Grad Students

Jacob Thomas

Contact Information

Office  Haines A58b

In terms of substance, my dissertation—“The Denied, the Deterred, and the Disenchanted: Why A Variety of Potential Emigrants Never Immigrated” examines why three distinct subpopulations of Mainland Chinese non-migrants have not traveled abroad or immigrated into other countries.

In terms of method, for my dissertation I built and analyzed with both qualitative and quantitative methods the Non-Migrant Survey (NS), which is to my knolwedge the first large scale individual-level survey dataset (2397 short survey interviews and 213 in-depth life history narrative interviews) about non-migrants. This includes both oral narrative and standardized numerical data about three distinct types of Mainland Chinese non-migrants: 1) those that were denied visas, 2) those that were deterred from applying for visas and going abroad, and 3) ex-immigrants that had previously intended to immigrate but after spending time in a country of migrant destination later changed their mind and decided not to immigrate. 

In terms of theory, I aim to draw both upon this data and the more abundant data and knowledge we already have about immigrants to contribute new theories and empirical resources for those addressing longstanding perennial questions about multiple stages of migrant selectivity, limits to governments' capacity to control migration and the relationship between international migration/travel and social stratification/mobility/inequality both within and between migrant-sending and -receiving societies.

In additional to many other research that examines the interaction of social forces and migration control policies at the level of nation-states/nationalities, immigration bureaucracies, social groups, and individuals, I also have for the past 6 years periodically collected ethnographic observational and interview data  about how independent budget travelers (including “backpackers”, “hitchhikers”, "trainhoppers", “couch surfers”, “working holiday travelers”) choose to spend their time and money while traveling to develop new theories about distinct styles of travel and explore how independent travel determines their phenomenological experience of different places and their social relations to those in their host society and others back "home". I plan to analyze and write about this data as a future project after I publish 14 papers about migration control and preferences now under review either as articles or a book.

Fields of Study

International Migration, Social Stratification, Sociology of Law, Transnational (Im)mobility and Inequality, Comparative Migration Policy and Law, Sociology of Independent Travel and Tourism, Social Networks, Survey Design and Mixed Methods Research


International Travel/Mobility/Migration, Social Inequality/Mobility/Stratification, Law and Society, Comparative Immigration Policy, Tourism, Multi-Method Research, Theory, COVID-19



Thomas, Jacob 2019, “When Greater Political Freedom Does Not Offer Greater Travel Freedom: How Income, Inequality, and Civil Liberties Interact to Stratify International Visa-Free Travel Opportunities", International Migration, Forthcoming

Thomas, Jacob (2020, “From local control to remote control: an excavation of international mobility constraints", Theory and Society,

Thomas, Jacob (2020, “Reflecting Upon the Impact of hte United States' 2016 Election and Travel Impact: Why Might Fewer Businesspeople, Tourists, Students and Relatives Be Visiting the United States?", Southern California Interdisciplinary Journal of Law,

Thomas, Jacob (2020), “The Positive Impacts of COVID-19 (If We Take It Seriously)", Contexts, Spring Issue ,


Thomas, Jacob. 2013. “Concealing the Coercion of Remote Control,” Pp. 7-11, The London Miscellany, Autumn 2013-Spring 2014 Issue.

Thomas, Jacob and Kjerstin Gruys, 2014, Entry on “Class.” Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumer Studies.

Solo-authored Manuscripts Revised and Resubmitted for Second Review

“Mathematically Modeling Immigrant Bureaucrat-Civilian Interactions,” (Revised and Resubmitted to Frontiers: Sociological Theory)

“How the ‘Dual Intent Doctrine’ Undermines the Immigrant Versus Non-Immigrant Binary,” (Revised and Resubmitted To The Legal Landscape of U.S. Immigration in the Twenty-First Century edited by Katheleen Donato and Catalina Amuedos-Donato)

Solo-authored Manuscripts Under Review

“Whom Do U.S. Consular Officers Perceive As “Non-Immigrants”? How Cultural Habitus Stratifies Legal Mobility From China,” (under review at American Sociological Review)

