the melting pot
NSF study to encompass Mexicans, Nigerians, Vietnamese, Salvadorans,
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
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,
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 UTAs
Center for Mexican American Studies. He believes that the areas
strong entrepreneurial orientation may influence how newcomers are
We want to see to what extent entrepreneurship
influences not just peoples 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 areas 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.