Dina G. Okamoto is Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) at Indiana University. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Arizona in 2001 and was Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of California, Davis before she moved to Indiana University. Her research examines focuses on the political engagement of immigrants in US society; the evolution of new racial categories such as Asian American; and the impacts of ethnic and racial diversity on intergroup trust and civic life in 21st century America. She has been a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York and a visiting fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford.
Research Interests: race and ethnicity, immigration, social movements and collective behavior, poverty and inequality, social psychology
In 2012, the Pew Research Center issued a report that named Asian Americans as the “highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.” Despite this optimistic conclusion, over thirty Asian American advocacy groups challenged the findings, noting that the term “Asian American” is complicated. It includes a wide range of ethnicities, national origins, and languages, and encompasses groups that differ greatly in their economic and social status. In Redefining Race, sociologist Dina G. Okamoto traces the complex evolution of “Asian American” as a panethnic label and identity, emphasizing how it is a deliberate social achievement negotiated by group members, rather than an organic and inevitable process.
Asian American Panethnicity
This project focuses on racial group formation and ethnic boundary change. Using Asian Americans as the main case, this research explores how distinct ethnic groups in the post-Civil Rights era were able to come together to create a broader collective identity around which to organize. It moves beyond the racialization hypothesis and draws upon theories of ethnic boundary formation to illuminate the conditions under which groups will cross ethnic boundaries to create new identities and solidarities. By documenting and analyzing patterns of panethnic collective action, organizational formation, organizational coalitions, and intermarriage in different locations across the U.S., this project forges new ground by developing a systematic understanding of group boundaries and change. Additionally, this research calls for comparative projects to gain leverage on the general processes that contribute to boundary movements and the emergence and crystallization of boundary claims.
Funded by the National Science Foundation
The Role of Community-Based Organizations in the Lives of Immigrant Youth
This study examines how community contexts facilitate the adaptation of immigrant youth. This research illuminates the factors and mechanisms through which immigrant and ethnic communities shape the well-being of youth. Observations and in-depth interviews at neighborhood sites with immigrant parents and youth, as well as community and nonprofit leaders and staff help to unpack the processes and practices occurring within community-based organizations. The project will provide a comprehensive understanding of youth adaptation outcomes and much needed information about how organizations within immigrant communities work, both of which can be used to develop effective programs and organizations to improve the lives of young people.
Funded by the Scholars Award from the William T. Grant Foundation
Creating Ties for Mobility: Immigrant Parents in Low-Income, Urban Neighborhoods (with Melanie Gast)
Immigrants from Asia and Latin America are among the fastest growing populations in the U.S. These newcomers may not have kin as a source of social support due to family disruption during the migration process, or they may have network ties to friends and kin who do not possess the social and economic capital needed to help increase prospects for social mobility. With the devolution of the welfare state, community-based organizations (CBOs) are now a key part of the mobility process for low-income individuals living in high-poverty neighborhoods as they provide access to education, housing, and work. This project uses interview and ethnographic methods to gain an in-depth understanding of how CBOs in work to provide resources for new immigrants and in turn, how immigrant parents, some of whom are undocumented, view these local institutions and use CBO resources to aid in the transition out of poverty.
Funded by the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Washington and University of California-Davis
The Civic and Political Incorporation of Immigrants in the U.S. (with Kim Ebert)
This project has two main goals: (1) to document the patterns and types of immigrant collective action in non-traditional and traditional destinations, and (2) to investigate how variation in contextual factors across metropolitan areas and their change over time influence the occurrence and rate of protest and civic events where immigrants are the main organizers and participants. The study is based on statistical analyses of an original data set documenting immigrant collective action constructed from English- and Spanish-language newspapers, and it will identify potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between context and immigrant adaptation. This research provides new insights on the civic and political integration of immigrants in the U.S. with an emphasis on understanding of adaptation as a group or collective process.
Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, American Sociological Association, and National Science Foundation
Immigrant-Native Relations in 21st-century America: Intergroup Contact, Trust, and Civic Engagement
(with Michael Jones-Correa, Helen Marrow, and Linda Tropp)
This interdisciplinary mixed-methods project addresses current debates about diversity and its effect on social cohesion and civic engagement by investigating where and how contact occurs between immigrant and native groups, and how contact in turn shapes feelings of trust, views of public policies, and participation in civic life. Drawing upon survey, interview, and observational data in Philadelphia and Atlanta from two immigrant groups, Mexicans and South Asian Indians, and two native-born groups, blacks and whites, we will provide an elaborated understanding of how different groups perceive and define one another and experience diversity within the different spaces they inhabit, as well as what intergroup interactions look like in public areas across a variety of social settings.
Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Okamoto, Dina G., Linda R. Tropp, Helen B. Marrow, and Michael Joes-Correa. Forthcoming. "Welcoming, Trust, and Civic Engagement: Immigrant Integration in Metropolitan America." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
Gast, Melanie and Dina G. Okamoto. 2020. "Making Requests: Filipino/a and Latino/a Immigrant Claims-Making and Racialization." Ethnic and Racial Studies, https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2020.1778174.
Mora, G. Cristina and Dina Okamoto. 2020. "Postcolonialism, Racial Political Fields, and Panethnicity: A Comparison of Early "Asian American" and "Hispanic" Movements." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, https://doi-org.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/10.1177/2332649219900291.
Marrow, Helen, Linda Tropp, Meta van der Linden, Dina Okamoto, and Michael Jones-Correa. 2019. “How Does Inter-Racial Contact among the U.S.-Born Shape White and Black Receptivity toward Immigrants?” DuBois Review 16(2): 385-416.
Mora, G. Cristina and Dina Okamoto. 2019. “Boundary Articulation and Emergent Identities: Asian and Hispanic Panethnicity in Comparison, 1970-1980.” Social Problems, https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spz003.
Tropp, Linda, Helen Marrow, Dina Okamoto, and Michael Jones-Correa. 2018. “How Contact Experiences Shape Welcoming: Perspectives from U.S.-Born and Immigrant Groups.” Social Psychology Quarterly 81(1): 23-47.
Jones-Correa, Michael, Helen Marrow, Dina Okamoto, and Linda Tropp. 2018. “Immigrant Perceptions of Native-Born Receptivity and the Shaping of American Identity.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4(5): 47-80.
Gast, Melanie, Dina Okamoto, and Valerie Feldman. 2017. “‘We Only Speak English Here’: English Dominance in Language Diverse, Immigrant After-School Programs.” Special Issue of Journal of Adolescent Research 32(1): 94-121.
Simpkins, Sandra, Nathaniel Riggs, Andrea Attekal, Dina Okamoto, and Bic Ngo. 2017. “Designing Culturally-Relevant After School Program Systems.” Special Issue of Journal of Adolescent Research 32(1): 1-26.
Ovink, Sarah M., Kim Ebert, and Dina Okamoto. 2016. "Symbolic Politics of the State: The Case of In-state Tuition Bills for Undocumented Students." Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World 2: 2378023116647969.
Gast, Melanie and Dina Okamoto. 2016. “Moral or Civic Ties?: Deservingness and Engagement among Undocumented Latinas in Non-Profit Organizations.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(12): 2013-2030.
Okamoto, Dina G. and Kim Ebert. 2015. “Group Boundaries, Immigrant Inclusion, and the Politics of Immigrant-Native Relations.” Special Issue on The Cultural and Political Foundations of Inequality, American Behavioral Scientist 60(2): 224-240.
**Winner of 2016 Louis Wirth Award for Best Article from American Sociological Association's Section on International Migration.
**Reprinted in Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity, 6thEdition, 2018, Sage Publications.
**Reprinted in Beyond Black and White: A Reader on Contemporary Race Relations, 1st Education, 2017, Sage Publications.
Okamoto, Dina G., Kim Ebert and Carla Violet. 2011. “¿El Campeón de Los Hispanos? Comparing the Coverage of Latino/a Collective Action in Spanish- and English-Language Newspapers.” Latino Studies: Special Issue on Latinos and the Media 9: 219-41.