the post-welfare reform era. 

Enforcement or Embrace?  Racial Politics in New Immigrant Destinations

Immigrant newcomers once settled overwhelmingly in traditional urban gateways, but they are increasingly residing in new destination areas like the U.S. South. Many new destinations have responded to this influx by enacting laws that curtail the social and legal rights of unauthorized immigrants. This project, with Jennifer Jones (University of Notre Dame) examines why some new destination states have adopted anti-immigrant policies while others have embraced newcomers with more supportive incorporation initiatives.  It specifically investigates the cultural and political effects of interracial social movements on contemporary immigration politics and on racial formation.  

A theoretical piece from this project appeared in the inaugural issue of the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.  Empirical findings appeared in Contexts and Scalawag Magazinewith additional findings published in a special issue of the Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems on "Race and Reform in Twenty-First Century America."  This project has received support from the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and several smaller grants.

Racial Dynamics, Local Context, and Voter Participation

Research on political participation typically understands voting patterns as the result of individual-level resources and characteristics and the rational cost-benefit analysis of potential voters.  Recently, however, social scientists have argued that community-level characteristics affect individual voting patterns, net of socioeconomic status and other factors.  This project, with Daniel Laurison (Swarthmore College) and William Qiu (Stanford University), assesses these claims by examining an understudied trend in voting patterns:  the over-participation of African-Americans in U.S. elections.  Using a unique dataset of voter participation in presidential election from 1980-2008 we ask whether and which community-level characteristics explain why African-Americans, on average, are more likely to vote than whites with similar SES.  

Refugee Resettlement and Immigrant Incorporation

Legal refugees receive more government benefits than any other category of immigrants in the United States.  Drawing on three years of participant-observation in an African refugee community, this research project looks at how the various resettlement and social welfare benefits refugees receive affect their views and expectations of their host government as well as their interactions with the medical, educational, and social service institutions they encounter.  An article in Social Problems presented these findings and also investigated how refugees use their legal status to negotiate the structural realities of the American welfare state and U.S. race relations.  Another piece, also published in Social Problems, examines the role of the physical body in these immigrants' incorporation experiences and argues for heightened consideration of bodily (re)socialization in research on immigrant incorporation.

Civil Rights Era School Closing Policies

In 1959, the white community in Prince Edward County, Virginia closed their public schools rather than desegregate.  In subsequent years, a number of neighboring counties followed suit, adopting but not enacting closing plans.  This research project examined both the forces that led these counties to adopt school closing plans and the implications of pro-segregation efforts for future political engagement and organizing in Prince Edward County.  The resulting two articles, published in Ethnic and Racial Studies and Research in Political Sociology, shed light on the forces motivating racial threat and the counter-intuitive effects of social movement repression.

Contact Information:

Hana Brown
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Wake Forest University


04D Kirby Hall
(336) 758-3540

Mailing Address:
Department of Sociology
1834 Wake Forest Rd.
PO Box 7808
Winston-Salem, NC