Racial and Ethnic Politics in American Suburbs. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

2016 winner of two national book awards including, the Best Book about Race Relations in the United States by the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (REP) Section and the Dennis Judd Best Book Award by the Urban and Local Politics Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA).

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This book is about the unprecedented rise of immigrant and ethnic minorities in American suburbs, and specifically, the development and implementation of the policy responses of local governments to these recent mobility patterns. Today, most blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans reside in the suburbs. Despite unprecedented demographic shifts, existing scholarship is slow to explain the dynamics of new population growth of immigrants and ethnic minorities into various types of suburbs and the implications for American politics. We know very little about how recent immigrant and ethnic minority suburbanization is reshaping American residential patterns, political life and the exercise of American democracy. Moreover, scholars continue to rely on models developed when these groups were primarily urban dwellers to understand the politics of redistribution in the U.S.

I use national survey data from the US Census and original data collected including in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant observations in Maryland and Northern Virginia to explain four factors related to new patterns of immigrant and ethnic minority suburbanization. These factors include: why some racial/ethnic groups move to certain types of suburbs, how they interact with their neighbors, how they perceive their local government’s responsiveness to their needs and concerns, and finally, the policy responses of local governments to demographic change.

The study examines the institutional logic behind coalitions of local institutional actors to design redistributive policies addressing immigrant and ethnic minority newcomers in increasingly diverse suburban jurisdictions. I argue that both the political economy approaches of public choice theory (particularly economic sorting models); and urban regime theory literatures in the political science discipline fail to explain the mechanisms that drive some suburban governments to work with community-based organizations to provide goods and services to foreign-born and US-born minorities in the absence of either federal government or private sector funding that could allow for greater redistributive spending, or electoral pressures from voters acting as part of electoral coalitions. Institutional actors in some suburban jurisdictions are seemingly acting counter to their locality’s economic development interests and the interests of the upper income populations who are still their principal electoral constituents.

To address these concerns, I advance a framework called Suburban Institutional Interdependency or SII. This framework is used to explain how some suburban institutional actors (particularly electoral, bureaucratic and non-profit) form alliances between unlikely partners to advance policies and programs to provide goods and services to immigrants and ethnic minorities. I argue that local public and non-profit institutions build partnerships based on reciprocity, repeated interactions, and the exchange of selective incentives. Moreover, institutional interdependency in suburbia includes a division of labor and resources which facilitate the process of “getting things done” in the face of rapidly changing demographics, tightening local budgets and a lack of redistributive dollars from the federal government.

I examine the extent to which SII explains how local institutional actors respond to three policy issues: public education: the provision of support services for limited-English-proficient (LEP) children in suburban public schools; day labor: the establishment of several formal, institutionalized (local government-funded) day-laborer employment sites; and language access at public agencies: access to government services for adults with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). I use a combination of census data, as well as qualitative data from over 100 face-to-face, semi-structured in-depth interviews and participant observations among state and local elected/appointed officials, bureaucratic service and regulatory agency administrators, and community-based organization leaders in suburban Washington, DC.


2013. “Black Views toward Proposed Undocumented Immigration Policies: The Role of Racial Stereotypes and Economic Competition.” with Stacey Greene. In Black and Brown in Los Angeles: Beyond Conflict and Coalition. Josh Kun and Laura Pulido (eds.) University of California Press. Berkeley, CA: p.90-111

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The study American racial attitudes and the influence of such attitudes on public opinion formation have traditionally focused on the attitudes of Whites toward African Americans. Broadening the scope beyond a Black/White dichotomy is increasingly important given the demographic shifts taking place in multi-ethnic metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles. Understanding what factors shape minority attitudes toward other minority groups and the influence of such attitudes concerning hot-button, often racialized policy issues such as undocumented immigration is important in order to provide insight on the prospects for multi-racial coalition formation and sustainability. Using the Los Angeles County Social Survey (LACSS 2007), we examine the extent to which racial stereotypes and SES/demographic factors influences Blacks’ policy preferences toward undocumented immigration. We find that attitudes toward undocumented immigration policies are often conditioned by factors beyond economic competition. Blacks with lower levels of income are more likely to reject punitive policies such as deportation, while Blacks who hold negative racial stereotypes about Latinos are more likely to favor more punitive policies towards undocumented immigrants. However, we also find that attitudes about racial identity and perceived commonality with Latinos are important influences on Blacks’ views favoring more lenient policies toward undocumented immigrants.


