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Douglas S. Massey

Douglas S. Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Formerly he was the Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of American Apartheid (Harvard University Press, 1993), which won the Distinguished Publication Award of the American Sociological Association, and more recently he co-authored The Source of the River, the first analysis of minority achievement in selective colleges and universities based on a representative, national sample. Massey has also published extensively on Mexican immigration, including the books Return to Aztlan (University of California Press, 1987) and Miracles on the Border (University of Arizona Press, 1995). The latter book, co-authored with Jorge Durand, won a 1996 Southwest Book Award. His latest two books on immigration, coauthored with long-time collaborator Jorge Durand, are Crossing the Border (Russell Sage Press, 2004) and Beyond Smoke and Mirrors (Russell Sage Press 2002). The latter offers a critical analysis of U.S. immigration policy toward Mexico during a period of widespread economic integration under NAFTA and won the 2004 Otis Dudley Duncan Award for the best book in social demography,. Massey has also served on the faculty of the University of Chicago where he directed its Latin American Studies Center and Population Research Center. He is also formerly a director of the University of Pennsylvania's Population Studies Center and chair of its Graduate Group in Demography. During 1979 and 1980 he undertook postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1978. Massey is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is Past-President of the Population Association of America and the American Sociological Association and current President of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. His most recent book is Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in America's Selective Colleges and Universities (Princeton University Press 2009). He is currently revising a book entitled Brokered Boundaries: Constructing Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times (co-authored with Magaly Sanchez).

The Best 12 Books on Douglas S. Massey

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Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration

Migration between Mexico and the United States is part of a historical process of increasing North American integration. This process acquired new momentum with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, which lowered barriers to the movement of goods, capital, services, and information. But rather than include labor in this new regime, the United States continues to resist the integration of the labor markets of the two countries. Instead of easing restrictions on Mexican labor, the United States has militarized its border and adopted restrictive new policies of immigrant disenfranchisement. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors examines the devastating impact of these immigration policies on the social and economic fabric of the Mexico and the United States, and calls for a sweeping reform of the current system. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors shows how U.S. immigration policies enacted between 1986–1996―largely for symbolic domestic political purposes―harm the interests of Mexico, the United States, and the people who migrate between them. The costs have been high. The book documents how the massive expansion of border enforcement has wasted billions of dollars and hundreds of lives, yet has not deterred increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from heading north. The authors also show how the new policies unleashed a host of unintended consequences: a shift away from seasonal, circular migration toward permanent settlement; the creation of a black market for Mexican labor; the transformation of Mexican immigration from a regional phenomenon into a broad social movement touching every region of the country; and even the lowering of wages for legal U.S. residents. What had been a relatively open and benign labor process before 1986 was transformed into an exploitative underground system of labor coercion, one that lowered wages and working conditions of undocumented migrants, legal immigrants, and American citizens alike. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors offers specific proposals for repairing the damage. Rather than denying the reality of labor migration, the authors recommend regularizing it and working to manage it so as to promote economic development in Mexico, minimize costs and disruptions for the United States, and maximize benefits for all concerned. This book provides an essential "user's manual" for readers seeking a historical, theoretical, and substantive understanding of how U.S. policy on Mexican immigration evolved to its current dysfunctional state, as well as how it might be fixed.
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Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System by Douglas S. Massey (2007-04-02)

Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System by Douglas S. Massey (2007-04-02)
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American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

This powerful and disturbing book clearly links persistent poverty among blacks in the United States to the unparalleled degree of deliberate segregation they experience in American cities.

American Apartheid shows how the black ghetto was created by whites during the first half of the twentieth century in order to isolate growing urban black populations. It goes on to show that, despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968, segregation is perpetuated today through an interlocking set of individual actions, institutional practices, and governmental policies. In some urban areas the degree of black segregation is so intense and occurs in so many dimensions simultaneously that it amounts to "hypersegregation."

