Joshua T. Wassink

Joshua T. Wassink

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology
Joshua T. Wassink

Research interests:  International migration, Inequality/Stratification, Health, Demography, Development.

Along with his appointment at Harvard, Josh is an NSF-funded postdoctoral fellow in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. His scholarly interests encompass social stratification, international migration and immigrant incorporation, global development, race/ethnicity, and health.

Josh is currently engaged in three lines of research. His first project investigates the recent shift in Mexico-U.S. migration from primarily unauthorized entry toward a system dominated by legal temporary workers, who now constitute the majority of annual entries from Mexico. In a working paper (with Douglas Massey), Josh demonstrates that migration-specific social and human capital are specialized—i.e., resources that enable undocumented migration do not necessarily enable legal temporary travel and vice versa. The emergence of recruitment networks outside of historic sending regions in Mexico has set communities without lengthy migration traditions on paths toward rapid expansion of guest worker migration while freezing communities with long traditions of undocumented migration out of participation in the migrant workforce. Josh is currently collecting data on the spatial and temporal distribution of guest worker migration in the United States to understand how the “importation” of temporary laborers has evolved across time and space and whether it co-varies with changes in the U.S. unauthorized population.

In a second project, Josh is developing a new method to estimate lifetime effects of parental migration during childhood on children’s educational attainment and health in adulthood. Parental migration is a common childhood experience throughout much of the work. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, between 7 and 20 percent of children have a currently absent migrant parent. Josh’s method uses an algorithm to match children of migrants with children of non-migrants who grew up in nearly identical households and communities, thus differentiating parental migration from potentially confounding contextual features. Early results suggest that parental migration contributes positively to children’s educational attainment, an effect that may be obscured in cross-sectional studies, which cannot account for children’s context at the time of parental migration. The proposed technique has broad applicability for research on the long-term impacts of international and internal migration.

In his third project, Josh draws on survey data and more than eight years of fieldwork to investigate the social and economic reintegration of Mexican migrants who have returned to Mexico. This project responds to the mass return of 2.5 million Mexicans during 2005-2015.  Drawing on demographic survey data and 300 in-depth interviews conducted in four Mexican states, Josh and his collaborator Jacqueline Hagan are drafting a monograph that explores women’s experiences of return migration, a largely unexplored topic. They are also completing a review of global scholarship on return migration, which will appear in the 2020 volume of the Annual Review of Sociology. Other articles based on this research appear in Social Forces, Social Problems, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Current History.

Along with these projects, Josh also investigates disparities in health and access to health care by race/ethnicity and immigrant status. Publications on these topics appear in the American Journal of Public Health, Population Research and Policy Review, Demographic Research, and the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

In 2018, Josh received his PhD in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a predoctoral trainee at the Carolina Population Center and co-directed the interdisciplinary working group on international migration and immigrant incorporation. Josh’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, UNC’s Institute for the Study of the Americas, and the UNC Graduate School. In 2017, Josh received the Odum Award for research excellence from the Sociology Department at UNC. He also served as an Associate Editor of Social Forces.

Contact Information

461 William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138