Asad, Asad L, and Eva Rosen. Submitted. “Hiding within Racial Hierarchies: Law Enforcement and Residential Selection among Undocumented Immigrants in the United States”.Abstract

This article examines how law enforcement shapes the residential choices of undocumented immigrants, likely contributing to broader patterns of residential stratification. Drawing on in-depth interviews with undocumented immigrants in households with young children in Dallas County, Texas, we outline several pathways through which undocumented status shapes residential selection and stratification. We find that, though respondents would prefer to live in racially-integrated neighborhoods characterized by low rates of poverty and violent crime, they view residence in any space with a large share of white residents as untenable. These areas are thought to pose a special risk to our respondents, who believe federal immigration and local law enforcement officials patrol these neighborhoods for the presence of undocumented immigrants. Living in co-ethnic Hispanic or in African-American areas instead emerge as two residential strategies that similarly prioritize an alternative set of neighborhood resources: protection from federal immigration and local law enforcement officials, concealment of immigrants’ undocumented status, and deflection of legal authorities’ attention from their own precarious position to that of their neighbors. These findings not only contribute to theories of residential selection by illustrating how the law and its enforcement can exacerbate residential stratification but also advance debates regarding the future of ethno-racial inequality in the U.S.

Asad, Asad L. Submitted. “System Embeddedness: How Immigrants Perceive the Risk of Immigration Law and Enforcement”.Abstract

Research on immigrant “illegality” examines how immigration law and enforcement implicate both undocumented and documented immigrants who have been punished for violating immigration law. Yet, this literature seldom considers how the majority of immigrants who have never had punitive contact with this system perceive its risk to their lives. This article draws on insights from the sociology of risk, which foregrounds how past experiences shape one’s perceptions of perilous situations, to explore how a diverse range of immigrants understand and experience immigration law and enforcement. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data collected over three years with Latin American households in Dallas County, Texas, I show how system embeddedness emerges as one under-theorized dimension of social control: Absent prior punitive contact, the undocumented tend to downplay the risk the system poses to their lives because they exist outside the U.S. immigration bureaucracy, whereas those with legal status report great risk for being known to it. I discuss the implications of my findings for broader sociological theories of surveillance and punishment. In particular, I conclude by outlining how the contemporary immigration system has come to represent an all-encompassing social arrangement that not only sanctions immigrants who have violated immigration law through its enforcement arm but also instills a sense of risk among those known to its bureaucratic arm.

Asad, Asad L., and Jackelyn Hwang. Submitted. “Indigenous Places and the Making of Undocumented Status in Mexico-U.S. Migration”.Abstract

Although researchers have illuminated how the uneven distribution of economic and social resources across communities falls along racial or ethnic dimensions, few have considered whether dimensions of stratification in a migrant-sending country bear on migrants’ access to economic and social resources in a migrant-receiving country. In this article, we take Mexico-United States migration flows as our focus and examine whether having origins in an indigenous place, a primary axis of stratification in Mexico, influences migrants’ documentation status when crossing the border, a primary dimension of inequality in the U.S. Merging individual-level data from the Mexican Migration Project with municipal-level data from the Mexican Census and using multilevel models, we find that migrants from indigenous municipalities in Mexico are more likely to migrate undocumented than documented to the U.S. compared with those from non-indigenous municipalities, net of the economic and social resources identified in prior work as useful for international movement. We discuss why indigenous places—marked by a set of correlated conditions of economic and social disadvantage—channel migrants into an undocumented status. This study contributes to our understanding of stratification processes in cross-border contexts and has implications for the production of inequality in the U.S.

Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. Forthcoming. “Racialized Legal Status as a Social Determinant of Health”. Social Science & Medicine. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that disproportionately impacts racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) primary effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Primary effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

Asad, Asad L. 2017. “Reconsidering Immigrant Illegality: How Immigrants Perceive the Risk of Immigration Law and Enforcement.”.Abstract

