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Structure and consequences of socioeconomic segregation in poor Buenos Aires settlements


This dissertation examines the relationship between the process of residential segregation, the social isolation it produces, and the erosion of resources in households dwelling in poor urban areas. My main question is how and why living in contexts of socioeconomic segregation affects the resources poor households live on. I resorted to a combination of qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The data sources are: 1. A semi-structured questionnaire applied to 100 households of four Greater Buenos Aries settlements randomly selected. 2. Life histories applied to a fifth of my household sample. 3. Self-processed data from the 2001 Permanent Household Survey of Buenos Aires Agglomerate. And, 4. Self-processed data from Argentina's last two Population Census. Contrary to mainstream approach to survival strategies in Latin America, I found that the more poor and segregated an area is the worst quality of their resources. Moreover I found that segregated areas are related to a process of households' resources exhaustion that worsens their chances of overcoming poverty. I show that this process goes beyond households' members' backgrounds. My analysis demonstrates that neighborhoods, and not only background characteristics matter and do influence individual behaviors and achievements. Living in poor segregated areas increases both risk behavior and labor achievement. Finally, I argue that territorial concentration of poverty favors the formation of "circuits for the satisfaction of basic needs", consolidating particular and specific ways in which poor people obtain the resources they need to deal with the requirements of daily life. I assert that these "circuits" consolidate poor peoples' marginality. My research is situated in contemporary urban Buenos Aires with special reference to Greater Buenos Aires (Argentinean's largest urban agglomerate). Yet my arguments about the erosion of resources in contexts of increase socioeconomic segregation is, to some extent, applicable to other countries, given that different world regions are undergoing similar profound economic and social reorganization processes. The approach I use helps to understand some of the most negative effects of the increasing social fragmentation. It contributes to enrich our understanding of urban poverty and some of the mechanisms that support its perpetuation and rigidity in Latin American countries

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