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Faculty & Research

Roberto G. Gonzales

Professor of Education

Roberto G. Gonzales

Degree:  Ph.D., University of California, (2008)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.1013
Vitae/CV:   Roberto G. Gonzales.pdf
Office:  Gutman 429
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Assistant to set up the appointment
Faculty Assistant:  Wendy Angus

Profile

Roberto G. Gonzales is professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research centers on contemporary processes of immigration and social inequality, and stems from theoretical interests at the intersection of race and ethnicity, immigration, and policy. In particular, his research examines the effects of legal contexts on the coming of age experiences of vulnerable and hard-to-reach immigrant youth populations. Since 2002 he has carried out one of the most comprehensive studies of undocumented immigrants in the United States. His book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press), is based on an in-depth study that followed 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles for twelve years. To date, Lives in Limbo has won five major book awards, including the Society for the Study of Social Problems C. Wright Mills Award, the American Education Research Association Outstanding Book Award, and the Law and Society Association Herbert Jacob Book Award. It has also been adopted by several universities as a common read and is being used by a couple dozen K-12 schools in teacher and staff training. In addition, Professor Gonzales’ National UnDACAmented Research Project has surveyed nearly 2,700 undocumented young adults and has carried out 500 in-depth interviews on their experiences following President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This fall, he is teaming up with several colleagues to investigate educator responses to school climate issues stemming from immigration policies.

His work has been has been featured in top journals, including the American Sociological Review, Current Anthropology, and the Harvard Educational Review as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gonzales is an associate editor for the journal Social Problems and a research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also participates in a transition to adulthood research network. Prior to his faculty position at Harvard, Gonzales held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and at the University of Washington. He received his B.A. from the Colorado College, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California Irvine. His research is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WT Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.

Click here to see a full list of Roberto Gonzales' courses.

Areas of Expertise
Sponsored Projects

From Undocumented to DACA-mented and Potentially DAPA-mented: Understanding Mixed-Status Families in a New Policy Context (2016-2018)
Heising-Simons Foundation

This project aims to better understand how DACAmented, potentially DAPAmented, and undocumented individuals negotiate their uncertain immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. As such, this project is particularly interested in the ways in which mixed-status families respond to the new opportunities and shifting legal circumstances. We aim to explore these issues by carrying interviews with 200 family members of DACA beneficiaries and 80 follow-up family interviews in three metropolitan areas. Ultimately, our data will provide policy makers, practitioners, funders, and scholars a set of valuable findings from which to assess changes in administrative policies with an eye towards more long term solutions for young immigrants and their families.

From Undocumented to DACAmented: Understanding DACA Beneficiaries in a New Policy Context (2016-2018)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

On June 15, President Obama announced a change in his administration’s immigration policy that would provide deferred action to an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood. The policy, while not granting a path to legalization and citizenship, provides an opportunity for a segment of the immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation and the ability to apply for work permits. This change comes on the heels of a growing body of scholarship that has documented the untenable circumstances of young people living without legal residency status. President Obama’s 2012 administrative action—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—represents an acknowledgement that the current status quo on immigration policy is having particularly disastrous effects on young people who have grown up in the U.S. but due to their undocumented status and to the inability of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, experience turbulent transitions to adulthood rife with legal barriers and exclusions. This multi-sited, longitudinal project aims to better understand how beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program negotiate their uncertain immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. We are currently midway through year three of a five-year research study. In late 2013-early 2014, we carried out a national survey, reaching 2,864 DACA eligible young adults. And, in 2015 we carried our second wave, in-depth qualitative interviews with 541 DACA eligible young adults in Arizona, California, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and South Carolina. In the spring of 2016, we will conduct follow-up interviews with each of the 541 interview respondents. Renewal funding would allow us to carry out two subsequent annual interviews with respondents identified and interviewed in 2015.

From Undocumented to DACAmented: Understanding DACA Beneficiaries in a New Policy Context (2016-2017)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

On June 15, President Obama announced a change in his administration’s immigration policy that would provide deferred action to an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood. The policy, while not granting a path to legalization and citizenship, provides an opportunity for a segment of the immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation and the ability to apply for work permits. This change comes on the heels of a growing body of scholarship that has documented the untenable circumstances of young people living without legal residency status. President Obama’s 2012 administrative action — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — represents an acknowledgement that the current status quo on immigration policy is having particularly disastrous effects on young people who have grown up in the U.S. but due to their undocumented status and to the inability of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, experience turbulent transitions to adulthood rife with legal barriers and exclusions. This multi-sited, longitudinal project aims to better understand how beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program negotiate their uncertain immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. In late 2013-early 2014, we carried out a national survey, reaching 2,864 DACA eligible young adults. And, in 2015 we carried our second wave, in-depth qualitative interviews with 541 DACA eligible young adults in Arizona, California, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and South Carolina. In the spring of 2016, we will conduct follow-up interviews with each of the 541 interview respondents. Renewal funding would allow us to carry out two subsequent annual interviews with respondents identified and interviewed in 2015.

Research on DACA Impacts on Harder to Reach Subpopulations (2014-2016)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

This project aims to explore the impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the lives of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals among the DACA eligible population. This multi-sited research project examines the pre- and post-DACA experiences of high school dropouts and college stop-outs. Recruitment efforts include targeted outreach to community organizations, GED and literacy programs, and other places researchers might expect to find out-of-school immigrant populations. In-depth interviews are carried out in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and Texas. The researcher follows up with respondents one year after the initial interview to assess changes in their lives and outlooks. This range of sites allows us to examine state and local contexts, compare our findings with other studies, and discern whether or not local contours are having a major effect in mediating or moderating the national policy. The study sheds light on the potential educational benefits of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, specifically, and widened access through inclusionary immigration policy, more generally. In placing a spotlight on the outcomes of our study, it contributes to the political debates on immigration and better informs federal and state policies as well as school and community practices.

Learning to be Legal: A Proposal to Track the Impact of Deferred Action on DREAM Act Eligible Youth and Young Adults (2013-2017)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

This multi-sited, mixed-method, longitudinal project aims to better understand how a range of young immigrants within the DACA-eligible population are accessing the program and how DACAmented young adults are experiencing their new status. Through a national survey, and four waves of in-depth qualitative interviews with eligible young adults in six study sites, we will explore how DACAmented individuals negotiate their immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. This project is supported by a large research team and by a diverse group of community stakeholders.

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