"Cuando yo me reajusté--" : vulnerability to poverty in a context of regional economic restructuring in urban Mexico : three case studies

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Rojas-García, Georgina

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In this dissertation I focus on vulnerability to poverty in Mexico, defined in terms of the factors that put households and their members at risk of living in poverty. To explore the impact of macroeconomic change on the household economy, my dissertation examines the interplay of three different levels of analysis: 1) changes in the national labor market derived from Mexico’s participation in the global economy and economic restructuring that begun during the 1980s; 2) local impacts of such transformations on both the industrial structure and characteristics of the labor force in a comparative perspective, with focus on three urban economies: Monclova, Coahuila, Aguascalientes in the state of Aguascalientes, and Mexico City; 3) the household level, in which the combined effect of the context and the available resources will determine its possibilities to avoid poverty. I develop a methodological strategy, which combines quantitative and qualitative analysis. The former has two main components: a cross-sectional approach in which I construct logistic regression models to measure the effect household assets on the likelihood of living in poverty. Additionally, a longitudinal dimension is assessed on panel information through growth-curve models that disentangle the effect of such factors over the gap between the household income and the poverty threshold. The quantitative analysis is complemented by an ethnographic approximation that I carried out in the cities of Monclova and Aguascalientes. In-depth interviews concentrating on the life history of male manual workers and their spouses are the means to grasp the intrahousehold burden and how the family has faced economic shocks during the last decades in those cities. I assessed urban poverty based on labor income. Household vulnerability to poverty can be caused by three main sets of factors: the economic dependency ratio; external, macroeconomic changes; or a combination of both. The latter condition is more prevalent. I found that workforce and education are the two core resources that households have to protect from the risk of living in poverty. The other household assets –housing and social networks- have a protective nature for families and allow them to mobilize core resources. For poorer households, the relative dynamism of the local labor market does not make a difference since they face a situation of increasing and continuing disadvantage.




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