Joanna Dreby

Associate Professor

Joanna DrebyExpertise: Immigration, Families, Children

Contact Info:

  • Office: 342 Arts & Sciences Building
  • Phone: please contact by email
  • Mailing Address:
  • 1400 Washington Ave.
    Arts & Sciences 351
    University at Albany
    Albany, NY 12222

CV: Curriculum Vitae


  • 2007 Ph.D., Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
  • 1998 B.A., Sociology and Latin American Studies, Rutgers University

Professor Dreby’s research primarily focuses on families, with specific expertise in research with Mexican migrants and with children.  Her work includes a variety of qualitative methods, emphasizing ethnography, comparative research and in-depth interviews techniques.  She is author of the award-winning book Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and their Children (University of California Press 2010) and is co-editor of Family and Work in Everyday Ethnography (Temple University Press 2013).   Her research projects, conducted in both Mexico and in the United States, prioritize child-centered approaches.  Along with interviews she has used content analysis, observations, surveys and drawings with young children.

Professor Dreby’s written work explores the themes of gender, work-family balance, child care, transnational ties, context-specific settlement patterns and return migration. Her most recent book, Everyday Illegal: When policies undermine immigrant families (University of California 2015) explores the impacts of immigration enforcement policies on families.  The book as well as her award-winning article “The Burden of Deportation on Children in Mexican Immigrant Families” (Journal of Marriage and Family 2012), draws from a comparative study of Mexican families living in two new destination communities in central New Jersey and northeast Ohio.  Professor Dreby comes to academia with a background in social services and retains interest in community based work.

Recent Research Projects

  • The Daily Lives of Children Growing Up in Mexican Immigrant Households -- This study is a three-year ethnographic study funded by the Foundation for Child Development that explores the daily life experiences of young children ages growing up in Mexican immigrant households.  It involves ethnographic interviews and participant-observation in two social settings, one--in Ohio-- which new immigrants are dispersed in the community and another--in New Jersey--where they are concentrated.  The study focuses on children’s experiences in immigrant families with varying legal statuses, including those who have experienced a family member’s deportation.  The study reveals how two main features of the contemporary immigrant experience—legality and new destination settlement patterns-- have consequences for young children, in terms of their access to social services, peer group affiliations, identity, and their early educational experiences.
  • The Effects of International Migration on Mexican Children-- To date, most research on parent-child separation due to migration highlights the emotional difficulties parents and children experience during periods of separation and the strains such separations place on family relationships. We have less information, however, on how parental migration affects the experiences of children as compared to their peers. This research analyzes 400 drawings collected from elementary school children and over 3000 surveys from children in middle and high school. The goal is to compare the educational outcomes, ideas of family and perceptions of the United States of Mexican children with migrant parents to those of other children in their schools.
  • Mexican Transnational Families -- Every year, over 500,000 hundred thousand Mexicans migrate to the United States. Tens of thousands leave children behind in Mexico when they do. For these parents, migration is a sacrifice. What do parents expect to accomplish by dividing their families across borders? How do they manage living apart? More importantly, do their expectations bear the intended results?   This four year ethnographic study draws on fieldwork and interviews with over 140 members of Mexican transnational families including migrant parents in Central New Jersey and children in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca and children’s caregivers.

Research Interests

  • Gender and Families
  • Children
  • Immigration
  • Transnationalism
  • Latino Communities
  • Latin American Studies
  • Ethnography and Qualitative Methods

Courses Taught

  • SOC 220 - Introduction to Social Research
  • SOC 470Z - Children and Youth
  • SOC 666 - Sociology of Childhood