American Sociological Association

Douglas Massey Award Statement

Douglas S. Massey - Award Statement

No American is unaffected by our nation’s evolving policy stance toward immigrants.  The major institutions of our collective life – ranging from the criminal justice system, to the economy, to the nation’s schools – bear the imprint of a radically transformed approach to handling newcomers and their offspring.  No sociologist has done more than Professor Douglas Massey to inform a variety of publics about the contradictions inherent in many of our immigration laws and the unintended consequences that have stemmed from these controversial policies.  Whether testifying before the U.S. Senate, granting dozens of interviews to journalists interested in his ideas, or penning op-eds in our most prominent newspapers, Professor Massey has been an indefatigable emissary on behalf of a humane approach to immigration that balances our nation’s needs and capabilities with what is politically feasible.  It is also an approach grounded in the best social science research.  Professor Massey is uniquely suited to this role given his longstanding expertise as a leading immigration scholar.  

All of Professor Massey’s public endeavors to improve our immigration system would define him as one of the most prominent public sociologists of our time.  Yet his efforts on behalf of public sociology do not end with immigration.  For decades he has translated key sociological findings from studies of race, urban areas, and the changing demographics of the country for audiences outside of the academy.  These efforts share common elements: they remain close to the relevant research, they are comprehensive yet easy for various publics to understand, and they offer possible solutions to pressing social problems rooted in the political realities of the day.  For all of these endeavors, the American Sociological Association has named Professor Massey winner of the Public Understanding of Sociology Award for 2012.   

Professor Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.  He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton in 1978, and began his academic career with stints at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania prior to returning to his alma mater in 2005.  Aside from his studies on the changing dynamics of immigration, his research focuses on race relations, U.S. cities, and the continuing impact of segregation on the life chances of minorities.  In total he has authored or co-authored nearly three dozen books and over two hundred articles.  His scholarly impact has been recognized in the academy by various disciplines.  He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 1996 he served as President of the Population Association of America, in 2000-2001 he served as President of the American Sociological Association, and in 2006 he was elected president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

This staggering amount of scholarly productivity and service to the social sciences has not detracted Professor Massey from his contributions to the public understanding of sociological research.  These contributions to the public make Professor Massey such a deserving winner of this year’s award.  Interviews and op-eds in newspapers such as the USA Today, the New York Times, and the Newark-Star Ledger, and appearances in various other media outlets have deepened the public’s comprehension of complex sociological issues such as demographic changes in our nation’s cities, the paradoxes of recent immigration restrictions, and the settlement patterns of minorities.  
Professor Massey’s contributions to public understanding of the discipline extend beyond the general public: for decades he has participated in policy discussions and debates with those closest to the policy-making process.  Testimonies before the Senate, the House of Representatives, and service on various government panels have helped inform policymakers about the latest findings from social science research, and how these findings might be instituted as policy.   His contributions also extend beyond our nation’s borders: Professor Massey has spoken at the United Nations and to numerous foreign bodies in an ongoing effort to shape publics and policy-making bodies’ understanding of and appreciation for what social scientists have to offer the world.

These efforts are often stymied, distorted, or simply ignored – as anyone engaged in the public understanding of sociology can attest to.  Yet as Professor Massey recognizes, these efforts are absolutely essential if we are to broaden the impact of our discipline.   For those whose research is relevant to ongoing social problems, these efforts are essential to fulfill all of our obligations as social scientists.  Most importantly, they are also essential for improving the policy-making process and educating the public.  It is for these efforts as a tireless ambassador for educating the public and improving our nation’s policies that we honor Professor Massey with this year’s award.