Van C. Tran

Van Tran, Photo Credit: Alex Irklievski

Research Interests

  • Race, ethnicity, and immigration
  • neighborhoods and urban poverty
  • social inequality and public policy
  • civic engagement and political participation
  • Asian American studies and Latinx studies
  • qualitative, quantitative, and spatial methods


  • Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy, Harvard University

Van Tran is an immigration scholar and urban sociologist who studies the integration of immigrants and their children, ethnic and racial categories, diversity and intergroup relations, neighborhood gentrification, and urban poverty and social inequality. His research employs a multidisciplinary, multimethod approach to the dual study of immigrant and urban life, with a focus on how immigration has transformed local communities across the country.
Tran’s research and teaching are deeply connected to the diversity, history, and vibrancy of New York City. After spending his early years in refugee detention camps in Northern Thailand, Tran — a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — moved to the Bronx as a teenager when his family was resettled by the International Rescue Committee in 1998. As an undergraduate at Hostos Community College and Hunter College, Tran developed an interest in immigration and urban inequality while observing New York City’s eclectic neighborhoods and ethnic communities. As a social scientist, he views the city as a social laboratory for original research and innovative teaching, both of which hold the potential to substantively inform urban social policy. Since 2019, Tran has helped mobilize research on critical issues facing New York City as the deputy director for The Graduate Center’s Center for Urban Research.
The author or co-author of 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, Tran has carved out several unique pathways in his research trajectory. The Social Life of Amsterdam Avenue, an in-progress book manuscript, examines the consequences of gentrification for neighborhood residents and businesses in Manhattan's West Side. A separate project on the Asian American experience is yielding crucial insight into Asian Americans’ views on affirmative action, attitudes toward immigration policy, patterns of socioeconomic attainment, and the transition from higher education into the workplace. A third project draws on an experimental study on the nature and sources of anti-immigrant attitudes in the United States. Finally, Tran’s research continues to focus on the linguistic, socioeconomic, civic, and political integration of second-generation Latinos.
Tran began his academic career as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. He later joined Columbia University as a sociology professor and co-founded the university’s Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Workshop.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

  • Tran, Van C. 2020. “The Borders Around Us: Forced Migration and the Politics of Border Control.” City & Community 19(2):
  • Tran, Van C. and Francisco Lara-García. 2020. “A New Beginning: Integration of Recent Refugees in the Early Years of Arrival to the United States.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 6(3):
  • Tran, Van C., Fei Guo and Tiffany Huang. 2020. “The Integration Paradox: Asian Immigrants in Australia and in the United States.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social
  • Lee, Jennifer and Van C. Tran. 2019. “The Mere Mention of Asians in Affirmative Action.” Sociological Science
  • Tran, Van C. 2019. “Second-Generation Contextual Mobility: Neighborhood Attainment from Birth to Young Adulthood in the United States.” International Migration Review 54(2): 356-387.
  • Tran, Van C., Jennifer Lee and Tiffany Huang. 2019. “Revisiting the Asian Second-Generation Advantage.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 42(13): 2248-2269.
  • Tran, Van C. 2019. “Coming of Age in Multi-Ethnic America: Young Adults’ Experiences with Diversity.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 42(1):35-52.
  • Valdez, Nicol M. and Van C. Tran. 2019. “Gendered Context of Assimilation: The Female Second-Generation Advantage among Latinos.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 46(9): 1709-1736.
  • Tran, Van C. 2018. “Social Mobility across Immigrant Generations: Recent Evidence and Future Data Requirements.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 667(1):105-188.
  • Tran, Van C., Jennifer Lee, Oshin Khachikian, and Jess Lee. 2018. “Hyper-Selectivity, Racial Mobility, and the Remaking of Race.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4(5):189-209.
  • Tran, Van C. and Katharine M. Donato. 2018. “The Social Provision of Healthcare to Migrants in the U.S. and in China.” China Population and Development Studies 2(1):83-107.
  • Tran, Van C. 2017. “Beyond the Ballot Box: Age-At-Arrival, Civic Institutions, and Political Participation among Latinos.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43(5):766-790.
  • Tran, Van C. and Nicol M. Valdez. 2017. “Second-Generation Decline or Advantage? Latino Assimilation in the Aftermath of the Great Recession.” International Migration Review 51(1):155- 190.
  • Tran, Van C. 2016. “Ethnic Culture and Social Mobility among the Asian Second Generation.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39(13):2398-2403.
  • Tran, Van C. 2016. “Social Mobility among Second-Generation Latinos.” Contexts 15(2):28-33.
  • Tran, Van C. 2015. “Revisiting the Americano Dream.” Pathways, Spring:18-23.
  • Tran, Van C. 2015. “Assimilation.” In Oxford Bibliographies Online in Sociology. Jeff Manza, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hopkins, Daniel J., Van C. Tran and Abigail F. Williamson. 2014. “See No Spanish: Language, Local Context, and Attitudes toward Immigration.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 2(1):35-51.
  • Tran, Van C., Corina Graif, Alison D. Jones, Mario L. Small, and Christopher Winship. 2013. “Participation in Context: Neighborhood Diversity and Organizational Involvement in Boston.” City & Community 12(3):187-210.
  • Tran, Van C. 2010. “English Gain vs. Spanish Loss? Language Assimilation among Second-Generation Latinos in Young Adulthood.” Social Forces 89(1):257-284.
  • Waters, Mary C., Van C. Tran, Philip Kasinitz and John H. Mollenkopf. 2010. “Segmented Assimilation Revisited: Types of Acculturation and Socioeconomic Outcomes in Young Adulthood.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 33(7):1168-1193.

Opinion Editorials

Professional Affiliations and Leadership [2015-present]

Editorial Boards

  • Ethnic and Racial Studies (2018-present)
  • Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2018-present)
  • American Journal of Sociology, Consulting Editor (2017-2019)
  • Social Forces (2014-2017)
  • The Sociological Quarterly (2013-2016)

Advisory Boards 

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, Advisory Committee on Cultural Engagement (2020-2022)
  • Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, Selection Committee (2020-2021)
  • Museum of the City of New York, Academic Advisory Committee (2014-2018)
  • Youth and Hope Foundation, Advisory Board (2015-2018)

American Sociological Association

  • Elected Council Member-at-Large (2020-2023)
  • Elected Council Member, Asia and Asian America Section (2019-2022)
  • Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award Selection Committee (2018-2020)
  • Chair of Local Organizing Committee, International Migration Section (2018-2019)
  • Elected Council Member, International Migration Section (2015-2018)

Awards [2015-present]

  • Outstanding Service Award, ASA Section on International Migration (2019)
  • Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2018)
  • Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, Columbia University (2018)
  • Faculty Mentoring Award, Arts & Sciences Graduate Council, Columbia University (2017)

Courses Taught

  • Qualifying Paper Seminar (Spring 2023 and Fall 2022)
  • Urban Poverty and the City (Spring 2020)
  • Immigrant New York (Fall 2019)

Selected Profiles