The authors demonstrate that this systematic segregation of African Americans leads inexorably to the creation of underclass communities during periods of economic downturn. Under conditions of extreme segregation, any increase in the overall rate of black poverty yields a marked increase in the geographic concentration of indigence and the deterioration of social and economic conditions in black communities. As ghetto residents adapt to this increasingly harsh environment under a climate of racial isolation, they evolve attitudes, behaviors, and practices that further marginalize their neighborhoods and undermine their chances of success in mainstream American society. This book is a sober challenge to those who argue that race is of declining significance in the United States today.

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Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities (The William G. Bowen Memorial Series in Higher Education)

Building on their important findings in The Source of the River, the authors now probe even more deeply into minority underachievement at the college level. Taming the River examines the academic and social dynamics of different ethnic groups during the first two years of college. Focusing on racial differences in academic performance, the book identifies the causes of students' divergent grades and levels of personal satisfaction with their institutions.


Using survey data collected from twenty-eight selective colleges and universities, Taming the River considers all facets of student life, including who students date, what fields they major in, which sports they play, and how they perceive their own social and economic backgrounds. The book explores how black and Latino students experience pressures stemming from campus racial climate and "stereotype threat"--when students underperform because of anxieties tied to existing negative stereotypes. Describing the relationship between grade performance and stereotype threat, the book shows how this link is reinforced by institutional practices of affirmative action. The authors also indicate that when certain variables are controlled, minority students earn the same grades, express the same college satisfaction, and remain in school at the same rates as white students.


A powerful look at how educational policies unfold in America's universities, Taming the River sheds light on the social and racial factors influencing student success.

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Strangers in a Strange Land: Humans in an Urbanizing World (Contemporary Societies Series)

Drawing from evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and sociology, this truly interdisciplinary study explores how the drive to find social connection has shaped the size, structure, and organization of human communities from the Stone Age to the post-industrial present.

Focusing on three central factors―the physical environment, social relations at the micro level, and social organization at the macro level―Professor Massey argues that humans are genetically programmed to be physiologically, psychologically, and socially adapted to life in small groups and to organic natural environments.  Despite this, most humans live in dense urban environments.  “As biological organisms,” Massey writes, “we are indeed strangers in a strange land.”

Strangers in a Strange Land is part of the Contemporary Societies series.
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Worlds in Motion : Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium (International Studies in Demography)

By applying systematic theoretical frameworks to detailed empirical data, Worlds in Motion provides a unique overview of not only where migration occurs, and how it works, but crucially details the major factors that influence international population movement.
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Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System (Russell Sage Foundation Centennial Series)

The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the most unequal income distribution of any advanced industrialized nation. While other developed countries face similar challenges from globalization and technological change, none rivals America's singularly poor record for equitably distributing the benefits and burdens of recent economic shifts. In Categorically Unequal, Douglas Massey weaves together history, political economy, and even neuropsychology to provide a comprehensive explanation of how America's culture and political system perpetuates inequalities between different segments of the population. Categorically Unequal is striking both for its theoretical originality and for the breadth of topics it covers. Massey argues that social inequalities arise from the universal human tendency to place others into social categories. In America, ethnic minorities, women, and the poor have consistently been the targets of stereotyping, and as a result, they have been exploited and discriminated against throughout the nation's history. African-Americans continue to face discrimination in markets for jobs, housing, and credit. Meanwhile, the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border has discouraged Mexican migrants from leaving the United States, creating a pool of exploitable workers who lack the legal rights of citizens. Massey also shows that women's advances in the labor market have been concentrated among the affluent and well-educated, while low-skilled female workers have been relegated to occupations that offer few chances for earnings mobility. At the same time, as the wages of low-income men have fallen, more working-class women are remaining unmarried and raising children on their own. Even as minorities and women continue to face these obstacles, the progressive legacy of the New Deal has come under frontal assault. The government has passed anti-union legislation, made taxes more regressive, allowed the real value of the federal minimum wage to decline, and drastically cut social welfare spending. As a result, the income gap between the richest and poorest has dramatically widened since 1980. Massey attributes these anti-poor policies in part to the increasing segregation of neighborhoods by income, which has insulated the affluent from the social consequences of poverty, and to the disenfranchisement of the poor, as the population of immigrants, prisoners, and ex-felons swells. America's unrivaled disparities are not simply the inevitable result of globalization and technological change. As Massey shows, privileged groups have systematically exploited and excluded many of their fellow Americans. By delving into the root causes of inequality in America, Categorically Unequal provides a compelling argument for the creation of a more equitable society. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation's Centennial Series
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Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project