Over the past two decades, researchers have developed a shared understanding of how to study immigrants’ everyday lives in an era of restrictive American immigration law and enforcement. This literature on immigrant “illegality” emphasizes the accounts of immigrants punished for violating sometimes-arcane immigration laws in order to foreground all noncitizens’ vulnerability to the immigration enforcement system. Yet, this literature seldom considers how the majority of immigrants who lack punitive contact with this system perceive its risk to their lives. This dissertation draws on insights from the sociology of risk, which suggests how past experience shapes one’s perceptions of potentially-perilous situations, to explore how a diverse sample of immigrants understands and responds to immigration law and enforcement. I draw primarily on ethnographic and interview data collected over three years with 59 respondents in 28 Latin American households in Dallas County, Texas, as well as supplementary ethnographic data collected at the County’s immigration court and Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office. The findings underscore the importance of one’s prior contact with immigration law and enforcement for structuring immigrants’ risk perceptions of this system. Those with punitive contact generalize the fear stemming from this prior experience to all other domains of social life, regardless of legal status, and seek to evade institutions that may bring about future punishment. But, among those lacking punitive contact, I reveal how system embeddedness—whereby individuals included in the U.S. immigration bureaucracy’s formal records exhibit a heightened sense of risk—emerges as one under-theorized dimension of social control: The undocumented in this sample tend to downplay the risk that immigration law and enforcement pose to their lives because they are unknown to the U.S. immigration bureaucracy, whereas those with relatively-secure legal protections—e.g., discretionary or temporary visa holders, legal permanent residents, and even naturalized citizens under certain conditions—tend to report great risk for being embedded inside it. Finally, I examine the spillover consequences of immigration law and enforcement on U.S.-born Hispanics more broadly who, regardless of their legal status, nevertheless must confront this system by virtue of their social or spatial proximity to immigrant populations. I discuss the implications of my findings for broader sociological theories of surveillance, punishment, and inequality. In particular, I conclude by outlining the contemporary immigration system as a “total institution,” an all-encompassing social arrangement that not only sanctions immigrants who have violated immigration law through its enforcement arm but also instills a sense of risk among those known to its bureaucratic arm.

Arcaya, Mariana C., et al. 2017. “Association of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms with Migraine and Headache after a Natural Disaster”. Health Psychology 36 (5):411-418. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Previous research shows that migraine and general headache symptoms increase after traumatic events. Questions remain about whether post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD produces migraine/headache symptoms, or if individuals afflicted by migraine/headache are especially likely to develop PTSD. We test whether PTSD symptoms following a natural disaster are associated with higher odds of reporting frequent headaches/migraines post-disaster. We decompose PTSD into intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptom clusters to examine which, if any, are uniquely related to headache/migraine post-disaster.


We use prospectively collected pre- and post-disaster data to explore whether overall PTSD symptoms and symptom clusters are associated with migraine/headache in a sample of Hurricane Katrina survivors. We account for severity of hurricane exposure and control for baseline migraine and headache problems to reduce the probability that heightened PTSD susceptibility among those who already suffered from the conditions could explain observed associations.


PTSD symptoms were associated with higher odds of experiencing frequent headaches or migraines with a standard deviation change in PTSD score corresponding to over twice the odds (95% CI: 1.64, 2.68) of having trouble with frequent headaches or migraines in the post-Katrina period. Each additional point on the intrusion subscale (sample mean [SD]: 1.6 [1.1]) was associated with 55% higher odds of reporting frequent headache/migraine (95% CI: 1.03, 2.33), but we found no association with avoidance or hyperarousal symptoms.


Clinicians and disaster planners should be aware that disaster survivors might be at heightened risk of migraine/headache episodes, and those experiencing intrusive reminders may be most affected.

Asad, Asad L. 2017. “Review of 'Border Lives: Fronterizos, Transnational Migrants, and Commuters in Tijuana' by Sergio Chávez”. Social Forces 95 (4):e19. Publisher's Version asad_2017.pdf
Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2016. “Network Effects in Mexico-U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms”. American Behavioral Scientist 60 (10):1168-1193. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have connected this phenomenon, called the cumulative causation of migration, to expanding social networks that link migrants in destination to individuals in origin. While extant research has established a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, seldom have researchers interrogated how multiple social mechanisms—as well as exposure to common environmental factors—might account for these interdependencies. This article uses a mixed-methods strategy to identify the social mechanisms underlying the network effects in Mexico–U.S. migration. Three types of social mechanisms are identified, which all lead to network effects: (a) social facilitation, which is at work when network peers such as family or community members provide useful information or help that reduces the costs or increases the benefits of migration; (b) normative influence, which operates when network peers offer social rewards or impose sanctions to encourage or discourage migration; and (c) network externalities, which are at work when prior migrants generate a pool of common resources that increase the value or reduce the costs of migration for potential migrants. The authors first use large-sample survey data from the Mexican Migration Project to establish the presence of network effects and then rely on 138 in-depth interviews with migrants and their family members in Mexico to identify the social mechanisms underlying these network effects. The authors thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which they argue is crucial for anticipating and responding to future flows. 

Asad, Asad L, and Tamara Kay. 2015. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions”. Social Science & Medicine 144:79-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although a substantial literature examines the relationship between culture and health in myriad individual contexts, a lack of comparative data across settings has resulted in disparate and imprecise conceptualizations of the concept for scholars and practitioners alike. This article examines scholars and practitioners' understandings of culture in relation to health interventions. Drawing on 169 interviews with officials from three different nongovernmental organizations working on health issues in multiple countries—Partners in Health, Oxfam America, and Sesame Workshop—we examine how these respondents' interpretations of culture converge or diverge with recent developments in the study of the concept, as well as how these understandings influence health interventions at three different stages—design, implementation, and evaluation—of a project. Based on these analyses, a tripartite definition of culture is built—as knowledge, practice, and change—and these distinct conceptualizations are linked to the success or failure of a project at each stage of an intervention. In so doing, the study provides a descriptive and analytical starting point for scholars interested in understanding the theoretical and empirical relevance of culture for health interventions, and sets forth concrete recommendations for practitioners working to achieve robust improvements in health outcomes.

Asad, Asad L. 2015. “Contexts of Reception, Post-Disaster Migration, and Socioeconomic Mobility”. Population and Environment 36 (3):279-310. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Current theories conceptualize return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an individual-level assessment of costs and benefits. Since relocation is cost prohibitive, return migration is thought to be unlikely for vulnerable populations. However, recent analyses of longitudinal survey data suggest that these individuals are likely to return to New Orleans over time despite achieving socioeconomic gains in the post-disaster location. I extend the “context of reception” approach from the sociology of immigration and draw on longitudinal data from the Resilience in the Survivors of Katrina Project to demonstrate how institutional, labor market, and social contexts influence the decision to return. Specifically, I show how subjective comparisons of the three contexts between origin and destination, perceived experiences of discrimination within each context, and changing contexts over time explain my sample’s divergent migration and mobility outcomes. I conclude with implications for future research on, and policy responses to, natural disasters.

Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2015.“Migrant Networks”. Pp. 1-13 in Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Wiley. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Migrant networks—webs of social ties between migrants in destination and individuals in origin—are a key determinant of the magnitude and direction of migration flows, as well as migrants’ adaptation outcomes. The increasing emphasis on migrant networks represents a new approach to migration research, which until the late 1980s, had been dominated by economic or political explanations of migration.  This entry summarizes findings on migrant networks from relevant areas of research in anthropology, sociology, demography and economics; identifies the promising lines of inquiry recently undertaken; and points to key issues for future research, such as understanding how migrant networks impact migration behavior and migrants’ experiences. Such research into the specific mechanisms of social transmission will need to engage with the on-going discussions on networks effects and their identification in the social science literature at large, and will necessarily require the interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers.

Asad, Asad L., and Tamara Kay. 2014. “Theorizing the Relationship between NGOs and the State in Medical Humanitarian Development Projects”. Social Science & Medicine 120:325-333. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Social scientists have fiercely debated the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state in NGO-led development projects. However, this research often carries an implicit, and often explicit, anti-state bias, suggesting that when NGOs collaborate with states, they cease to be a progressive force. This literature thus fails to recognize the state as a complex, heterogeneous, and fragmented entity. In particular, the unique political context within which an NGO operates is likely to influence how it carries out its work. In this article, we ask: how do NGOs work and build relationships with different types of states and – of particular relevance to practitioners – what kinds of relationship building lead to more successful development outcomes on the ground? Drawing on 29 in-depth interviews with members of Partners in Health and Oxfam America conducted between September 2010 and February 2014, we argue that NGOs and their medical humanitarian projects are more likely to succeed when they adjust how they interact with different types of states through processes of interest harmonization and negotiation. We offer a theoretical model for understanding how these processes occur across organizational fields. Specifically, we utilize field overlap theory to illuminate how successful outcomes depend on NGOs' ability to leverage resources – alliances and networks; political, financial, and cultural resources; and frames – across state and non-state fields. By identifying how NGOs can increase the likelihood of project success, our research should be of interest to activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Waters, Mary C, Philip Kasinitz, and Asad L Asad. 2014. “Immigrants and African Americans”. Annual Review of Sociology 40 (1):369-390. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine how recent immigration to the United States has affected African Americans. We first review the research on the growing diversity within the black population, driven largely by the presence of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. As their children and grandchildren come of age, relations between immigrants and African Americans are complicated by the fact that a growing portion of the African American community has origins in both groups. We then review literature on both new destinations and established gateway cities to illustrate the patterns of cooperation, competition, and avoidance between immigrants of diverse races and African Americans in neighborhoods, the labor market, and politics. We explore the implications of the population’s increasing racial diversity owing to immigration for policies that aim to promote racial equality but that are framed in terms of diversity. We conclude with suggestions for new areas of research.

