Reimagining the Latinx Experience in America | Richard Alba, The Great Demographic Illusion Event Logo

Reimagining the Latinx Experience in America | Richard Alba, The Great Demographic Illusion

by School of Law

Lecture Virtual

Thu, Sep 16, 2021

12 PM – 1 PM PDT (GMT-7)

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The Reimagining the Latinx Experience in America Book Talk Series hosts Professor Richard Alba (CUNY) to discuss his book, The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream (Princeton, 2020), with comments from Professor Susan K. Brown (UCI).

Publisher's Description

Americans are under the spell of a distorted and polarizing story about their country’s future―the majority-minority narrative―which contends that inevitable demographic changes will create a society with a majority made up of minorities for the first time in the United States’s history. The Great Demographic Illusion reveals that this narrative obscures a more transformative development: the rising numbers of young Americans from ethno-racially mixed families, consisting of one white and one nonwhite parent. Examining the unprecedented significance of mixed parentage in the twenty-first-century United States, Richard Alba looks at how young Americans with this background will play pivotal roles in the country’s demographic future.

Assembling a vast body of evidence, Alba explores where individuals of mixed parentage fit in American society. Most participate in and reshape the mainstream, as seen in their high levels of integration into social milieus that were previously white dominated. Yet, racism is evident in the very different experiences of individuals with black-white heritage. Alba’s portrait squares in key ways with the history of immigrant-group assimilation, and indicates that, once again, mainstream American society is expanding and becoming more inclusive.

Nevertheless, there are also major limitations to mainstream expansion today, especially in its more modest magnitude and selective nature, which hinder the participation of black Americans and some other people of color. Alba calls for social policies to further open up the mainstream by correcting the restrictions imposed by intensifying economic inequality, shape-shifting racism, and the impaired legal status of many immigrant families.

Countering rigid demographic beliefs and predictions, The Great Demographic Illusion offers a new way of understanding American society and its coming transformation.

About the Author

Richard Alba is a Distinguished Professor at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has devoted his scholarly career to understanding the impacts of immigration on the groups involved and on the societies that receive them. He began by investigating the assimilation of white ethnic groups, in Italian Americans: Into the Twilight of Ethnicity (1985) and Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America (1990). He then pioneered neo-assimilation theory, developed with Victor Nee and presented in their award-winning 2003 book, Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary immigration. In Blurring the Color Line: The New Chance for a More Integrated America (2009), he argued that in 21st century America a demographic dynamic was promoting assimilation.

Over time, his teaching and research took on an increasingly comparative focus, to include immigration societies of North America and Western Europe. He carried out research in France and in Germany, with the support of Fulbright grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Russell Sage Foundation. This work culminated in his book with Nancy Foner, Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe (2015).

Most recently, he has argued vigorously against the widely believed majority-minority narrative, according to which whites will soon become a numerical minority, as a way of understanding the changes brought by increasing diversity and the future towards which the U.S. is heading. The arguments and evidence are summarized in his most recent book, The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream (2020).

A scholar who has written and edited 13 books and published more than 150 journal articles and book chapters, Alba has served as president of the Eastern Sociological Society and of the Sociological Research Association and as vice president of the American Sociological Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.