Discussion of Mexican migration to the United States is often infused with ideological rhetoric, untested theories, and few facts. In Crossing the Border, editors Jorge Durand and Douglas Massey bring the clarity of scientific analysis to this hotly contested but under-researched topic. Leading immigration scholars use data from the Mexican Migration Project―the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available―to answer such important questions as: Who are the people that migrate to the United States from Mexico? Why do they come? How effective is U.S. migration policy in meeting its objectives? Crossing the Border dispels two primary myths about Mexican migration: First, that those who come to the United States are predominantly impoverished and intend to settle here permanently, and second, that the only way to keep them out is with stricter border enforcement. Nadia Flores, Rubén Hernández-León, and Douglas Massey show that Mexican migrants are generally not destitute but in fact cross the border because the higher comparative wages in the United States help them to finance homes back in Mexico, where limited credit opportunities makes it difficult for them to purchase housing. William Kandel's chapter on immigrant agricultural workers debunks the myth that these laborers are part of a shadowy, underground population that sponges off of social services. In contrast, he finds that most Mexican agricultural workers in the United States are paid by check and not under the table. These workers pay their fair share in U.S. taxes and―despite high rates of eligibility―they rarely utilize welfare programs. Research from the project also indicates that heightened border surveillance is an ineffective strategy to reduce the immigrant population. Pia Orrenius demonstrates that strict barriers at popular border crossings have not kept migrants from entering the United States, but rather have prompted them to seek out other crossing points. Belinda Reyes uses statistical models and qualitative interviews to show that the militarization of the Mexican border has actually kept immigrants who want to return to Mexico from doing so by making them fear that if they leave they will not be able to get back into the United States. By replacing anecdotal and speculative evidence with concrete data, Crossing the Border paints a picture of Mexican immigration to the United States that defies the common knowledge. It portrays a group of committed workers, doing what they can to realize the dream of home ownership in the absence of financing opportunities, and a broken immigration system that tries to keep migrants out of this country, but instead has kept them from leaving.
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Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb

Under the New Jersey State Constitution as interpreted by the State Supreme Court in 1975 and 1983, municipalities are required to use their zoning authority to create realistic opportunities for a fair share of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. Mount Laurel was the town at the center of the court decisions. As a result, Mount Laurel has become synonymous with the debate over affordable housing policy designed to create economically integrated communities. What was the impact of the Mount Laurel decision on those most affected by it? What does the case tell us about economic inequality?

Climbing Mount Laurel undertakes a systematic evaluation of the Ethel Lawrence Homes--a housing development produced as a result of the Mount Laurel decision. Douglas Massey and his colleagues assess the consequences for the surrounding neighborhoods and their inhabitants, the township of Mount Laurel, and the residents of the Ethel Lawrence Homes. Their analysis reveals what social scientists call neighborhood effects--the notion that neighborhoods can shape the life trajectories of their inhabitants. Climbing Mount Laurel proves that the building of affordable housing projects is an efficacious, cost-effective approach to integration and improving the lives of the poor, with reasonable cost and no drawbacks for the community at large.

