Detroit Arab American Study: A Companion Survey to the 2003 Detroit Area Study

Other External Scholars:
Wayne Baker, University of Michigan
Ronald Stockton, University of Michigan
Project Date:
Nov 2002
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
September 11 Initiative

Supplemental Appropriation: July 2003, $29,943


After 9/11, nearly half of Americans reported continued fear for their personal safety, and 60 percent agreed that the world would be a better place if people from other countries were more like Americans. Sentiments such as these raise important questions about what it means to be American in a multicultural society. At a time when non-white immigration is at a historic high, the potential for conflict over definitions of so-called Americanness is greater than ever. For the one and a quarter million Americans who are of Arab descent, identity issues have been heightened during this period by racial profiling and discrimination. Arab Americans have been forced to confront their own national, religious, and ethnic commitments, as well as their trust in American institutions, their relationships to one another, to non-Arab Americans, and to their relatives and friends in the Middle East.

In response to this situation, the Foundation will support ethnographers to conduct studies in Muslim American communities that will improve our understanding of their social, economic, and political well-being. Wayne Baker, Sally Howell, Ann Chih Lin, and Andrew Shryock, (University of Michigan), Amaney Jamal (Princeton University), and Ron Stockton (University of Michigan, Dearborn) will conduct a survey, which would supplement these qualitative studies, to further our knowledge of how Arab Americans are faring in the United States. The Detroit Arab American Survey (DAAS) will be a companion to the 2003 Detroit Area Study (DAS). The DAAS will be the first survey of this scope ever conducted on the Arab American community. The researchers recognize political sensitivities during a time in which Arab Americans are under scrutiny and have secured an impressive spectrum of support from Arab American organizations in the Detroit area, which helps assure the feasibility of the survey interviews proposed. 

The DAS will be a representative sample of the general population living in the tri-county metropolitan Detroit region, and the DAAS will be a representative oversample of the diverse community of Arab Americans living in the same region. Both surveys will consider the impact of 9/11. Together, the two surveys will allow for comparisons of the differential impact of 9/11 on Arab Americans and their non-Arab neighbors. Specifically, the DAAS will examine how Arab American experiences since 9/11 (including discrimination, solidarity and pride, or the impact of more restrictive immigration policies) and individual characteristics (such as ethnicity and national origin, religion, cohort of immigration, and language use) affect transnational community attachments, local sources of social capital, identity, trust in institutions, and interracial and intercultural relations. The investigators hope to answer questions such as, how will ethnic, religious, and national identities change in response to social pressures? Will heightened public attention to the Middle East lead to greater familiarity and contact between Arab and non-Arab Americans, or rather, to greater suspicion and fear? And, how will different groups in society form their evaluations of trust in government or evaluate its performance?

The DAS is an annual survey of the Detroit metropolitan area that is conducted by the Institute for Survey Research of the University of Michigan. The focus of the DAS in 2003 will be the assessment of reactions to 9/11 and its aftermath. These assessments will be based on the usual DAS sample size of 500 respondents. The DAAS oversample, funded by Russell Sage, will involve an additional 1000 respondents who also live in the tri-county area and who are of Arab origin. The survey will be undertaken in Detroit for two reasons. First, the DAS has been conducted there for over 50 years. While the DAS is organized around different research questions from year to year, some questions are occasionally repeated and will allow for useful historical comparisons. Second, the Detroit Arab American community is one of the largest, most concentrated, and best-known Arab expatriate populations in the world. It includes immigrants of diverse national origin and religious faiths. The community is also diverse in socioeconomic status. Many Arab Americans are concentrated in Dearborn, Michigan, where 30 percent of the population is of Arab origin, and where Arab Americans constitute 40 percent of students in the public schools. Arab immigration to the area began in the nineteenth century and has continued to grow. According to the 2000 Census, Detroit’s Arab American population increased by 56 percent in the last decade alone. It is for these reasons, as well, that Arabs in Detroit have been targeted for questioning by federal law enforcement agents, which has drawn increased attention to relations between Arabs and non-Arabs in the area.

On the basis of the DAAS, the investigators plan to prepare one book-length manuscript and several journal articles. They also plan to communicate findings to the media, local government, and the Arab American community in Detroit.



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