Douglas S. Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Douglas S. Massey has been a member of the faculties of the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and, currently, Princeton University. He has served on the Population Association of America Board of Directors from 1986 to 1989, was the Vice President of the PAA in 1994, president of the PAA in 1996, and received the PAA’s Clifford C. Clogg outstanding early career award in 1998. He has made major contributions in multiple fields of demography and sociology: international migration, especially from Mexico and Latin America to the United States, race and housing segregation, discrimination, education, and urban poverty. The thread running through these topics is his deep concern for social inequality.
Doug grew up in Olympia, Washington and graduated from Western Washington University in 1974, magna cum laude in sociology-anthropology, psychology and Spanish. He received his PhD in Sociology from Princeton University in 1978. His dissertation was titled “Residential Segregation of Spanish Americans in United States Urbanized Areas” and his committee included Jane Menken, Julian Wolpert, Gil Rozman, and Bryan Boulier.
Throughout his career Doug’s has maintained two fields of research: international migration, with a focus on Mexican migration to the United States, and racial stratification. As of the spring of 2013, he has authored or co-authored 13 books and edited eight, in addition to being responsible for five book translations. He has published 170 journal articles and 84 book chapters.
Doug’s intellectual contributions are many, significant, and diverse. They are not limited to the two aforementioned fields, but his breakthroughs in those fields earned him his early reputation and launched his career. First came, in 1987, Return to Aztlan: The Social Process of International Migration from Western Mexico (with Rafael Alarcón, Jorge Durand, andHumberto González), which reported on the findings of a methodologically innovative survey (the ethnosurvey) in four Mexican towns. This book set the tone for Doug’s entire career as a migration scholar, in which he has provided a deep understanding of migration as a complex but systematic social process, and debunked popular myths based on flawed assumptions. Thus, migration does not result from a simple cost-benefit calculation, it is a lot less permanent than often assumed, and it is not a response to abject poverty. Instead, it offers a sensible strategic alternative, in a context of failed markets that preclude prospective migrants from finding viable employment at home. Furthermore, migration tends to perpetuate itself through the operation of social networks and the feedback effects of social and economic remittances. A poor understanding of this process, Doug contends, has led to decades of misguided U.S. immigration policy, based on flawed assumptions and leading to missed opportunities. Ever since Return to Aztlan, Doug has continued to explore the social process of international migration using data from his longest-running research endeavor, the Mexican Migration Project (since the 1980s), and its extension, the Latin American Migration Project (since 1998), both co-led with his associate and friend, Professor Jorge Durand of the University of Guadalajara.
Doug made his early mark in the study of racial stratification and urban sociology in 1993, with American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (with Nancy Denton). This book combines theoretical insight with the rigor of statistical analysis and it makes a powerful case for the thesis that residential segregation was a major factor leading to the creation and consolidation of the black urban underclass. In the United States, racial segregation has operated at the individual, institutional, and governmental level, leading to the consolidation of neighborhoods that are extremely vulnerable to economic downturns. Over time, isolation and lack of opportunity grow, leading to the consolidation of black urban poverty. The resulting social ills tend to marginalize these communities even more, further separating them from the mainstream.
Doug has also launched many careers. He has served as advisor to 60 graduate students and has mentored 23 post-doctoral fellows. Many of these students have come from abroad, or are minority students in the United States who have been attracted to Doug’s social justice concerns and his commitment to high quality research. Doug is a dedicated mentor to his students and postdocs, providing either feedback on any working paper or a high-quality sampler at his famous tequila parties, whichever is most appropriate at any given time.
His contributions to the field have been acknowledged by his peers in many ways. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In addition, as mentioned above, he has served as president of PAA, he is currently president of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and he is a past-president of the American Sociological Association. He is currently co-editor of the Annual Review of Sociology and has served as a member of numerous editorial boards. Doug tirelessly works on behalf of the field and we are pleased to acknowledge him as an honored colleague.