Rosalba Rocha’s project, which began in fall 2014 in a collaborative research course with Assistant Professor of Sociology Luis Sanchez, examines the Mexican population in two border metropolitan areas: San Diego and El Paso. In particular, Rocha uses data from the 2012 American Community Survey and Geographic Information Systems to test theories of immigrant assimilation by measuring social and economic outcomes among both Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born Mexicans.

Rocha finds that the U.S.-born Mexican population in El Paso, Texas, fares better than their immigrant counterparts in home ownership, health care coverage, and educational attainment. In San Diego, the advantages among native-born populations is not as robust. Rocha also observed differences in neighborhood clustering. This suggests that contextual factors across various metropolitan areas have implications for immigrants’ assimilation into U.S. society.

Rocha plans to incorporate other metropolitan areas and begin gathering data on factors that might increase or inhibit immigrant assimilation. Her research was supported by the campus Interdisciplinary Research Learning Community, funded through the university’s foundation.

“Rosalba’s research experience has provided her a platform to investigate her own lived experience as a child of immigrants,” said Dr. Sanchez. “As her adviser, I have had the pleasure of watching her grow as a student and scholar. She now has aspirations to obtain a doctoral degree, something she had never imagined before becoming engaged with research.”