School of Social Work:
Room 3.212D
Phone: (512) 471-9248
Fax: (512) 471-9514

Mailing Address:
University of Texas
School of Social Work
1 University Station D3500
Austin, TX 78712-0358



Course List
and Syllabi

Comparative Study of the Urban Poor: Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas/Texas

Principal Investigator:
Laura Lein, Ph.D.
Henry Selby

Duration: 5/1/00-ongoing

This project investigates the experience of poverty in the border region between Texas in the U.S. and Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas of Mexico. It has evolved out of the combined research of the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon and The University of Texas at Austin in three urban areas (See Edin & Lein, 1996, 1997; Ribeiro Ferreira, 1989; Selby et al., 1990; Selby et al., 1994). In particular, the project examines the social construction of poverty, as well as the concrete strategies and tactics low-income Mexican and Mexican-American families employ which shape their experiences of material hardship.
The core topics of the study are:

1. consumption and domestic expenditure;
2. income generating tactics and strategies;
3. network contributions;
4. work;
5. help from agencies;
6. the experience of hardship.

Since June 2000, project researchers have been working in four sites: San Antonio and Brownsville on the U.S. side and Monterrey and Matamoros on the Mexican side. Neighborhoods were selected to represent different levels of impoverishment (in the lower quarter of each city's neighborhoods and in the next quarter of the city's neighborhoods). In each city, drawing on references from local community organizations, a sample of approximately 40 households has participated in an intensive and ethnographically-oriented set of interviews regarding expenses, income, decisions about resource allocation, and perceived outcomes.

Comparing poverty situations cannot be done on the basis of comparing the dollar value of incomes in Mexico and the U.S. However, both Mexican and U.S. households share a common experience of suffering hardship, and this can serve as a baseline for comparative purposes. We propose to show that in the border region the commonalities in the two countries' experiences of poverty are strongly expressed.

National Science Foundation