2012. “Holding the Borderline: School District Responsiveness to Demographic Change in Orange County, California” In The Resegregation of Suburban Schools. Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield (eds.) Harvard Education Press. P .69-90.

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This chapter examines how an Orange County public school district, Azalea Unified (a pseudonym), conceptualized and responded to an increase in low-income, minority, and recently arrived immigrant students; internal pressures related to the collapse of the housing and job markets and nearly $40 million in district-wide budget cuts in less than a decade; as well as internal and external pressures to adhere several state (Prop 209 dismantling bilingual education in California) and federal mandates (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001). This chapter underscores the complexity of issues facing school districts with, for example, borderline or recently transitioned to majority-minority status. The study highlights the many ways in which administrators and school districts are far from autonomous institutional actors in suburbia. Administrators must find common ground and a method of developing and implementing programs and policies to address an out-migration of the white student population and a subsequent in-migration of low-income, minority, and recently arrived immigrant students to suburban district schools.

The research for the Orange County, CA case study was part of a multi-state project titled, “Suburban Change and the Schools: The Effect on the Educational Opportunities of Poor and Minority Students.” The Spencer Foundation funded this project and UCLA Professor Gary Orfield serves as the Principal Investigator. In addition to the California case study, the research team included faculty from universities around the country who developed individual case studies of local suburban school districts in Boston, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois and Texas.


2010. “The Logic of Institutional Interdependency: The Case of Day Laborer Policy in Suburbia.” with Michael Jones-Correa. Urban Affairs Review 45: 451-482.

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This article challenges public choice and regime theory interpretations of constraints on local politics, developing instead the institutional logic behind coalitions of local institutional actors designing redistributive policies addressing immigrant newcomers in increasingly diverse suburban jurisdictions. Employing qualitative data from a data set consisting of over 100 in-depth interviews among state and local elected and appointed officials, and community-based leaders in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the authors find that elected officials, bureaucrats, and nonprofits partner to gain additional leverage to overcome suburban NIMBY problems such as those associated with day labor workers. These partnerships develop for at least three reasons: (1) they give community-based organizations (CBOs) access to resources available in the public sector; (2) for public agencies, these alliances lower the transaction costs associated with overcoming language and cultural barriers between newcomers and existing residents; and (3) these partnerships allow local bureaucrats to minimize outlays of their scarce resources to deal with the problems associated with the demographic shifts taking place in suburbia by essentially outsourcing much of the effort to nonprofit organizations while still allowing local bureaucrats and the elected officials who control their budgets to take credit for the programs these organizations initiate, maintain, and staff.


2010. “The Burden of Jekyll and Hyde: Barack Obama, Racial Identity and Black Political Behavior.” In Whose Black Politics: Cases in Post-Racial Black Leadership. Andra Gillespie (ed.) Routledge Press p.133-154.

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Using a mixed method approach including pre-election and exit poll results, newspaper reports as well as data from the 2004 Illinois Senate Pre-election Study, I examine the influence of racial and political identity, political information, and socio-demographics on political attitudes and behavior towards Black candidates in the post-civil rights era. I examine these factors through the lens of three early political campaigns of Barack Obama in Illinois: 2000 primary election for US Congress; 2004 US Senate primary election; and 2004 US Senate general election. I address the following research questions: 1) which factors led to Obama’s 2000 primary defeat for the US Congress?; 2) which factors influenced a dramatic shift in Black support for Obama during his winning 2004 US Senate primary race?; 3) and which factors influenced a vote for Obama in the 2004 US Senate general election, including how the salience of these factors vary by race? My findings suggest that racial differences including factors related to one’s racial identity still play an important role in shaping political behavior for Blacks and Whites. Other factors such as party ID, political information and educational attainment also remain important influences on shaping political behavior.


