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My research projects are motivated by a deep desire to understand the causes and consequences of poverty and investigate potential avenues for social mobility. I pursue two lines of research on these issues. In the first line of research, I examine the economic integration of refugees and immigrants in the United States. In the second I explore the intersection of gender, development and social capital. In both strands of research I examine the interaction between micro-level characteristics and macro-level contextual factors, with an emphasis on the interaction of different forms of capital—human, social, cultural and economic—with the broader social context.


Current Research Projects

Utah Refugee Employment Research

Project Summary:

Each year the U.S. receives approximately 70,000 refugees for permanent resettlement. The principle goals of resettlement organizations are to integrate refugees into society and help them become self-sufficient, and, refugee adaptation in these regards has been a persistent subject of inquiry for immigration research. The extant research emphasizes how the diverse skills and life experiences of refugees contribute to divergent trajectories of social and economic integration. In the literature skills and experiences are framed as resources which can be categorized into different forms of capital—human, social, and cultural. The research also highlights the importance of the economic conditions and social climate of the receiving community. Despite extensive research into refugee economic integration there is a great deal of variation in economic outcomes that we still don’t understand. Moreover, existing research is patchwork in its exploration of the forms of capital as causal factors, and very little research frames these forms of capital within contexts of reception. Most importantly, measuring the degree to which a refugee is capable of deploying their skills and training (capitals) is quite difficult, and has rarely been done. In this study I investigate how refugees integrate into the local economy, first by entering the labor market, and second, by finding a job with a livable wage. I look at multiple interacting factors that might contributing to their economic outcomes. This study builds on the existing literature by examining both capitals and contexts with specific attention to the potential barriers that restrict an individual refugee’s capacity to their skills and resources. In doing so, this research contributes to an expanded theory of economic integration that emphasizes the intersection of capitals and contexts. By better understanding the factors that shape the early economic integration experiences of refugees, we will be better equipped to promote sustainable self-sufficiency after resettlement.


  • To understand how a refugee's skills, training, and other characteristics affect their employment outcomes
  • To understand how the social and cultural context of Utah affect refugee employment outcomes
  • To understand how local and national economic conditions affect the employment outcomes of refugees
  • To understand how economic conditions moderate the ability of refugees to use their skills and training in the labor market


  • Theoretical: I use a Holistic Theory of Economic Integration that is rooted in Forms of Capital explanations and informed by the Capabilities Approach.
  • Methodological: This is a mixed methods research project that uses Event History Analysis to conduct quantitative analyses and focus groups to obtain qualitative data.

Preliminary Findings:

  • The ability of refugees to engage their skills in the labor market is constrained or enhanced by social and economic context.
  • Culture, which is seldom included in quantitative analysis, has an important, but nuanced effect on employment and the acquisition of a livable wage. For example:
    • Differences between the cultural norms and practices of a refugee's nation of origin and the U.S. affect the degree to which a refugee's English proficiency and level of education can improve labor market outcomes. However, cultural difference, by itself, does not exert an effect on labor market outcomes.
    • Employment specific cultural capital affects job acquisition and job retention.
  • Conspicuously foreign refugees experience greater disadvantage in the labor market than other refugees and immigrants.
  • The use of social connections to find jobs is beneficial for women, but detrimental for men.
  • In the quantitative analysis, only the highest levels of education have any effect on labor market outcomes. The qualitative analysis revealed that lower levels of education may not have an effect because Utah employers require refugees to provide diplomas (something they do not require of native-born citizens), and many refugees have no documentation of their education.
  • Human capital, cultural capital, social capital, and social context act in concert to shape refugees' employment prospects. None are sufficient on their own to guarantee employment or a livable wage.


Attitudes of European Citizens Toward Refugees

Project Summary:

The current influx of refugees into the European Union has generated a new round of speculation about the effect of immigrants on the receiving economy. While refugees may have many positive effects on the receiving nation, it is the perceived negative effects, specifically the burden they place on the receiving economy, that currently garner the most discussion and attention. In this paper, I use the immigration module for multiple waves of the European Social Survey to explore changing attitudes toward refugees. Specifically, I investigate how public perceptions of immigrant threat relate to opinions about whether governments should be “generous in judging people’s applications for refugee status.”

I rely on two theoretical perspectives to help explain attitudes toward refugees. Using a political economy perspective I argue that political structure and modes of resource allocation affect attitudes regarding refugees. Using a typology of immigrant threat I explore several different types of perceived threat—economic threat, group size, threat of violence, and cultural threat. Based on this perspective I argue that changing global political circumstances contribute to changes in the types of threat perceived by the public, which in turn, affect attitudes toward refugees.

