Smith's research focuses on how the boundaries of Black identity and Black Politics change over time. This kind of work is best illustrated by her books Black Mosaic and Black Politics in Transition as well as the journal articles listed below. Taken together, this research highlights the diversity in Black politics introduced by the inclusion of Black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Smith is also interested how young Blacks--especially those of the Millennial Generation--perceive American politics and their role in it.
Linked Fate Over Time and Across Generations
“Linked Fate Over Time and Across Generations” with Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Jasmine Carrera Smith. 2019. Politics, Groups, and Identities.
Given the ups and downs in racial progress over the past thirty years, have levels of Black and Latinx linked fate changed significantly over time, perhaps in response to critical moments? Do Blacks and Latinxs in different generational cohorts systematically differ in the extent to which they believe their individual well-being is tied into the well-being of their group? The answer to both of these questions appears to be “yes.”
Do All Black Lives Matter Equally to Black People?
“Do All Black Lives Matter Equally to Black People?: Respectability Politics and the Limitations of Linked Fate” with Tehama Lopez Bunyasi. Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, , 4(1), 180-215.
The contemporary movement for Black Lives calls for an intersectional approach to Black politics. Its platform requires participants to take seriously the notion that since Black communities are diverse, so are the needs of its members. To what extent are Blacks likely to believe that those who face secondary marginalization should be prioritized on the Black political agenda? What is the role of linked fate in galvanizing support around these marginalized Blacks? To what extent does respectability politics serve to hinder a broader embrace of Blacks who face different sets of interlocking systems of oppression, such as Black women, formerly incarcerated Blacks, undocumented Black people, and Black members of LBGTQ communities in an era marked by Black social movements?
Shifting from Structural to Individual Attributions of Black Disadvantage
“Shifting from Structural to Individual Attributions of Black Disadvantage: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Black Explanations of Racial Disparities.” Journal of Black Studies, 45(5), 432- 452, 2014.
Despite significant changes in American society, Blacks still lag behind Whites on several important socioeconomic indicators. Attributing this gap to structural reasons (e.g., racial discrimination) or to person-centered reasons (e.g., individual willpower) is highly correlated with the extent to which individuals feel that the government should implement policies to ameliorate racial disparities. Scholars have shown that Blacks have shifted their explanations of Black disadvantage from structural attributions to person-centered over the past three decades. Some suggest that this change is because all Blacks are becoming more conservative while others suggest that cohort replacement is undergirding the shift. I used a newly developed method, the intrinsic estimator, to determine whether period, age, and/or cohort effects are responsible for the shift. I find that, generally, Blacks are less inclined to suggest that discrimination is a credible explanation due to period effects, but the increase in person-centered attributions is primarily due to cohort variation.