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Speaker Series




Geography Department
6017 Fairchild
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-3378
Fax: (603) 646-1601

Richard A. Wright

WrightOrvil Dryfoos Professor of Geography and Public Affairs

Ph.D., Indiana University, 1985

  • Immigration and labor markets in the US
  • Immigration, racism, and nativism

Fairchild 118 | (603) 646-3523 | CV | Google Scholar

I am interested in how immigrants fit into US society. My long-term collaborator, Mark Ellis (University of Washington), and I address this question in several ways. We study the labor market interactions of immigrants and migrants in and between the major metropolitan areas and regions of the United States. Our research features the deeply segmented nature of these labor markets and the limited interaction between the foreign born and the native born.

Current Research

* Enclaves, labor markets, and the locational choices of us immigrants in economic boom and bust (Funded by NSF)

The US economy recently cycled from a period of significant growth into the deepest recession since the 1930s. What impact has this swing had on the geographical distribution of immigrants? In the last two decades, immigrants settled increasingly outside California and other traditional gateway states. Immigrant populations grew rapidly in the South and Midwest, regions that previously had been relatively untouched by the upswing in immigration that began 50 years ago. Constrained labor demand and relatively expensive living costs in gateway locations reduced the attraction of these traditional places of settlement. The South and Midwest offered affordable prices and a seemingly insatiable demand for immigrant labor in sectors like construction, services, and competitive manufacturing. The credit-fueled boom that drew many immigrants to these new locations has fizzled and there are signs that migration behavior has also changed. Fewer people are migrating across state lines. The total annual inflow of immigrants is also diminishing and some states are experiencing slower growth or declines in their foreign-born populations. This project explores these trends, particularly as they relate to the shifting distribution of immigrants within the US. It does so by incorporating an investigation of these issues with existing theoretical frameworks for understanding immigrant locational distributions. This synthesis yields three research questions:

  1. How do immigrants – as both new arrivals from abroad and as internal migrants - respond to the pull of enclaves of co-nationals and the geography of employment opportunities?
  2. How do individual and group characteristics affect these responses to enclaves and labor markets?
  3. And, crosscutting these first two questions, are the responses to enclaves and markets – and their mediation by individuals and groups - different in the current economic hard times from what occurred in the generally prosperous era of the 1990s?

These questions hinge on a tension between the geography of labor markets and ethnic enclaves. Market pressures stimulated a relocation of immigrant settlement away from traditional gateways and associated enclaves. Immigrant populations expanded in new destinations forming new enclaves, which drew in more newcomers in a cumulative causative process. At the same time, immigrants who had been in the country for a time acquired new language and other skills enabling them to reduce their reliance on enclave support systems and disperse in search of opportunities.

Publications from this project to date:

Wright, Richard and Mark Ellis 2013. "Perspectives on Migration Theory – Geography". Handbook on Migration. Michael White, editor. Forthcoming.

Mark Ellis, Richard Wright, and Matt Townley 2013 " 'New Destinations' and immigrant poverty," Stephen Raphael and David Card, (eds.) Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality in the United States. Russell Sage Foundation. Forthcoming.

* The mixed-race household in residential space: neighborhood context, segregation, and multiracial identities (Russell Sage and NSF Funded Research, Steve Holloway and Mark Ellis, co-PIs)

This research investigated the neighborhood geographies of mixed-race households in US metropolitan areas. Most previous research on mixed-race households investigates partnership formation, asking how mixed-race unions come to be. This project asks how mixed-race unions come to be in place. It explores the implications of mixed-race household geographies for residential segregation and for multiracial identity formation. The work has major significance for our understandings of racial formation, urban social geographies, and household decision making. Restricted 1990 and 2000 census data is key to this project. These data provide information on individuals and households in a format similar to the Public Use Micro Samples but in a much larger sample that includes census tract and block group identifiers. As such, these data allow us to map the neighborhood geographies of mixed-race households and to model how neighborhood characteristics affect mixed-race household location in urban space and the racial identity mixed-race couples assign to their minor children.

Associated recent publications: (Funded also by The Neukom Institute)

Richard Wright, Mark Ellis, Steven Holloway, and Sandy Wong '11 2013. "Patterns of Racial Segregation and Diversity in the United States: 1990-2010," The Professional Geographer. Forthcoming.

Richard Wright, Mark Ellis, and Steven Holloway 2013. "Gender and the neighborhood location of mixed-race couples in the United States," Demography. Forthcoming.

Mark Ellis, Steven Holloway, Richard Wright, and Christopher Fowler '97 2012 "Agents of Change: Mixed-race Households and the Dynamics of Neighborhood Segregation," Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102, 3, 549-570.

Steven Holloway, Richard Wright, and Mark Ellis 2012 "The Racially Fragmented City? Neighborhood Racial Segregation and Diversity Jointly Considered," The Professional Geographer, 63, 4, 1-20.

Steven Holloway, Richard Wright, and Mark Ellis 2012. "Constructing Multiraciality in U.S. Families and Neighborhoods." Suki Ali, Chamion Caballero, Rosalind Edwards and Miri Song, (eds) International Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Mixedness and Mixing. Routledge, pp. 73-91.

Richard Wright, Mark Ellis, and Steven Holloway 2011 "Where Black-White Mixed Couples Live." Urban Geography 32, 1, 1-22.

My research interests also include transnationalism. A set of papers deals with Salvadorans' transnational social lives, the effect of Temporary Protective Status on labor market outcomes, and an archive of our research experiences that provide some practical suggestions for field research, particularly that conducted by teams. See also a paper on the Tibetan diaspora, co-authored with Serin Houston '00. A third related paper (the one that started all this for me) tries to comprehend the links between a village in Oaxaca and Poughkeepsie NY (co-authored with Alison Mountz '95).

I also have written (with Natalie Koch '07) a brief history of Geography in the Ivy League, downloadable from our web page under "About Geography".

I enjoy teaching both large and small classes. Since arriving at Dartmouth in 1985, I have consistently received very complimentary teaching evaluations from my students. The courses I currently teach reflect my research interests. Most years, I teach Geography 20—Economic Geography and Globalization and Geography 28—Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity. The latter is cross-listed with Sociology and Latino Studies. The courses are capped at 45. I have had the pleasure of teaching Geography 90 recently—the senior "culminating experience" seminar on research methods in Geography. This course focuses on the geographies of racial mixing in the United States. It approaches racial mixing with a variety of methodological perspectives, using various research techniques, via different theoretical lenses. We not only read scholarly work to understand the particular topic under discussion; we also think seriously about the intellectual underpinnings and development of that scholarship.


2000 "Legal Status, Gender, and Employment among Salvadorans in the United States," International Journal of Population Geography, 6, 4, 273-286. with Adrian Bailey, Ines Miyares, and Alison Mountz.

2001 "Thank God She's Not Sick: The Law and Women's Health Among Salvadorans in Northern New Jersey." With Caroline Kerner, Adrian Bailey, Ines Miyares, and Alison Mountz. Chapter 11 in Geographies of Women's Health International Studies of Women and Place. Edited by Isabel Dyck, Nancy Davis Lewis, Sara McLafferty. Routledge. Forthcoming.

2001 "Producing Transnational Salvadoran Geographies" Annals, Association of American Geographers, with Adrian Bailey, Ines Miyares, and Alison Mountz. In review.

2001 "Methodologically Becoming: Power, Knowledge, Politics, and Team Field Research" Gender, Place, and Culture, with Alison Mountz, Ines Miyares, and Adrian Bailey. In review.

Last Updated: 11/13/13