Williamson's research focuses on immigration and health policy, urban politics, and political behavior. Williamson's recent book Welcoming New Americans? Local Governments and Immigrant Incorporation explains why cities welcome immigrants, and how these efforts both promote and restrict incorporation. Survey data from this project has been used by New American Economy to create an interactive index of cities' immigrant integration practices. In her current project, she is examining how Americans understand whose health deserves society's attention and investment with the interdisciplinary American Conceptions of Health Equity Study (ARCHES).
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Draws on four case studies of new immigrant destinations and a national survey of municipal officials. Explains why cities welcome immigrants, and how these efforts both promote and restrict incorporation.
Assesses the effectiveness of policy responses to increasing diversity in four types of new immigrant destinations: “intermediate” destination countries—Ireland and Italy; culturally distinct regions experiencing new migration such as Catalonia in Spain or the American South; new destinations within traditional destination countries like the state of Utah and rural towns in England; and “early migration cycle” countries including Latvia and Poland. Examines how these new destinations for immigrants compare to traditional destinations with respect to their policy responses and success at integrating immigrants, offering perspectives from both immigrants and natives.
Identifies a mismatch exists between prevailing findings and proposed mechanisms to explain how increasing ethnic diversity may relate to declining social cohesion. Draws on extensive interviews in four newly diverse US immigrant destinations. Finds that increasing diversity reveals in-group cleavages regarding how to respond to the out-group, among both immigrants and long-term native residents.
Explores a natural experiment of the effect of ethnic diversity on social capital in Lewiston, Maine, a previously homogeneous white city that experienced a rapid in-migration of Somalis in 2001. Finds, at the municipal and regional level, changes in social capital in Lewiston do not differ markedly from comparison groups. Finds, however, at the neighborhood level, those living in closest proximity to rapid increases in racial diversity become less likely to form positive inter-group ties. Concludes, at least in its early stages, the effect of diversity on social capital appears to operates through mechanisms involving face-to-face contact.
Uses survey experiments to provide one of the first causal tests of the impact of written Spanish on Americans' immigration attitudes. Finds, among those who hear Spanish frequently in day-to-day life, seeing written Spanish induces anti-immigration attitudes, indicating that for those familiar with Spanish, its presence can foster cultural threat.