Although it’s easy to see the positive economic impact immigrants have made on the United States, I’m every bit as interested in the impact migrants make on their communities back home.

Elizabeth Durden

"We are a nation of immigrants," says Professor Elizabeth Durden, sociology & anthropology. "And although it's easy to see the positive economic impact immigrants have made on the United States, I'm every bit as interested in the impact migrants make on their communities back home."

Durden's research focuses on indigenous Maya migrant communities. She employs both qualitative and quantitative data, asking questions that revolve around the political and economic dimensions of migrant community remittances and the role ethnicity plays in civil society.

The Yucatan Peninsula is of particular interest to Durden because it is a relatively new sending region of international migration. As members of the indigenous and often marginalized population establish themselves in the United States, they form Hometown Associations to pool individual resources for the good of their community – both here and in Mexico.

Durden has a special interest in how the local, state and national governments interact with international migrants as they secure funds to construct a health clinic. "My research provides nuance to the activism of international migrants in community development as it looks at how the local government uses the migrants as a source of fundraising to facilitate their own public policy agenda," she explains.

Durden's courses include Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Remaking America: Latin American Immigration to the United States and Analyzing the Social World, which emphasizes quantitative data analysis – a crucial skill for her students to master.

Durden collaborates regularly with students, including Presidential Fellow Ben Barrett '16. He spent the summer of 2012 working with Durden on an undergraduate research project using survey data collected in 134 communities in Mexico by the Mexican Migration Project. The two presented their work at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in August 2015. Barrett and Durden also co-authored an article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. "Not bad for an undergraduate," says Durden of her protégé.

Posted Sept. 22, 2014

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