“Family Ties As a Gendered Deterrent of International Migration and Travel From China,” (under review at Journal of Marriage and Family)

“Disenchanted With the Immigration Dream: The Sociological Formation of Chinese Ex-Immigrant Subjectivity,” (under review at American Journal of Sociology)

“The Extra-legal Logic of When the People’s Republic of China Deprives Its Citizens of the Freedom to Enter and Exit” (under review at World Politics)

“Has International Mobility Become More Strongly Associated With Homophily or Hierarchy Between 1969 and 2010?” (under review at Social Forces)

“The Institutional Foundation of Diversified Immigration to Australia and Canada,” (under review at Social Science History)

“‘From “Illegal” to “Undocumented”—The Impact of a Lexical Shift In a Social Movement Against Dehumanization,” (under review at the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies)

“Which Nationalities Have Been Coming to the United States Since the 2016 Election and the Travel Ban?” (under review at Demography)

“Incorporating the Interests of Both Migrant-Sending and Migrant-Receiving Societies In Communitarian, Democratic and Liberal Visions of Just International Migration Policy,” (under review at Stanford Law Review)

“What Does It Mean To Be An Migrant? The Multi-dimensionality of the Migrant Trans-experience,” (under review at International Migration Review)

Coauthored Manuscripts Under Preparation

Zhou, Min and Jacob Thomas, “Transnational Ethnic Entrepreneurship,” in Brenda Yeo and Francis Collins’ Handbook On Transnationalism. Expected 2021

Huang, Peng and Jacob Thomas, “Strengths and Challenges of Cross-Cultural Field Research,” in preparation for Qualitative Methodology

Grants and Awards

Institute for Humane Studies Ph.D Fellowships ($4000, four), Institute for Humane Studies 2016-2019


China Confucius Studies Ph.D Research Fellowship ($8000), China Scholarship Council, Fall 2018


Ethnic Studies Grant for Asian American Studies ($500), 2015, UCLA Institute for American Cultures


California Immigration Research Initiative ($8000), 2017, UCSD Center for Comparative Immigration Studies


Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships to Study Chinese in China and U.S. ($8,000-15,000, four), 2017-2018 and 2014-2015 Academic Years and Summer 2015 and 2017, Asia Institute, U.S. Department of Education


Boren National Security Fellowship ($23900) for Mandarin study at Peking University & Beijing Cultural and Language University, 2015-2016, Institute for International Education


UCLA Graduate Summer Research Mentorship Program ($6000, two), 2014 and 2015, Graduate Division


University Un-endowed Scholarship for Masters of Arts Program in Social Sciences ($15000), 2011-2012 Masters of Arts Program in Social Sciences, University of Chicago


Highest Honors in Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major and Distinction in General Scholarship, 2002 Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major Program, UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences                  

Conference Presentations

American Sociological Association


Montreal, Canada

Law and Society


Mexico City, Mexico

Population Association of America


Chicago, Illinois

Institute for Humane Studies


George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia


Law and Society Annual Conference


Marriot Hotel, Seattle, Washington


Thinking Gender


University of California At Los Angeles


International Institute Graduate Student Conference 2015


University of California at Los Angeles


American Sociology Association

Roundtable on International Migration Presentation


Union Square Hilton Hotel, San Francisco, CA


Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences


Waikiki Marriott Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii


International Institute Graduate Student Conference 2014


University of California at Los Angeles


Voz Latina 2014: Blurred Boundaries: Latino Lives in the U.S. and Abroad

Princeton University


Annual Stony Brook Ethnography Conference


Stony Brooke University


Annual Chicago Ethnography Conference


Northwestern University


Australian and New Zealand Studies Association of North America (ANZSANA) 2014 Conference


University of Texas at Austin


Min Zhou

Victor Agadjanian

Jennie Brand

Margaret Peters (UCLA Political Science)

Outside Advisor: Guillermina Jasso (NYU Sociology)


Min Zhou (UCLA)

Peng Huang (UCI)


B.A. (Highest Honors), Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major (Globalization), UC Berkeley 

M.A., Social Sciences, University of Chicago 

M.A. Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles 

Ph.D Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles