Photo of Sarah Valdez

Sarah Valdez

Associate Professor

My research at IAS deals with how ethnic school segregation comes about. School segregation implies that native born children and foreign born children choose to go to separate schools. I investigate the underlying process behind this social fact.

Diversifying Europe

My current research focuses primarily on the causes and consequences of segregation in Sweden. I examine the emergence of ethnic enclaves as well as diverse immigrant neighbourhoods during the era of modern immigration. I also examine the impact of varying segregation patterns on network structure and the transmission of cultural capital within groups, contending that this has implications for rates of educational assimilation for second generation immigrants.

My research focuses on the implications of diversification in contemporary Europe, with a focus on Scandinavia.  Much of my work is united under the general rubrics of political sociology and collective behavior and addresses issues such as the impacts of segregation on anti-immigrant voting, the development of neonationalism in western Europe, and protests against neoliberalism in Poland.  My most recent project examines how segregation affects the educational assimilation of second generation immigrants.

Segregation and Educational Outcomes among Second Generation Immigrants

This research attempts to shed light on the micro level processes behind the routines of everyday life that play a role in perpetuating inequality between groups.  I examine the micro mechanisms by which residential segregation affects the educational achievement of second generation immigrants using segregation patterns to estimate social networks and, subsequently, network theory to explore the paths by which cultural capital is passed between ethnic group members. 

Contact and Anti-Immigrant Attitudes

The mechanisms by which negative attitudes toward immigrants become votes for anti-immigrant parties are not yet understood.  Yet, voting for political parties with anti-immigrant platforms is arguably the most common expression of these sentiments in Europe.  I perform a test of the contact hypothesis, which posits that when ethnic majority group members come into routine but superficial contact with ethnic minority group members, pre-existing negative attitudes toward the minority group will be sustained or exacerbated.  A spatial analysis of electoral data from each polling station in Sweden for the 2010 parliamentary election (n= 5,688) provides support for the hypothesis.  Much of the variance in district-level voting can be accounted for by the percent of non-western residents in adjacent neighbourhoods. The findings suggest that the probability of anti-immigrant attitudes translating into votes increases in neighbourhoods where residents are likely to have fleeting contact with immigrants and I test this further with a city-level case study.  I collected observational data on the visibility of non-westerners in a mid-size Swedish city and find that votes for the Sweden Democrats are above the national average where immigrants are most visible.  Furthermore, the effect of non-western residents on anti-immigrant voting are most pronounced in regions without histories of significant non-western immigration, suggesting that the negative effects of superficial contact diminish over time.

Neonationalism in Western Europe

In this research, Maureen A. Eger (Umeå University) and I examine the changing platforms of anti-immigrant political parties over the past forty years.  The increasing popularity of these parties in Western Europe has received widespread attention, but there is surprisingly little consensus about the underlying political ideology of this party family and its supporters – particularly lacking is cross-national research that maps party positions in two-dimensional political space over time. Using Manifesto Project Data (1970-2010), we analyze election platforms of parties the literature has identified as radical right and show that they have qualitatively changed between 1970 and 2010. Current parties differ fundamentally from their predecessors in that nationalist claims are paramount. We then utilize the European Social Survey (2002-2010) to confirm that voters’ attitudes are consistent with contemporary parties’ platforms. Our results point to a coherent political ideology, which may be partially responsible for these parties’ recent electoral successes. Based on our combined analyses, we conclude that contemporary anti-immigrant parties constitute a new, distinct party family, which we term neo-nationalist. 

Subsidizing the Costs of Collective Action

Polish farmers became politically contentious after democratization in 1989, despite their minimal involvement in the Solidarity movement.  I test the effectiveness of social movement theories in explaining this phenomenon by examining frequency and intensity of protest from 1980-1995.  I find that grievance models have little explanatory power, political opportunity accounts for the frequency of protest, and resource mobilization offers insight into both frequency and intensity of protests.  Supplementing existing theories, I offer qualitative evidence that development programs designed to restructure agricultural cooperatives created mobilizing structures.  Reforms were intended to help family farmers adapt to the new market economy.  Since most protest targeted liberalization policies, I conclude that in their short-term success, development agencies inadvertently subsidized the cost of collection action against their long-term goals.



Maureen A. Eger, Sarah Valdez (2023) "Speak English": A Comment on English Language Instruction in an Era of Neo-Nationalism TESOL quarterly (Print), Vol. 57, p. 969-981 Continue to DOI
Elizabeth Korver-Glenn, Alisa Rogers, Sarah Valdez, Elizabeth Roberto (2023) Structured encounters and immigrant experiences of integration in Sweden Journal of ethnic and migration studies Continue to DOI


Maureen A. Eger, Sarah Valdez (2019) The rise of neo-nationalism Europe at the crossroads: confronting populist, nationalist, and global challenges, p. 113-134
Maureen A. Eger, Sarah Valdez (2019) From radical right to neo-nationalist European Political Science, Vol. 18, p. 379-399 Continue to DOI


Maureen A. Eger, Sarah Valdez (2015) Neo-nationalism in western Europe European Sociological Review, Vol. 31, p. 115-130 Continue to DOI

Brief facts


  • Principal Investigator. 2016-2018. Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (FORTE). “Segregation and Educational Outcomes among Second-Generation Immigrants.” 3,030,000 SEK (325,000 EURO / 365,000 USD)
  • Mellon Foundation Pre-Dissertation Award, Columbia University, Council for European Studies, 2007
  • Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS), University of Washington, Center for West European Studies 2009, 2006, 2005, 2004
  • Lars Jonsson Family Fund Grant, University of Washington, Scandinavian Studies, 2009