The Blum Center supports research examining the connections between poverty, inequality, and democracy through research partnerships and fellowships.


* * * 2020 CARE-UC Graduate Fellowship * * *

This year the UC system, with assistance from the Blum Network, partnered with CARE USA for a pilot graduate fellowship that both supports the graduate research of UC students working to address poverty and inequality in California and internationally, and harness that research to improve local poverty alleviation efforts led by CARE USA.

Two UCSB students received this fellowship, Monica Cornejo, Project Title: Undocumented Immigrants’ Stress, Coping, and Resilience during COVID-19, and Jonathan Ibarra, Project Title: The Role of Family in the Latinx Youth Reentry Process. Over the course of this year, the CARE-UC Fellows will receive training and experience from CARE and a summer in-country placement that pairs their proposed research with on-the-ground development efforts. Learn more about their projects below!

    Monica Cornejo, "Undocumented Immigrants' Stress, Coping, and Resilience during COVID-19"

Q: Why were you interested in the CARE-UC Innovation Fellowship?

I was interested in the CARE-UC innovation fellowship because the fellowship utilizes research to solve societal problems among minoritized communities. This opportunity was attractive to me given that my research interest focuses on utilizing research methods to explore ways in which immigrants’ undocumented status impacts different aspects of their lives (e.g., mental health; family relationships). Moreover, I was interested in this fellowship because the fellowship requires that fellows provide CARE with recommendations based on our research findings. This is a great requirement given that systematic change can occur when large organizations, community members, and researchers work together.

Q: What questions are you trying to answer with your research project? What do you hope to get out of your project?

The research questions my research project hopes to answer are:

(1) What individual or structural stressors have undocumented immigrants experienced during COVID-19 that they did not experience prior to the pandemic?

(2) What psychological and communicative coping strategies are undocumented immigrants using to deal with stressors from COVID-19?

(3) Are there thematic difference in the stressors and coping strategies of undocumented adults, undocumented mid-life adults, or undocumented older adults?

(4) What support are undocumented immigrants receiving amid COVID-19?

For this project, I hope to be able to answer our research questions and create informational brief reports on our findings that can help to reduce any barriers that undocumented immigrants are facing due to COVID-19. These brief reports will be distributed to nonprofit and educational organizations that work with undocumented immigrants across California. Furthermore, I also hope to bring the experiences of undocumented immigrants to academic platforms (e.g., conferences, academic journals), so that others can understand the experiences of undocumented immigrants in the United States. I hope that this contributes to creating a systematic understanding of my community.

Q: What do you hope to do post-graduate school? In what way do you see your research contributing to applied or on-the-ground issues/problems?

Post-graduate school I hope to become an assistant professor at a research institution where I will continue my research among undocumented immigrants. Currently, there aren’t many researchers who are undocumented and who conduct research on undocumented immigrants, therefore I hope to use my unique positionality to create research studies that can help solve systemic barriers (e.g., educational resources; access to information) experienced by undocumented immigrants in the United States due to their immigration status and how this status interacts with other aspects of their identities (e.g., gender, sexual orientation).

Q: Your research project focus is Undocumented Immigrants’ Stress, Coping, and Resilience during COVID-19. Have you noted any prominent trends within your research of undocumented immigrants’ ways of coping with COVID-19? How is this community in particular vulnerable in the pandemic?

Although, COVID-19 has negatively affected various members in the United States, it has a more dire impact on members who are socially and structurally disadvantaged as are undocumented immigrants. For example, due to their status, undocumented immigrants are unlikely to seek health care, which creates stress. This stress may be exacerbated due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19. Additionally, undocumented immigrants may be forced to continue working because they are in desperate need of money and are afraid of losing their employment. Many undocumented immigrants work in the healthcare industry, the food industry, and agriculture. They play essential roles to maintaining the general population’s health and survival, yet undocumented immigrants’ own health and safety may be threatened. These are a few examples of barriers and stressors that undocumented immigrants may experience during COVID-19.

I expect that undocumented immigrants engage in different coping strategies during the pandemic; however, I cannot speak to the specifics. Data collection for this project will commence during the first or second week of July. I am happy to provide an update on prominent themes once we begin the data analysis stage of the project.

