Stirring the melting pot
NSF study to encompass Mexicans, Nigerians, Vietnamese, Salvadorans, Asian Indians

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from UTA and Southern Methodist University has received one of the largest grants ever given by the National Science Foundation in cultural anthropology. The three-year, $445,000 award will be used to conduct the first comprehensive study of immigrants in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

While older cities such as New York and Chicago have been the subject of numerous studies on immigration, this is one of the first studies to examine a suburban metropolis that includes new suburban as well as older urban environments. Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties will be included in the study.

Joining UTA political science Associate Professor Manuel García y Griego on the research team are SMU faculty members James Hollifield, Caroline Brettell and Dennis Cordell. All four professors have conducted extensive research on immigration in other contexts, but this is the first time they have focused on their hometown area.

The study will compare the experiences of five groups of post-1980 immigrants in the Metroplex: Mexicans, Nigerians, Vietnamese, Salvadorans and Asian Indians. It will focus on social, economic and political factors that influence incorporation.

In the past 20 years, Dr. Brettell noted, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has quietly become more diverse in terms of population. Between 1970 and 1990, the proportion of foreign-born residents in Dallas and Tarrant counties doubled. The area is now believed to include more than 300,000 residents from Mexico, 50,000 Asian Indians, 35,000 Nigerians, 30,000 Vietnamese and 5,000 Salvadorans.

“This has raised a lot of questions that are crying out for some sort of systematic research project,” she said. 

For example, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has not witnessed the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment seen in many other United States cities during the 1990s, said Dr. García y Griego, director of UTA’s Center for Mexican American Studies. He believes that the area’s strong entrepreneurial orientation may influence how newcomers are received.

“We want to see to what extent entrepreneurship influences not just people’s attitudes generally toward immigrants but also whether that has an impact upon the way that immigrants become incorporated,” he said.

The new study will include a detailed review of census data from the past 30 years as well as a review of changes in federal laws pertaining to immigration since 1980. The researchers will conduct telephone interviews with 1,200 randomly selected households in the Metroplex and at least 100 face-to-face interviews with representatives from each of the five groups to be studied.

Additional interviews will be conducted with state and local government officials, heads of social service agencies and community organizations, employers and immigrant entrepreneurs. The researchers also will analyze how immigration is portrayed in the mainstream media and study the area’s ethnic language press.

Dr. Cordell said the new project is an excellent example of universities in the Metroplex working together rather than each doing its own research. “No one of us could do this project by ourselves,” he said.



Portrait of a UTA Family
The Taylor family's association with UTA and its preceding institutions began in 1911. It continues today through Lloyd Clark and his granddaughter, sophomore Alida Eggen.

Birth of Nations spawned UTA family affair
With the family home on land now occupied by UTA's South 40 parking lot, it's not surprising that seven Nation siblings attended neighboring North Texas Agricultural College in the 1930s and 1940s.

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