Professor of sociology and director of the Immigrant Well-Being Research Center, Dr. Elizabeth Aranda is leading a research study that aims to study young adults with immigrant parents, most of whom are Latino/a or Indian and living in the Tampa Bay area, to assess how they have done in terms of education, socio-economic status, and other socio-demographic outcomes when compared to native born Americans. Aranda worked with research associate of the center, Melanie Escue, a USF alumna, and also recruited three undergraduate students to assist in the data collection for this study.
“Studies about second-generation immigrants, or the U.S.-born adult children of immigrants, are important to see if they are able to attain the educational, occupational, and socio-economic outcomes on par with the adult children of American citizens or people who have lived in this country for generations,” Aranda explained. “These kinds of studies are done to measure if our society’s institutions are open to incorporating immigrants and their children, and to also examine if there are any barriers to societal integration.”
Aranda, who specializes in research related to migrants' emotional well-being and how they adapt to challenges posed by racial and ethnic inequalities, shared that if the outcomes of the study show that the second generation lags behind in any of the specified areas, then there needs to be an examination of the mechanisms that led to inequalities and devise policy interventions that ameliorate these inequities.
The pilot study is being funded by seed money from the USF College of Arts and Sciences centers and institutes, in an effort to collect preliminary data, which is comprised of two-to-three-hour interviews with study participants, for a larger grant proposal to expand the study and pool of participants.
Felix Sutphin, an undergraduate student participating in the data collection, highlighted the reasons why he wanted to get involved in the field of sociology and the research study process.
“There are so many different factors that have influenced my interest in this field that it’s often difficult for me to truly narrow it down. My frustrations with social injustice towards the queer community, POC, and im/migrants in the U.S. is what ultimately lead me to this path,” Sutphin said. “I wanted to understand why these things happen, and hopefully, through that understanding, I could find ways to help alleviate these injustices.”
“Whether someone chooses to study and pursue a career in sociology or not, it’s important that everyone has a core understanding of how and why our society functions in its current state. We should not only seek answers but also strive to be a part of the solution,” he explained.
He also shared that the data collection process has been an opportunity to listen and give space to those whose voices we don’t tend to hear.
“This study is about elevating those voices by understanding the experiences of second-generation im/migrant young adults. Because this is such a specific demographic, there’s a lot of nuanced qualitative data,” Sutphin said. “While people’s experiences may be similar, they are never the same. Everyone has their own story that is influenced by the way they perceive and choose to navigate the world, and that is precisely why focusing on qualitative data is so important within the context of seeking social justice.”
Aranda felt involving undergraduate students in the research process was critical to their student and early researcher experience as they look ahead to the next steps in their academic or professional journeys.
“So many students study the research process in their undergraduate majors and minors, but to really get a taste for what research is, you have to be involved with it and participate in a study as a researcher—at least that’s how I view it,” she shared. “The times I have felt that my career is most rewarding has been when I’m either in the classroom or in the field doing research. I want students to have that experience, especially undergraduate students who may be interested in going to graduate school, but unsure if they want to do research.”
“I think that having the opportunity to be in the field, conducting interviews and getting to know people’s life histories exposes them to a whole new world and opens their eyes to what other people’s lives are like,” she said.
Sutphin agreed that his involvement has been a key learning experience for the future.
“I definitely plan to continue this type of work in the future, or at least something within the same realm. I would love to continue working in research like I am right now. The knowledge I have acquired during these past months is something I’m not sure I would have learned in a classroom setting, especially given that I’m a kinaesthetic learner,” he shared. “I’ve found that throwing myself into this type of work and following what my mentors teach me along the way creates a very unique and fulfilling learning experience.”
Aranda hopes to complete the data collection in December.
“By [December] we will have analyzed the interviews and outlined the preliminary findings, which we will use to strengthen a grant proposal that we will be submitting to the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation in early March,” she said. “We will also likely present the preliminary findings of the study at the Southern Sociological Society’s conference in April of 2024.”