Richard Alba has devoted his scholarly career to understanding the impacts of immigration on the groups involved and on the societies that receive them. He began by investigating the assimilation of white ethnic groups, in Italian Americans: Into the Twilight of Ethnicity (1985) and Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America (1990). He then pioneered neo-assimilation theory, developed with Victor Nee and presented in their award-winning 2003 book, Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary immigration. In Blurring the Color Line: The New Chance for a More Integrated America (2009), he argued that in 21st century America a demographic dynamic was promoting assimilation.
Over time, his teaching and research took on an increasingly comparative focus, to include immigration societies of North America and Western Europe. He carried out research in France and in Germany, with the support of Fulbright grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Russell Sage Foundation. This work culminated in his book with Nancy Foner, Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe (2015).
Most recently, he has argued vigorously against the widely believed majority-minority narrative, according to which whites will soon become a numerical minority, as a way of understanding the changes brought by increasing diversity and the future towards which the U.S. is heading. The arguments and evidence are summarized in his most recent book, The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream (2020).
A scholar who has written and edited 13 books and published more than 150 journal articles and book chapters, Alba has served as president of the Eastern Sociological Society and of the Sociological Research Association and as vice president of the American Sociological Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.