2009. “Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Political Participation and Civic Engagement,” with Linda Faye Williams. In Emerging Intersections: Race, Class, and Gender in Theory, Policy, and Practice. Bonnie Thornton Dill and Ruth E. Zambrana, (eds.), NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 316-356.

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This research, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, examines the intersection of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and civic and political participation in the US. We provide a broad overview and synthesis of literature on civic and political disparities and their causes in the US. By centering the experiences of racial/ethnic minorities, we identify innovations and promising practices for overcoming civic and political disparities among racial/ethnic groups in the US. We focus on the policy implications that flow from our research findings on civic and political disparities.


2007. “Beyond the Myth of the White Middle-Class: Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Settlement in Suburban America.” in the National Political Science Review. p. 65-86.

This article uses the Current Population Survey Annual March Supplement to test the influence of some direct and indirect migration related measures on the propensity of White, Black, Asian and Latino householders to move into suburban ‘melting pot metro’ (SMPM) areas and how these migration decisions varied by race, ethnicity and class. I find that housing and/or family related concerns were significant predictors of SMPM settlement for whites, Asians and Hispanics in the model, but posed no significant effect for blacks relative to other reasons. This relationship was modified by low-income status for some groups in the sample. Moreover, disaggregating some Hispanic national origin groups (including Mexicans, Central/South Americans, and Puerto Ricans) present notable variations in the impact the migration related measures on their likelihood of suburban ‘melting pot metro’ settlement. This study underscores the increasing need to evaluate separate national origin group models of suburbanization.


National Survey Datasets: Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) 2008, 2012

2008. Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Survey (CMPS). Co-Principal Investigator with Barreto, Matt, Ange-Marie Hancock, Sylvia Manzano, Karthick Ramakrishnan, Ricardo Ramirez, Gabe Sanchez, and Janelle Wong. ICPSR35163-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2014-08-21.

The 2008 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Survey (CMPS) is a national telephone survey of registered voters, with comparably large samples of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Whites. The telephone survey, conducted between November 9, 2008 and January 5, 2009, is the first multiracial and multilingual survey of registered voters across multiple states and regions in a presidential election. In contrast to the 2008 American National Election Study (ANES) which oversampled Black and Latino voters, and was available in Spanish, the CMPS was available in six languages and contains robust samples of the four largest racial/ethnic groups: Whites, Latinos, Blacks, Asians. The CMPS contains 4,563 respondents who registered to vote in the November 2008 election and who self-identified as Asian, Black, Latino, and White. The survey was available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese and respondents were offered the opportunity to interview in their language of choice. The six states that were sampled to produced robust samples of all four major racial groups include California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, and the statewide samples range from 243 to 669 cases. In order to arrive at more nationally representative samples of each minority group, the study added two supplemental states per racial group, including Arizona and New Mexico (Latinos), North Carolina and Georgia (Blacks), Hawaii and Washington (Asians). Of these 12 states, 3 were considered political battlegrounds in the 2008 Presidential electorate — New Mexico, Florida, and North Carolina. In order to examine multi-racial politics in competitive and non-competitive environments, the study supplemented the sample with six additional diverse battleground states: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As of the 2008 election, two-thirds of the national electorate was concentrated in these 18 states. For Latinos, 92 percent of all registered voters reside in these states; 87 percent of Asian Americans; and 66 percent of Blacks, and 61 percent of Whites. The November 2008 CMPS provides estimates of the registered voter population by race, age, gender, and education level which was applied to the sample, by racial group, so that the distributions match those of the Census on these important demographic categories. In the study, there are 51 items dealing with sociopolitical attitudes, mobilization and political activity. Additionally, there are 21 items that capture demographic information, including: age, ancestry, birthplace, education, ethnicity, marital status, number in the household, religiosity, gender, media usage and residential context.

CMPS 2008 -Codebook, Overview, Toplines
CMPS 2008 – Chinese Questionnaire
CMPS 2008 – English Questionnaire
CMPS 2008 – Korean Questionnaire
CMPS 2008 – Spanish Questionnaire
CMPS 2008 – Vietnamese Questionnaire


2012. Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Study (CMPS). Co-Principal Investigator with Ange-Marie Hancock, Jillian Anne Medeiros, and Gabe Sanchez, Ali Valenzuela. A national, multiracial and multilingual survey of registered voters in the 2012 presidential election, N=2,616.

The CMPS 2012 is comprised of 2,616 registered voters who self-identified as Black (n=804), Latino (n=934), or White (n=878). The GfK Group (GfK, formerly Knowledge Networks) conducted the survey. Pretests of the survey were conducted between November 8, 2012 and November 19, 2012 in both English and Spanish. A STATA dataset containing the pretest interviews was reviewed prior to the main sample launch. Because changes were made to the main survey as a result of the pretest, the pretest interviews were not included as part of the main survey dataset. The main survey was conducted between November 16, 2012 and November 26, 2012 in both English and Spanish. The survey examined individual’s experiences voting and attitudes about social and economic issues prominent in the 2012 election. The CMPS uses probability-based web panels designed to be representative of the United States instead of “opt-in” panels that include only individuals with Internet access who volunteer themselves for research. As a result, panel members come from listed and unlisted telephone numbers, telephone and non-telephone households, and cell phone only households, as well as households with and without Internet access, which creates a representative sample. Panel members are recruited through national random samples (both by telephone and mail). Households are provided with access to the Internet and a netbook computer, if needed. Otherwise, participants are rewarded with incentive points that are redeemable for cash. In an effort increase completion of the surveys, panel members can enter special raffles or can be entered into special sweepstakes with both cash rewards and other prizes to be won. The median completion time of the survey was 20 minutes and the completion rate was 56.3%. Respondents were considered qualified if they did not refuse more than 4 of the first 7 questions in the survey. Those who refused 4 or more of the first 7 questions were terminated from the survey. The qualification rate was 99.8%. To reduce the effects of any non-response and non-coverage bias in the overall panel membership, a post-stratification adjustment was applied based on demographic distributions from the most recent data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). An additional Spanish language adjustment was used based on the 2010 Pew Hispanic Center Survey (the most recent available published data at the time). Language usage adjustments allow for the correct proportional fitting of Spanish-speaking members relative to other English-speaking Hispanic and non-Hispanic panel members within Census regions. The CMPS includes 37 items dealing with sociopolitical attitudes, mobilization political activity, advertising exposure and neighborhood context as well as three embedded survey experiments. Additionally, there are 15 items that capture demographic information, including: age, ancestry, birthplace, education, ethnicity, Latin American racial descriptors, skin color, marital status, number in the household, religiosity, gender, sexual orientation, internet usage and residential context. In addition to the survey and demographic data, the 2012 CMPS also includes latitude and longitude values for each respondent. This allows for more nuanced modeling with regard to contextual variables at the tract, city, county, MSA Level, and Congressional district.

CMPS 2012 – English Questionnaire
CMPS 2012 – Spanish Questionnaire
CMPS 2012 – Main Weighted Topline



“Immigrants, Minorities and Racial/Ethnic Turnover in Inner-Ring Suburbs”
Revise and Resubmit, Urban Studies