Asad, Asad L., Michel Anteby, and Filiz Garip. 2014. “Who Donates Their Bodies to Science? The Combined Role of Gender and Migration Status among California Whole-Body Donors”. Social Science & Medicine 106:53-58. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The number of human cadavers available for medical research and training, as well as organ transplantation, is limited. Researchers disagree about how to increase the number of whole-body bequeathals, citing a shortage of donations from the one group perceived as most likely to donate from attitudinal survey data - educated white males over 65. This focus on survey data, however, suffers from two main limitations: First, it reveals little about individuals’ actual registration or donation behavior. Second, past studies’ reliance on average survey measures may have concealed variation within the donor population. To address these shortcomings, we employ cluster analysis on all whole-body donors’ data from the Universities of California at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Two donor groups emerge from the analyses: One is made of slightly younger, educated, married individuals, an overwhelming portion of whom are U.S.-born and have U.S.-born parents, while the second includes mostly older, separated women with some college education, a relatively higher share of whom are foreign-born and have foreign-born parents. Our results demonstrate the presence of additional donor groups within and beyond the group of educated and elderly white males previously assumed to be most likely to donate. More broadly, our results suggest how the intersectional nature of donors’ demographics - in particular, gender and migration status - shapes the configuration of the donor pool, signaling new ways to possibly increase donations.

Asad, Asad L., and Monica C. Bell. 2014. “Winning to Learn, Learning to Win: Evaluative Frames and Practices in Urban Debate”. Qualitative Sociology 37 (1):1-26. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Sociologists of (e)valuation have devoted considerable attention to understanding differences in evaluative practices across a number of fields. Yet, little is understood about how individuals learn about and navigate multivalent valid group styles within a single setting. As a social phenomenon, many accept how central processes of evaluation are to everyday life. Accordingly, scholars have attempted to link research on evaluation to processes of inequality. Nevertheless, the sociology of evaluation only has tenuous, often implicit connections to literature on inequality and disadvantage. This article addresses these two gaps. Drawing on over two hundred hours of ethnographic fieldwork in an urban high school debate league (“League”), twenty-seven semi-structured interviews with League judges, and archival data, we illustrate how high school policy debate judges employ evaluative frames and link them to the implementation of evaluative practices in a disadvantaged setting. We show that the cultural meanings that emerge within the evaluation process—in this case, urban uplift and competition—stem from the conflicted context in which evaluation is occurring. We also make a first step toward applying the conceptual tools within the sociology of evaluation to a disadvantaged setting, and more broadly, suggest that micro-processes of evaluation are important to the study of urban inequality.

Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2013. “Mexico-U.S. Migration in Time: From Economic to Social Mechanisms”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have attributed this phenomenon – the cumulative causation of migration – to expanding social networks that connect migrants in destination to individuals in origin. Studies however, often disagree on how social networks influence migration decisions. While many establish a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, only few acknowledge that multiple social mechanisms might account for these interdependencies. To address this issue, we adopt a typology developed by DiMaggio and Garip (2012) and consider three mechanisms by which social ties may influence individuals’ migration choices. We study the prevalence of these mechanisms in the Mexico-US migration context using a mixed methods approach. First, analyzing data from more than 90,000 individuals surveyed by the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) we establish the presence of network effects in migration and test how prior migrants in the family or community increase individuals’ migration propensities, and whether prior migrants reduce the effect of economic or political indicators on migration propensities. Second, we analyze qualitative data from 120 in-depth interviews to determine the different mechanisms that lead to interdependencies in individuals’ migration choices. We thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which we contend is crucial for anticipating future flows and policy responses.