Roberto Gonzales is professor of education at HGSE and director of the newly formed Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH), a university-wide effort aimed at advancing and promoting interdisciplinary scholarship and intellectual exchange around issues of immigration policy and immigrant communities.
His research centers on contemporary processes of immigration and social inequality, and stems from theoretical interests at the intersection of race and ethnicity, immigration, and policy. Gonzales’ research examines the effects of legal contexts on the coming of age experiences of vulnerable and hard-to-reach immigrant youth populations. His work has been cited across a broad range of disciplines and has garnered awards from sociology, anthropology, psychology, education, law, and social work.
Since 2002 Gonzales has carried out one of the most comprehensive studies of undocumented immigrants in the United States. His book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press), is based on an in-depth study that followed 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles for twelve years. Lives in Limbo has won eight major book awards, including the Society for the Study of Social Problems C. Wright Mills Award, the American Education Research Association Outstanding Book Award, the Law and Society Association Herbert Jacob Book Award, and the Society for Social Work and Research Book Award. It has also been selected by six universities as a Common Read. In addition, several groups around the country have used the book to train staff, including the Madison Police Department, Teach for America, and 23 public schools. Last year, the book was optioned for theatrical production, and plans are underway for the release of a second edition.
In addition, Gonzales’ National UnDACAmented Research Project has surveyed nearly 2,700 undocumented young adults and has carried out 500 in-depth interviews on their experiences following President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He is also teaming up with several colleagues to investigate educator responses to school climate issues stemming from immigration policies.
Gonzales’ work has been has been featured in top journals, including the American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Current Anthropology, and the Harvard Educational Review as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and Chronicle of Higher Education.
Gonzales is a research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also participates in a transition to adulthood research network. Prior to his faculty position at Harvard, Gonzales held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and at the University of Washington. He received his B.A. from the Colorado College, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California Irvine. His research has been supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WT Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.