This case study examines immigrant and ethnic minority suburbanization in one of the nation’s fastest growing multi-ethnic areas–suburban Washington, DC. I use data from separate focus group discussions with Black, Latino, and Asian respondents to examine 1) suburban residential selection; 2) neighborhood interactions; and 3) perceptions of local government responsiveness. This study underscores persistent intra-metropolitan disparities between racial/ethnic groups in housing affordability, and perceived delivery of some local public goods and services. These focus group results reveal that variations in housing and employment opportunities, pre-established family ties, the quality of local public schools, and neighborhood safety concerns commonly influenced spatial location decisions. However, income constraints and rising housing prices restricted spatial location choice within suburban Washington, DC, particularly for Black discussants. For other groups, the perceptions of a county’s ability to adequately deliver local goods and services (e.g. public education) as well as the negative perceptions of and interactions with some racial/ethnic groups residing in certain locals influenced spatial location decisions. Lack of time, desire, and efficacy impeded some respondent’s neighborhood interactions and engagement in activities outside of their immediate family.


“America’s Invisi-burbs: The Role of Socio-Demographics, Neighborhood Social Context, and Partisanship on Suburban Political Participation.”
Revise and Resubmit, Politics, Groups and Identities

I use data from the 2008 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Study merged with US Census data to examine the extent to which socio-demographics, neighborhood social context, and party identification influenced (nonvoting) political participation among residents of different types of American suburbs before the 2008 presidential election. Findings suggest that education continues to be the strongest socio-economic status predictor of political participation, but the magnitude of this effect varies greatly by suburb type. Moreover, while it is assumed that residents of inner suburbs lean overwhelmingly Democrat and those in affluent suburbs lean Republican, less is known about partisan leanings of the residents of exurbs and bedroom-developing communities and how factors of living in these communities influence political participation. These data reveal opportunities to mobilize Independent leaning suburban voters–potential swing voters– particularly residing in exurbs and bedroom-developing communities. These two politically understudied invisi-suburbs are areas that do not get much academic attention, but the potential of these communities to impact politics is likely growing.


“The Political Impacts of Address or Avoiding Issues of Race and Ethnicity,” with David Wilson. Paper uses experimental data from the 2012 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Study (CMPS) to examine voter perceptions of Barack Obama and Congress, as addressing or avoiding issues of concern to racial minorities.

The literature on black electoral success has emphasized that some candidates take on deracialized campaign and governing styles to accommodate anxieties over race. The overwhelming majority of this literature has focused specifically on candidates and their behavior, seemingly ignoring that political actors, especially those who are African American, often have very little control over how they are framed in public discourse. While we know little about how voters perceive a deracialized campaign or governing strategy, theories of racialization suggest that whites view black candidates through a ‘colored’ lens regardless of their actual policy positions. This often renders many deracialized strategies useless. We argue that deracialization is tied to how the public perceives and reacts to the candidate in terms of their issue positions. Using data from the 2012 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey we examine the extent to which the public perceives Barack Obama, and Congress, as addressing or avoiding issues of concern to racial minorities. Using a cluster analysis algorithm we find there are actually at least two dimensions to how candidates might be viewed as taking positions on race, one related to political strategy and other related to principled positioning. We find these dimensions have importance in determining candidate choice in national election beyond the simple notions of addressing or avoidance issues of race or ethnicity.


“The Voters’ Burden: Voting Restrictions on Polling Place Turnout in 2012” with Angela Ocampo and John Ray. Paper uses survey data from the 2012 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Study (CMPS) to examine the role of registration and identification restrictions on polling place turnout

This study uses a sample of self-reported voters from the 2012 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post Election Survey (CMPS). We use logit regression analysis to examine the relationship of registration and identification restrictions on polling place turnout, controlling for party identification, socio-demographics, and region. We also examine how these factors vary between black, Latino and white voters. Our preliminary findings suggest that photo ID restrictions decrease individuals’ propensity to turnout at the polling place. However, having permissive and accommodating measures such as online registration and longer time frames to register prior to Election Day are strong and significant predictors of polling place turnout. However, the burden of voting restrictions is not equally shared among members of different racial and ethnic groups, as we find interesting stark contrasts in the way that these restrictions affect whites, blacks and Latinos.