Professor Thomas Pearson (Nicaragua) | Research on Racial and Ethnic Exclusion

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Maxwell Professor’s Research on Racial and Ethnic Exclusion Supported by Russell Sage Foundation Grant

Syracuse News

January 19, 2024, By Jessica Youngman


Thomas Pearson (Nicaragua 2014-16)

Thomas Pearson, assistant professor of economics in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, is part of a team of scholars who have been awarded $195,000 from the Russell Sage Foundation to study the exclusion and expulsion of the minority groups from U.S. towns and cities between 1850 and 1950.Their project, “The Geography of Race and Ethnicity in the United States: Uncovering a Hidden History of Expulsion and Exclusion,” will result in a nationwide dataset detailing the expulsion and exclusion of minority groups that occurred locally, even if illegal at the federal level.

The team aims to identify understudied forms of exclusion such as “sundown towns” to characterize both the causes of racial/ethnic exclusion and its consequences for affected groups and places. They hope to identify systematic factors driving these events and impacts on affected populations. They also seek to reveal demographic, cultural and economic changes in the identified places, with a focus on African Americans, Chinese and Mexicans who were most affected.

The funding is awarded by the Russell Sage Foundation’s program on Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, which supports innovative research that examines the roles of race, ethnicity, nativity, legal status—and their interactions with each other and other social categories—in the social, economic, and political outcomes for immigrants, U.S.-born racial and ethnic minorities, and native-born whites.

In addition to Pearson, the team includes Samuel Bazzi of the University of California at San Diego; Eric Chyn of the University of Texas at Austin; Andreas Ferrara of the University of Pittsburgh; Martin Fiszbein of Boston University; and Patrick Testa of Tulane University. Bazzi is leading the project.

Pearson previously collaborated with teammates Bazzi, Ferrara, Fiszbein and Testa. “The Other Great Migration: Southern Whites and the New Right” was published in the August 2023 issue of Quarterly Journal of Economics, while “Sundown Towns and Racial Exclusion: The Southern White Diaspora and the ‘Great Retreat’” appeared in the American Economic Association Papers and Proceedings in May 2022.


Before joining Maxwell in 2022, Pearson served as an instructor, teaching fellow and research assistant at Boston University and as a research associate in Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He also served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. He earned a Ph.D. from Boston University in May 2022.


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  • The period in which this study is focused represents one that is often over-looked in terms of the expulsion effects on native American populations holding extant Treaties with the then-existing U. S. Government in Washington, D. C. For instance, the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 expulsed Mexican and native American populations from Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming. The Homestead Act, the Railroad Act, and the Land Grant College Act served to override Treaties that had been negotiated with native American populations, forcing them onto Reservations.

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