M Waters

Mary C. Waters

John L. Loeb Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

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About Mary

Waters studies how immigrants and their children have been doing in American society over time; how people identify racially and ethnically and how their identities are best measured; the changing nature of young adulthood in the United States; and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters over time. She has served as a consultant to the U.S. Census Bureau on asking questions about racial and ethnic identity, including census race, Hispanic origin and ancestry questions.


In the News

Research discussed by Sabrina Tavernise, in "Why the Announcement of a Looming White Minority Makes Demographers Nervous," The New York Times, November 22, 2018.
Quoted by Dylan Matthews in "What the Hurricane Maria Migration Will Do to Puerto Rico — and the U.S.," Vox, October 5, 2017.
Research discussed by Jeff Guo, in "The Biggest Ideas Underpinning the Anti-immigration Movement Aren’t Backed Up by Data," The Washington Post, October 1, 2015.
Quoted by Alvin Powell in "Measuring Assimilation," Harvard Gazette, September 21, 2015.
Guest on Weekend Edition, NPR, August 24, 2008.
Interviewed in "Somali Muslims in Maine," Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, November 15, 2002.
Guest on Kojo Nnamdi Show, NPR, May 8, 2000.


"The Next Generation: The Children of Immigrants in Europe and North America " (with with Richard Alba) (New York University Press, 2012).
Compares the experiences of young adults whose parents were immigrants in the US and in European countries, showing the importance of a flexible education system, and an open labor market and acceptance of diversity for the outcomes of the second generation in different national contexts.
"Five Years Later: Recovery from Post Traumatic Stress and Psychological Distress Among Low-Income Mothers Affected by Hurricane Katrina" (with Christina Paxson, Elizabeth Fussell, and Jean Rhodes). Social Science and Medicine 74, no. 2 (2012): 150-157.
Reports on an ongoing longitudinal study of poor African Americans who survived Hurricane Katrina and describes how they are still suffereing depression and post traumatic stress, five years after the hurricane.
"Debating Immigration: Are We Addressing the Right Issues?" in Writing Immigration: Scholars and Journalists in Dialogue, edited by Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, Vivian Louie, and Roberto Suro (University of California Press, 2011).
Argues that the media focus on undocumented immigrants and on discrimination and blocked mobility misses the forest for the trees – most immigrants and their children are assimilating well into American society and experiencing marked social mobility over time.
"Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty First Century" (with with Patrick J. Carr, Maria J. Kefalas, and Jennifer Holdaway) (University of California Press, 2011).
Brings together studies of young adults in New York, San Diego, Minneapolis and rural Iowa to show how young adulthood has changed in recent decades; including the difficulties young people have in finding jobs and housing and forming families.
"Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age" (with Phillip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf, and Jennifer Holdaway) (Harvard University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 2008).
Studies young adults whose parents were immigrants to New York City, showing how they are doing well in young adulthood despite the low education and low occupational status of their parents.
"The New Race Question: How the Census Counts Multiracial Individuals " (with Joel Perlmann) (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006).
Studies the race question first instituted in the 2000 census that allows people to claim a multiracial identity.