Book Projects


Boundaries of Obligation

Book Cover

This book shows how ordinary Americans imagine their communities and the extent to which their communities' boundaries determine who they believe should benefit from the government's resources via redistributive policies. By contributing extensive empirical analyses to a largely theoretical discussion, it highlights the subjective nature of communities while confronting the elusive task of pinning down "pictures in people's heads." A deeper understanding of people's definitions of their communities and how they affect feelings of duties and obligations provides a new lens through which to look at diverse societies and the potential for both civic solidarity and humanitarian aid. This book analyzes three different types of communities and more than eight national surveys. Wong finds that the decision to help only those within certain borders and ignore the needs of those outside rests, to a certain extent, on whether and how people translate their sense of community into obligations.

Here is a link to my book Boundaries of Obligation.

Here is the web appendix to the book.


Published Papers


Journal Articles

Racism, Group Position, and Attitudes about Immigration among Blacks and Whites (with Vince Hutchings). The Du Bois Review . 2014.

Would We Know 'Integration' If We Were to See It? Measurement and The Imperative of Integration . Political Studies Review 2014.

Bringing the Person Back In: Boundaries, Perceptions, and the Measurement of Racial Context Place is sometimes vague or undefined in studies of context, and scholars use a range of Census units to measure ``context.'' In this paper, we borrow from Parsons and Shils to offer a conceptualization of context. This conceptualization, and a recognition of both Lippmann's pseudoenvironments and the statistical Modifiable Areal Unit Problem, lead us to a new measurement strategy. We propose a map-based measure to capture how ordinary people use information about their environments to make decisions about politics. Respondents draw their contexts on maps --- deciding the boundaries of their relevant environments --- and describe their perceptions of the demographic make-up of these contexts. The evidence is clear: ``pictures in our heads'' do not resemble governmental administrative units in shape or content. By ``bringing the person back in'' to the measurement of context, we are able to marry psychological theories of information processing with sociological theories of racial threat. pan (with Jake Bowers, Tarah Williams, and Katherine Drake Simmons) The Journal of Politics 2012.

Who Fights: Substitution, Commutation, and `Green Card Troops'. 2007. Du Bois Review 4: 1-22.

`Little' and `Big' Pictures in Our Heads: Race, Local Context and Innumeracy about Racial Groups in the U.S. 2007. Public Opinion Quarterly. 71: 392-412.

Racial Threat, Partisan Climate, and Direct Democracy: Contextual Effects in Three California Initiatives (with Andrea Campbell and Jack Citrin). 2006. Political Behavior 28: 129-150.

Two-Headed Coins or Kandinskys: White Racial Identification (with Grace E. Cho). 2005. Political Psychology. 26: 699-720.

"Multiculturalism in American Public Opinion" (with Jack Citrin, David Sears, and Christopher Muste). 2001. British Journal of Political Science 31: 247-275.

"Public Opinion Toward Immigration Reform" (with Jack Citrin, Donald P. Green, and Christopher Muste). 1997. The Journal of Politics 59: 858-881.

Book Chapters

Explaining Perceptions of Competitive Threat in a Multiracial Context (with Vincent Hutchings, James Jackson, and Ronald Brown). 2011. In Heather Gerken, Guy-Uriel Charles, Michael Kang, eds. Race, Reform, and Regulation ofthe Electoral Process. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Who Belongs? Assimilation, Integration and Multiculturalism in the United States. 2009. In Gary Freeman, John Higley, James Jupp, eds. Nations of Immigrants, 2nd edition. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Jus Meritum: Citizenship for Service (with Grace Cho). 2006. In Taeku Lee, Karthick Ramakrishnan, and Ricardo Ramirez, eds. Transforming Politics, Transforming America: The Political and Civic Incorporation of Immigrants in the United States. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

The Meaning of American National Identity (with Jack Citrin and Brian Duff). 2001. In Richard D. Ashmore and Lee Jussim, eds. Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

NES Reports

"Group Closeness" 1997 NES Pilot Study


Ethnic Context, Race Relations, and California Politics (with Bruce Cain and Jack Citrin). 2000. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California.


Some of the material on this page is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers and previously by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship 1992--1997. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).