Mary C. Waters

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Mary Waters
Mary C. Waters

1957 (age 65–66)
Occupation(s)Sociologist, Professor, Author

Mary C. Waters (born c. 1957) is an American sociologist and author. She is a professor at Harvard University.


Waters grew up in Brooklyn, New York and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is married and has three children.[1]


Waters earned her B.A. in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in 1978. She went on to earn her first M.A. in Demography in 1981 and her second M.A. in 1983 from the University of California at Berkeley, along with her PhD in Sociology in 1986. She has taught at Harvard University since 1986 and is the M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology.[2]

Waters specializes in the study of immigration, identity formation and inter-group relations, with an emphasis on ethnic and racial identity among the children of immigrants.

She is noted for her concept of ethnic option, according to which the children and descendants of immigrants have the option of choosing whether or not to identify with the ethnicity of their ancestors.[3][4][5] Waters notes, however, that there are four specific factors which influence that choice: “knowledge about ancestors, surname, looks, and the relative rankings of the groups.”[6] The term first appeared in her book Ethnic Options, Choosing Identities in America.

Awards and honors[edit]



Chapters in books[edit]

  • Waters, Mary C.; Devine, Fiona (2004), "Introduction", in Waters, Mary C.; Devine, Fiona (eds.), Social inequalities in comparative perspective, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 1–19, ISBN 9780631226857.
  • Waters, Mary C. (2004), "Race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States", in Waters, Mary C.; Devine, Fiona (eds.), Social inequalities in comparative perspective, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 20–38, ISBN 9780631226857.


  1. ^ "Mary C. Waters", Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Mary C. Waters", Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  3. ^ Omi, Michael, Racial Identity and the State, in Adams, Maurianne, Readings for diversity and social justice, Routledge, 2000, p. 78.
  4. ^ Kleg, Milton, Hate, Prejudice, and Racism, SUMY Press, 1993, p. 43-44.
  5. ^ Hickman, Mary J., Migration and Diaspora, in Joseph N. Cleary, Claire Connolly, The Cambridge companion to modern Irish culture, p. 131, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 131
  6. ^ Waters, Mary C. (1990). Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 57. ISBN 0520070836.
  7. ^ "Mary C. Waters" Archived 2014-08-26 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  8. ^ "APS Member History", Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  9. ^ "List of Active Members by Class", Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Mary Waters", Retrieved 22 August 2014.