This October, Cuban American sociologist Alejandro Portes will receive the 2019 Princess of Asturias Award for the Social Sciences. He is a professor at the University of Miami, where he currently works as a law scholar, demographer, and sociologist.
Every year, the Princess of Asturias Foundation recognizes individuals, bodies, and organizations from around the globe who have made significant achievements in the sciences, humanities, and in public affairs.
Portes has been at the University of Miami since 2011. Miami is a city of great significance in Portes’ work; much of his research has been conducted there. Portes began research on the assimilation of immigrants while at the University of Texas. He interviewed more than 1,500 Cuban immigrants in Miami, the results of which culminated in his discovery that the immigrants had formed distinct, independent communities within the city, which he deemed “ethnic enclaves.”
In another project, he studied the integration patterns of more than 5,000 children of immigrants, where he found that second-generation children of migrants often integrated successfully into American society, with the caveat that children who received little education struggled more. He later performed a similar study with the Ortega y Gasset University Institute in Spain. Around 7,000 children of migrants were interviewed. His research has been instrumental in examining the processes of integration and assimilation in migrant populations, and on a parallel note, in shaping public policy and building institutions related to the plight of migrants.
Portes received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970, two years after he obtained U.S. citizenship. He subsequently taught at the University of Texas, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, and the University of Miami. He began at Princeton in 1997 as a professor of sociology, heading the Center for Migration and Development there from 1999-2012.
In explaining why Portes would receive the award, the jury of the Princess of Asturias Foundation said: “Professor Portes has made fundamental contributions to the study of international migration, one of the major challenges faced by contemporary societies. Through innovative concepts such as the ethnic enclave and segmented integration, he has elucidated the conditions under which migratory flows can be beneficial for both immigrants and host countries.”
The award comes with €50,000.