John D. Skrentny
Professor of Sociology, University of California-San Diego

 cv  courses  books  

John D. Skrentny
Director, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies
Professor of Sociology
University of California-San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
Department of Sociology 0533
La Jolla, CA 92093-0533

Phone: 858-534-0484
Fax:     858-534-4753


John Skrentny is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) at UC-San Diego. He is also Co-Director of the San Diego regional node of the Scholars Strategy Network. His research focuses on public policy, law and inequality, especially as they relate to the science and engineering workforce, immigration, and civil rights.

Current Projects

Supported by a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, Skrentny has finished a book to assess the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at its 50th anniversary--to bring the civil rights story up to date and examine how its employment protections work for nonwhites in the current era of mass immigration and the post-industrial economy. Available from Princeton University Press in the Fall of 2013, After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace focus on "racial realism," or the perceptions of employers that race is real, and that strategically managing the perceived racial abilities of different groups, or the effects of racial symbolism on particular audiences, will help organizations achieve their goals. The book examines different contexts of employment and discrimination law, including business and the professions; government employment; media and entertainment; and low-skilled employment. Racial realism is a significant departure from both the Civil Rights Act and also affirmative action, and despite the widespread and elite advocacy of racial realism, it has found very little support in the courts.

With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Skrentny has teamed with Kevin Lewis to understand the dynamics of demand for workers , and in particular, how they manage to keep their skills current in the face of continual scientific and technological change. This is part of a larger project that seeks to explain several puzzles regarding science and engineering (sometimes called "STEM" for science, technology, engineering, math) workers. This workforce has been the subject of much policy and scholarly attention due to its links to innovation, jobs, and economic growth, and the widespread concerns that America is not producing enough homegrown talent and must compete with other nations for foreign talent. The goal is to use National Science Foundation data to show in unprecedented detail which fields are shedding workers and what the characteristics are of those who leave science and engineering occupations--as well as those who move into these jobs from other degree fields. In doing so, we hope to generate valuable knowledge for policy development, direct students to the most promising STEM fields, and better understand the dynamics of demand for highly-skilled immigrants.

Skrentny also has been working on the comparative study of immigration law and policy. The project seeks to understand regional variation in immigration policy--and asks a basic question: why is it that knowing whether an advanced, industrialized country is in North America, Europe or East Asia helps us to predict what its immigration policy will look like? That there is so much variation is somewhat surprising, given that these societies are facing similar problems of aging populations and more educated populations in the context of still-robust demand for both low- and high-skilled labor.

Bio and Past Projects

Skrentny's books have included The Minority Rights Revolution (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002), which won the Distinguished Book Award from the Political Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association and was a finalist for the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award of the Organization of American Historians. The book was featured in author-meets-critics panels at meetings of the American Sociological Association, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the Western Political Science Association. This work was also widely reviewed in academic journals, as well as The Washington Post Book World, The Boston Globe, and The Nation. His first book, The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture and Justice in America (University of Chicago Press, 1996), is a study of the development and politics of affirmative action in employment for African Americans. This book was featured in a author-meets-critics panel at the conference of the Social Science History Association, was reviewed in a wide variety of academic journals, as well as The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

Skrentny's scholarly articles have also appeared in a variety of leading academic journals in sociology, political science and law. These include American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Studies in American Political Development, Georgetown Law Journal and International Migration Review. He has also written for non-academic audiences in the US and abroad in such outlets as Chronicle of Higher Education, Le Monde diplomatique, San Diego Union-Tribune, New York Newsday, Jewish Daily Forward, The Hill, Talking Points Memo and

He has received grants and fellowships from a variety of sources including the Guggenheim Foundation, the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership, the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation and the Princeton University Center for Human Values. He has been active in professional societies for several disciplines including sociology, political science, history and law, reviews work and advises students in all of these fields and serves on the editorial board for the Oxford University Press book series on Contemporary American Political Development.

Skrentny has been invited to present his research to departments of sociology, political science, and history; at schools of law and public policy; and at leading research universities in the US and abroad. He has also presented work at the German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and spoken to audiences in the U.S., Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, South Korea and the United Kingdom. He has also been a visiting professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Along with staff from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, Skrentny recently edited a multidisciplinary collection of articles for a special issue of American Behavioral Scientist (August 2012) entitled "Is Immigration Necessary? Work, Growth and the Future in the U.S. and Japan." His earlier guest editor stint with that journal was later expanded and published as an edited book, Color Lines: Affirmative Action, Immigration and Civil Rights Options for America (University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, Skrentny was part of a team of political scientists, led by Theda Skocpol and Larry Jacobs, who joined forces to analyze the politics of reform during the first two years of the presidency of Barack Obama. Skrentny's chapter on the politics of immigration reform, as well as the other chapters by the other team members, can be found at the Russell Sage Foundation's website devoted to the project, "Reaching for a New Deal."

view CV (pdf)


Winter 2014
Sociology 290 Comparative Immigration     syllabus  (pdf)

Sociology 50: Introduction to Law and Society              syllabus  (pdf)

Course Materials

Winter 2014
Sociology 50 court decisions

Click here to download the course materials (compressed ZIP format)


After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014)

The Minority Rights Revolution (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002)

Color Lines: Affirmative Action, Immigration, and Civil Rights Options for America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)

The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture and Justice in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996)


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