Sociology Masters Thesis Idea: Interview People in Traffic Jams Regarding Immigration

Boston-area traffic now includes regular mid-day traffic jams, not a huge surprise considering that the road network has more or less the same capacity as in 1990 when the population was 3.78 million (in 2015 it was 4.35 million and growing rapidly; see Boston Foundation report).

The other day I was stuck in Cambridge near Alewife. The car in front of me was a Subaru with bumper stickers celebrating Elizabeth Warren (a Native American) and unlimited immigration (“No Human Being is Illegal”).

I was wondering “Given that U.S. population growth is almost entirely driven by immigration and children of recent immigrants, and that traffic jams are driven by population growth (combined with our inability to build infrastructure), if we interviewed that Subaru driver right now, would she support immigration enthusiastically?”

So here’s an idea for a Sociology Masters project: Interview people at highway rest stops and ask

Compare the answers from times when the highway is clogged with traffic and when the highway is flowing freely.

Readers: What do you think? Would this be an interesting data set to gather?


  1. Neal

    July 12, 2017 @ 1:22 pm


    >Given that U.S. population growth is
    >almost entirely driven by immigration
    >and children of recent immigrants

    This begs the question. When I looked at the data, I found that immigration was responsible for about a third of urban population growth since 1980. The balance was rural to urban migration and endogenous (not recent immigrant) population growth (in that order).

  2. Ivan

    July 12, 2017 @ 1:40 pm


    “The arrival of new immigrants and the births of their children and grandchildren account for 55% of the U.S. population increase from 193 million in 1965 to 324 million today. The new Pew Research Center projections also show that the nation is projected to grow to 441 million in 2065 and that 88% of the increase is linked to future immigrants and their descendants.”

  3. Neal

    July 12, 2017 @ 1:58 pm


    @Ivan: I said “urban population growth”, so I think your numbers actually support my point.

  4. superMike

    July 12, 2017 @ 2:09 pm


    Population growth is part of the problem, but don’t forget that for the last few decades, practitioners of “transportation planning” have been deliberately engineering congestion in order to reduce network demand. (Search for “Induced Demand” in the context of freeways and “Traffic Calming” in the context of local streets) If you ask them about it, they’ll describe it as some kind of an iron law (If we build more/better roads, it will just make people use them more), but if you point out that if we engineered our internet access or power or water networks the same way, everyone would be outraged, they regard you as if you had just slapped them in the face on the street.

  5. Anonymous

    July 12, 2017 @ 2:29 pm


    It is also social engineered, both spontaneously and centrally There are no reasons (except subject lots of people to wonderful word of city laws) to bunch together millions of people in ancient and medieval concept of a walled city. Most workers got to commute to it from America in order to work. It makes little sense in networked age.

  6. spl

    July 12, 2017 @ 6:36 pm


    Every person, anywhere in the world, is a permanent resident of the United States; most do not have documents, and so are just undocumented. Many of these people have not been able to reach their permanent homeland yet. So the real population of the United States should be at least a few billions.

  7. superMike

    July 13, 2017 @ 12:23 am


    Also: sociology projects without a “social justice” focus are non-starters, right?

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