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 Illinois, Chicago), 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 have appeared in Ethnic and Racial StudiesContexts and Scalawag Magazine, with 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.

A Sociology of Policy Implementation

Policies are rarely implemented as planned.  This study reconceputalizes the gap between policy and practice as the result of conflicts between state legibility projects, institutional power, and organizational and collective schema.  The case study for this project is Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, a bill that sought to radically transform child welfare practice in the United States but has encountered multiple obstacles since its passage.  Drawing on archival, interview, and organizational-level data, this research investigates ICWA's implementation at multiple jurisdictional levels and across distinct regions.  In doing so, this project advances a new sociological model of policy implementation that theorizes why some policy reforms unravel while others endure.  The first article from this project appeared in the American Sociological Review.

Domestic Race Relations and the Structuring of U.S. Refugee Policy

Since the mid-20th century, political elites and local communities have engaged in heated debates the appropriate U.S. government response to global flows of forced migrants.  While policies on refugee admissions and priorities have fluctuated over time, formal resettlement programs remain virtually unchanged from their original structure, established in 1980. This project seeks to understand why the U.S. refugee resettlement regime took the form that it did.  It traces the institutional structure of U.S. resettlement and its related idiosyncrasies to domestic racial tensions in the 1970s and early 1980s.  These tensions not only produced contradictions in U.S. refugee governance at the federal level, they set in motion path dependent effects that fuel contemporary fissures in migration-related advocacy, affecting both immigrant incorporation and contemporary race relations.

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), 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.  

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