Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee is a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University who has published award-winning books and articles about immigration, the new second generation, education, and race relations.

Her most recent book (with Min Zhou), The Asian American Achievement Paradox, received a trifecta of ASA Book Awards: The Pierre Bourdieu Book Award; The Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award; and the Best Book Award on Asian America. She is also author of Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America for which Lee received Honorable Mention for the Thomas and Znaniecki Distinguished Book Award, and co-author of The Diversity Paradox: Immigration and the Color Line in 21st Century (with Frank D. Bean), which earned the 2011 Otis Dudley Duncan Award from the ASA. She is also co-editor of Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity, which was named the 2006 Outstanding Book Award from the Asia and Asian America Section of the ASA. In addition to her books, Lee has also published dozens of articles about race/ethnicity, immigration, and the second generation.

Lee has received numerous prestigious grants, fellowships, and awards for her research. She was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a Fulbright Scholar to Japan. In 2015, she became one of 12 new members elected to the Sociological Research Association—an honor society recognizing the most successful researchers in the field since its founding in 1936—and this year, she is Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on International Migration. 

Lee established her career with Civility in the City, published by Harvard University Press. In Civility in the City, she sheds new light on the topics of immigrant entrepreneurship and interethnic relations. By going beyond the single group study implemented by prior scholars, and instead comparing Koreans with Jewish and African American merchants, and also contrasting two different urban environments (New York and Philadelphia), Lee shows just how ethnicity and nativity matter, demonstrating also the ways in which the environment generates conflicts, but also how those conflicts are managed and negotiated to produce civility in everyday life. Her findings dispel the popular myth of the ubiquity of interethnic conflict, and show that social order, routine, and civility are alive and well in America's inner-cities.

Jennifer Lee's most recent book, Asian American Achievement Paradox, was published in July 2015. In the book, she and Min Zhou tackle the vexing question: Why do second-generation Asians exhibit exceptional academic outcomes, even when controlling for socioeconomic factors like parental education, occupation, income, and residential segregation? They bring culture back into the debate about second-generation outcomes and address the "Tiger Mother" controversy head on by bridging research in immigration, race/ethnicity, and social psychology in a novel way.

Strongly committed to public engagement, Jennifer Lee has written opinion pieces for The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, CNN, The Guardian, TIME, Los Angeles Magazine, The Conversation, and Zocalo Public Square, and has done interviews for NPR, CBS2 News, Fusion TV, and Tavis Smiley. In addition, her research has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Economist, Slate, Buzzfeed, and a number of other national and international media outlets.



  • Lee, Jennifer, and Min Zhou. "Unravelling the link between culture and achievement." Ethnic and Racial Studies 39.13 (2016): 2404-2411.


  • Lee, Jennifer, and Min Zhou. The Asian American Achievement Paradox. Russell Sage Foundation, 2015.


  • Lee, Jennifer, and Frank D. Bean. The diversity paradox: Immigration and the color line in twenty-first century America. Russell Sage Foundation, 2010.