2005 Poverty Research Grants: Race, Ethnicity, Immigration, and Poverty

Our 2005 Poverty Research Grants program focused on the relationships between race, ethnicity, immigration, and poverty.

We funded 5 proposals in 2005.


In the mid-1960s, the United States declared a “War on Poverty” and established the first official way to measure it. From that date forward, researchers have observed substantial racial disparities in poverty rates and poverty-related outcomes. Blacks and Latinos are twice as likely as Asians and whites to be poor. Nonpoor black children are more likely than poor white children to be poor when they reach adulthood. Nearly 30 percent of black males are incarcerated at some point in their lives, compared to less than 5 percent of white males. Fifty percent of Asians have college degrees, compared to 30 percent of whites, 17 percent of blacks, and only 11 percent of Latinos.

Substantial effort has been devoted to documenting the extent of these disparities. Yet the more well known they are, the more they have been taken for granted. As Glenn Loury recently noted, research by leading poverty scholars provides “disturbing evidence that racial differences in the experience of poverty are large, intractable, and poorly understood” . This lack of understanding is rooted partly in the fear that the mention of racial disparities may be viewed as an acknowledgement of racial inferiority; partly in the tendency to see racism as a sufficient cause of the disparities; and partly in the failure of researchers to understand race, not simply as a category of phenotype and ancestry, but as a set of multidimensional phenomena in American society.

This last point is particularly important as the composition of racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. changes. The United States currently receives more immigrants as a percentage of its population than at any time since the late 19th century. One out of every 10 Americans is now foreign-born. The word “Hispanic” used to be synonymous with “Mexican”: today, over 40% of Hispanics trace their origin to countries other than Mexico. Until 1970, Japanese were the largest Asian group in the United States; now they are outnumbered by Asian Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese. African and Caribbean migrants, too, have changed the character of black communities across the country. As racial and ethnic diversity increases, will disparities in life chances increase as well? Or will the growing presence of minority races erode differences in poverty and poverty-related outcomes?

Research in this area is also important in helping to reassess anti-poverty policies in the U.S.. Socioeconomic advancement among immigrant and ethnic groups is often used as a benchmark against which native disadvantaged populations are compared. Income and health increases among second generation immigrants may provide information that can be useful in designing policy tools to assist the advancement of other disadvantaged populations.

The proposals we funded investigated the linkages between race, ethnicity, immigration, and poverty in American society.

Funded research

The Effect of Source-Country on the Academic Achievement of Foreign-born Students in New York City Public Schools. Dylan Conger, Assistant Professor, George Washington University School of Public Policy and Public Administration. Amy Ellen Schwartz, Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics, New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Leanna Stiefel, Professor of Economics, New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

The Incidence of Poverty across Three Generations of Black And White Immigrants in the Post -Civil Rights Era: Assessing the Impacts of Race, Ethnicity, and Community. Amon Emeka, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Southern California.

Exploring Socioeconomic Gradients in Early Child Health by Race, Ethnicity, and Nativity. Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Columbia University School of Social Work.

Civic and Political Engagement: The Role of Poverty in the Context of Race, Ethnicity and Neighborhood. Eric Plutzer, Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Penn State University. Julianna Sandell, Penn State University Department of Political Science.

Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Children's Exposure to Neighborhood Poverty and Affluence. Jeffrey M. Timberlake, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Cincinnati.