I use multilevel mixed effects models with interactions for time to explore changing attitudes toward refugees. I explore the effects of the political economy using variables for polity type, welfare state type, and the effectiveness of welfare institutions. At the country-level I control for potential sources of perceived threat. With regard to economic threat this includes controls for GDP per capita and economic inequality. With regard to threat based on group size I control for stock of immigrants as a percentage of the population. For threat of violence I include a measure of the count of terrorist events in the country in the past 5 years. To control for two potential components of cultural threat I include a measure of ethnic fractionalization and a measure of religious fractionalization. At the individual level I control for a variety of socio-demographic factors including age, gender, level of education, and income. Finally, I test the effect of people’s perceptions of threat based on economic factors, cultural difference, crime, and contact.


  • To understand how polity structures and economic conditions in Europe affect attitudes toward refugees
  • To understand how perceptions of threat to the economy and the European way of life affect attitudes toward refugees
  • To understand how the recent experience of violence, in the form of terrorist attacks, affects attitudes toward refugees


  • In this project I analyze data from the European Social Survey using multilevel logistic regression models.

Preliminary Findings:

There is substantial variation in attitudes across countries that can be explained by a mix of individual and contextual factors. Contextual factors such as polity type, welfare state structure, the strength of the economy, and recent terrorist events help shape individual perceptions of immigrant threat and affect individual attitudes toward refugees.


Attitudes About Immigration Cross-Nationally

Project Summary:

Cross-national analyses of immigration attitudes emphasize economic and cultural threat, contact with immigrants, and context in the production of anti-immigration sentiment. However, to date few cross-national analyses have incorporated emerging immigration societies outside of Western Europe and the Americas, nor have they attended closely to institutional and sociopolitical features of the macro-context. In addition, efforts to model the impacts of national security events upon immigration attitudes have been relatively rare in previous scholarship. This project delineates an analytical framework that builds upon three overarching contextual domains—economic, cultural, and national security—writ at the macro- and micro-level, which we posit to influence tendencies toward anti-immigration sentiment. Using data from the World Values Survey for 63 countries we conduct a multi-level analysis with mixed effects logistic regression models to explore the effects of economic context, cultural context and national security events on xenophobic policy attitudes. We find support for all three contextual domains, with the economic and national security domains demonstrating the most consistent association with immigration attitudes


  • To test the relevance of contact theories for explaining attitudes toward immigrants in both high and low income countries
  • To test the relevance of economic and cultural threat for explaining attitudes toward immigrants in both high and low income countries
  • To test the explanatory power of threat based on national security for explaining attitudes toward immigrants in both high and low income countries


  • We analyze data from the World Values Survey using multilevel mixed effects logistic regression.

General Findings:

  • Experiencing a high number of terrorist events in the previous year is associated with negative attitudes toward immigration.
  • The effect of terrorist events on immigration attitudes fades rapidly. In five years the temporal distance is sufficient to eliminate the association betwee terrorist events and attitudes toward immigration.
  • High national-level economic inequality is associated with a low likelihood that an individual within the country has a negative attitude toward immigration.
  • High rates of employment within a country are associated with a low likelihood that an individual within that country has a negative attitude toward immigration.



Young, Yvette, and Claudia Geist. Forthcoming. “The Gender of Joiners: Exploring the Impact of Gender, Development, and Inequality on Membership in Voluntary Associations.” Sociology of Development. Accepted 5 October 2016.

Young, Yvette. 2014. “Social Context and Social Capital: Governance, Inequality, and the Individual Experience.” International Journal of Sociology 44(2): 37-62. doi: 10.2753/IJS0020-7659440202

Yvette Young. “Strangers in a Strange Land—An Exploration of the Economic Integration of Refugees in Utah.” Under Review.

Yvette Young, Peter Loebach, Kim Korinek. “'Where is the Stranger Welcome?’ A Cross-national Analysis of Immigration Policy Attitudes across Economic, Cultural and Human Security Contexts.”

Young, Yvette, Julie Stewart. “Religion, Social Connections and Success: Explaining the Employment Achievements of New Immigrants in the United States.”

Yvette Young. “Refugee Skepticism and Perceptions of Threat—A Multilevel Analysis of Attitudes Toward Refugees in European Nations.”

Young, Yvette. 2015. "Refugee Employment Project: Phase I Report." Salt Lake City.

Stewart, Julie, Neal Caren, Tom Quinn, Yvette Young. 2013. “An Exploration of Immigrant Political Participation: Placing a Life Course Perspective in Context.BORDERS Awards in Immigration Research: New Immigrant Survey Final Report. Tuscon: National Center for Border Security and Immigration.

Stewart, Julie, Neal Caren, Tom Quinn, Yvette Young. 2012. “An Exploration of Immigrant Political Participation: Towards a Life Course Perspective.BORDERS Awards in Immigration Research: New Immigrant Survey Final Report. Tuscon: National Center for Border Security and Immigration.


© Yvette Young. All Rights Reserved. Version Date 2016.