This study investigates how race and ethnic inequality influences mobility strategies of middle class Dominican and Mexican immigrant parents in Atlanta. In particular, we ask, "what role does discrimination play in immigrant parents" decisions about where to live, where to send children to school, what organizations to join, what social networks to cultivate and what activities to pursue? Moving beyond the Black/White paradigm of discrimination, we identify the ways that the current national climate of anti-Latino hostility creates a context in which middle class Latinos leverage resources to secure opportunities for their children. We capture key differences in experiences and perceptions of discrimination, racial/ethnic identity and mobility strategies among Latino groups by conducting in-depth interviews with 70 middle class Mexican parents and 70 middle class Dominican parents. Our project addresses the urgent questions of race relations and immigrant incorporation amidst a rapidly shifting demographic landscape, uncovering the ways that ethnic and class boundary construction link discrimination and mobility strategies in reciprocal, ongoing processes. By focusing on two specific Latino groups in Atlanta, we gain insight into how the national climate plays out through the local race, ethnic and class dynamics of a new immigrant destination, where historically black/white race relations are encountered, challenged and potentially transformed.

Broader impact: Our study highlights a segment of the Latino immigrant population "the middle class" that remains virtually invisible in national discourse on immigration. Our comparative study of two groups can educate the public about the class and ethnic diversity of the Latino population in the U.S. Our project also speaks to policy debates over whether the harsh anti-immigrant legislation recently implemented at the state and local levels disadvantage Latino immigrants who are documented as well, creating barriers for members of the Latino middle class and their children. By identifying the mechanisms through which race and ethnic inequality influences pivotal mobility decisions, and identifying important class and national cleavages among groups of Latinos, we also hope to discover opportunities for cooperation and coalition-building among historically disenfranchised groups.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Saylor Breckenridge
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Emory University
United States
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