Stephanie L. Canizales

Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Merced

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About Stephanie

Canizales' research focuses on the study of international migration, immigrant integration, and inequality, using ethnographic research methods to explore how undocumented and unaccompanied Latinx migrant youth navigate migration and settlement in U.S. society. Canizales examines why Central American and Mexican youth, including indigenous young people, migrate to Los Angeles, California, and how they incorporate into school, work, family, and community life as they come of age without parents and legal status. Canizales’ work is unique in that it includes undocumented and unaccompanied youth migrants, including indigenous youth, who were not apprehended at the U.S. Southern border and thus have diverse (and often non-traditional) work and school experiences, family dynamics, and community group affiliations. Canizales' research has been published in Ethnic and Racial Studies and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Canizales is an Emerging Poverty Scholars Fellow with the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the News

Opinion: "Opinion: Our Failed Immigration Policy Is Causing a Child Labor Epidemic in the U.S.," Stephanie L. Canizales, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2023.


"Si Mis Papas Estuvieran Aquí”: Unaccompanied Youth Workers’ Emergent Frame of Reference and Health in the United States" Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2022).

Demonstrates that unaccompanied, undocumented youth undergo cumulative physical and mental health disadvantages.

"Maybe Not 100%”: Co-Constructing Language Proficiency in the Maya Diaspora" (with Brandan H. O'Connor). International Multilingual Research Journal (2022).

Analyzes the social construction of language proficiency among Indigenous Guatemalan Maya youth in the United States– specifically, undocumented young adults who migrated to Los Angeles, California as unaccompanied minors and who grew up as low-wage workers.

"Work Primacy and the Social Incorporation of Unaccompanied, Undocumented Latinx Youth in the United State" Social Forces (2021).

Investigates the social incorporation of unaccompanied, undocumented Latinx youth workers as they come of age in the United States. Reveals based on research with undocumented Central American and Mexican young adults who grew up as unaccompanied minors in Los Angeles, California, the data that the pressures of financial obligations to families in the sending country and their own sobrevivencia (survival) in the United States, along with limited financial and social resource and mobility, produce a social incorporation trajectory shaped by the primacy of work.

"Educational Meaning Making and Language Learning: Understanding the Educational Incorporation of Unaccompanied, Undocumented Latinx Youth Workers in the United States" The American Sociological Association Journal 94, no. 3 (2021): 175-190.

Examines the educational meaning-making and language learning of Latinx individuals coming of age as workers without parents and legal status. Shows that Latinx immigrant youth growing up outside of Western-normative parent-led households and K–12 schools and who remain tied to left-behind families across transnational geographies tend to equate education with English language learning.

"Ethnoracial Capitalism and the Limits of Ethnic Solidarity" (with Jody Agius Vallejo). Social Problems (2021).

Theorizes the concept of ethnoracial capitalism, which occurs within racialized groups when group members commodify ethnicity through the sale of culturally-specific goods or when institutions and services are imbued with ethnicity and assumed to form the basis of profitable financial exchanges.

"Latinos & Racism in the Trump Era" (with Jody Agius Vallejo). Daedalus 150, no. 2 (2021): 150–164.

Examines the roots, causes, and effects of racism experienced by Latinos in the Trump era. Argues that Trump and his administration were not the origin of Latinos' experiences of racism, but his rise to power was, in part, derived from Latino racialization.

"Support and Setback: How Religion and Religious Organisations Shape the Incorporation of Unaccompanied Indigenous Youth" Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45, no. 9 (2018): 1613-1630.

Reports on 24 months of observations at two Los Angeles Catholic churches and interviews with undocumented and unaccompanied, indigenous migrant youth churchgoers to understand how churches influence migrant youths’ incorporation. Finds that church membership can delay undocumented and unaccompanied youths’ incorporation by reproducing inequality as they offer individualized solutions, like tithing and service, to structural disadvantages such as work exploitation, poverty, and addictions.

"Latino/a Professionals As Entrepreneurs: How Race, Class, and Gender Shape Entrepreneurial Incorporation" (with Jody Agius Vallejo). Ethnic and Racial Studies 39, no. 9 (2016): 1637-1656.

Examines how race, class, and gender intersect to shape professional Latinos’ entrepreneurial incorporation, as observed by the conditions that prompt professional Latinos to start a business, including access to capital and experiences with discrimination.

"American Individualism and the Social Incorporation of Unaccompanied Guatemalan Maya Young Adults in Los Angeles" Ethnic and Racial Studies 38, no. 10 (2015): 1831-1847.

Shows that while scholars predict Americanization and individualism threatens immigrant incorporation, research with unaccompanied Guatemalan Maya young adult participants of a Los Angeles support group indicate that Americanization and the adoption of American individualism equips youth growing up without parents or supportive social institutions with the rhetoric and behaviors of self-responsibility necessary for emotional, psychological and financial stability. Finds social incorporation increases as youth begin to see themselves as participants in a local community.