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Brokered Boundaries: Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times

Anti-immigrant sentiment reached a fever pitch after 9/11, but its origins go back much further. Public rhetoric aimed at exposing a so-called invasion of Latino immigrants has been gaining ground for more than three decades―and fueling increasingly restrictive federal immigration policy. Accompanied by a flagging U.S. economy―record-level joblessness, bankruptcy, and income inequality―as well as waning consumer confidence, these conditions signaled one of the most hostile environments for immigrants in recent memory. In Brokered Boundaries, Douglas Massey and Magaly Sánchez untangle the complex political, social, and economic conditions underlying the rise of xenophobia in U.S. society. The book draws on in-depth interviews with Latin American immigrants in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia and―in their own words and images―reveals what life is like for immigrants attempting to integrate in anti-immigrant times. What do the social categories "Latino" and "American" actually mean to today's immigrants? Brokered Boundaries analyzes how first- and second-generation immigrants from Central and South America and the Caribbean navigate these categories and their associated meanings as they make their way through U.S. society. Massey and Sánchez argue that the mythos of immigration, in which newcomers gradually shed their respective languages, beliefs, and cultural practices in favor of a distinctly American way of life, is, in reality, a process of negotiation between new arrivals and native-born citizens. Natives control interactions with outsiders by creating institutional, social, psychological, and spatial mechanisms that delimit immigrants' access to material resources and even social status. Immigrants construct identities based on how they perceive and respond to these social boundaries. The authors make clear that today's Latino immigrants are brokering boundaries in the context of unprecedented economic uncertainty, repressive anti-immigrant legislation, and a heightening fear that upward mobility for immigrants translates into downward mobility for the native-born. Despite an absolute decline in Latino immigration, immigration-related statutes have tripled in recent years, including many that further shred the safety net for legal permanent residents as well as the undocumented. Brokered Boundaries shows that, although Latin American immigrants come from many different countries, their common reception in a hostile social environment produces an emergent Latino identity soon after arrival. During anti-immigrant times, however, the longer immigrants stay in America, the more likely they are to experience discrimination and the less likely they are to identify as Americans.
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Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States

This vivid study, richly illustrated with forty color photographs, offers a multilayered analysis of retablos—folk images painted on tin that are offered as votives of thanks for a miracle granted or a favor bestowed—created by Mexican migrants to the United States. Durand and Massey analyze 124 contemporary retablo texts, scrutinizing the shifting subjects and themes that constitute a running record of the migrant's unique experience. The result is a vivid work of synthesis that connects the history of an art form and a people, links two very different cultures, and allows a deeper understanding of a major twentieth-century theme—the drama of transnational migration.
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The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America's Selective Colleges and Universities (The William G. Bowen Memorial Series in Higher Education)

African Americans and Latinos earn lower grades and drop out of college more often than whites or Asians. Yet thirty years after deliberate minority recruitment efforts began, we still don't know why. In The Shape of the River, William Bowen and Derek Bok documented the benefits of affirmative action for minority students, their communities, and the nation at large. But they also found that too many failed to achieve academic success. In The Source of the River, Douglas Massey and his colleagues investigate the roots of minority underperformance in selective colleges and universities. They explain how such factors as neighborhood, family, peer group, and early schooling influence the academic performance of students from differing racial and ethnic origins and differing social classes.


Drawing on a major new source of data--the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen--the authors undertake a comprehensive analysis of the diverse pathways by which whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians enter American higher education. Theirs is the first study to document the different characteristics that students bring to campus and to trace out the influence of these differences on later academic performance. They show that black and Latino students do not enter college disadvantaged by a lack of self-esteem. In fact, overconfidence is more common than low self-confidence among some minority students. Despite this, minority students are adversely affected by racist stereotypes of intellectual inferiority. Although academic preparation is the strongest predictor of college performance, shortfalls in academic preparation are themselves largely a matter of socioeconomic disadvantage and racial segregation.


Presenting important new findings, The Source of the River documents the ongoing power of race to shape the life chances of America's young people, even among the most talented and able.

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