Q: Does stress/coping mechanisms/resilience vary by region? If so, have you noticed any particular challenges the Santa Barbara community is facing?

Stress and coping mechanisms might vary by region—especially if undocumented immigrants have more resources and support in any given region. However, since data collection for this project has not started, I cannot speak to any specific themes. I am happy to provide an update on prominent themes once we begin the data analysis stage of the project.


* * * 2019 Blum Graduate Fellows in Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy * * *

Select graduate students from across the UC System were awarded short-term fellowships for research that addresses a wide range of issues at the intersections of poverty, inequality, and democracy. Fellows participate in workshops that draw out interdisciplinary perspectives on cross-cutting concepts, themes, and research practices, raise questions and share insights about common research issues and dilemmas, and explore the connections between research, policy, and action as well as possibilities for engaging more broadly in public conversations, related to poverty, inequality, and democracy. Meet our fellows below!

Lorraine Affourtit, History of Art & Visual Culture, UC Santa Cruz, "The Art of Assembly: Visualizing Decolonial Democracy in the Oaxaca Commune"

My project is a case study approach to a social movement in southern Mexico through the lens of its visual culture initiatives. I argue that the visual culture of the Oaxaca Commune prefigures a model of decolonial democracy, bringing together Indigenous communal lifeways and autonomous governance with participatory democratic politics at the state level. As the struggle for more socially just democratic options in the face of the neoliberal crises of poverty and inequality becomes global in scale, my research suggests that it is urgent to look to the creative practices of minoritized citizens, which prefigure emancipatory futures of a democracy 'to come'.

Sari Blakeley, Geography, UC Santa Barbara, "Why Didn't I Get a Payout? Understanding Basis Risk in Index Insurance"

My research project focuses on how farmers in West Africa make decisions on whether to purchase insurance for drought risk management under different educational tutorials under insurance The goal of this research is to better understand how farmers ingest information to make decisions, so that the educational tutorials can effecdtively get as much information to them as possible.

Emily Eisner, Economics, UC Berkeley, "Jobs Guarantee Programs: The Case of the Works Project Administration"

This research project investigates the outcomes of workers who were employed by the Works Project Administration during the New Deal. Specifically, it focuses on the long run employment and economic well-being of program participants. To do this, our research team linked individuals across the US Population Census from 1920-1940 and plan to link this data to WPA personnel records that are currently held at the US National Archives. Once combining these novel datasets, we will analyze the causal impact of participation in the WPA on job attainment 5-10 years after participation. We also plan to look at the impact of the program on mortality using Social Security records. Ultimately, the goal of this work is to provide evidence for whether a Jobs Guarantee program would be a suitable policy alongside unemployment insurance and job loss due to automation and the changing nature of work. This is joint work with Ingrid Haegele, Nina Roussille, and Ben Scuderi (all at UC Berkeley, Economics).

Isabel Garcia Valdivia, Sociology, UC Berkeley"The Effects of Legal Status on Older Mexican Migrants in the US and Mexico"

Based on a mixed-method approach, my dissertation explores the effects of legal status for Mexican older adult immigrants in the U.S. and return migrants to Mexico. In particular, this research focuses on the factors that facilitate or hinder how older adult immigrants access economic, family, medical and psychological support and the strategies they deploy as they age. I investigate how these differ across countries and by legal status.

Beth Ann Hart, Sociology, UC Davis, "On the Verge: College Life in an Era of Precarity"

My dissertation draws on 120 longitudinal interviews, collected with a group of 30 community college students over two years, to understand how students' nonacademic lives (their work, family and financial obligations) affect their ability to complete college. I draw on theoretical frameworks about precarity, poverty, and emerging adulthood to understand how community college students respond to instability and volatility as they move through college.

Fernanda Jahn VerriUrban Planning, UC Los Angeles"Legalized Displacement: Analysing the Eviction Apparatus in Brazil"

My research focuses on what I call legalized displacement in Brazil, namely land dispossession practices that are not only a direct result of the financialization of housing but of a much broader discriminating process in which the courts are playing a major role. Drawing from Porto Alegre, a city with a participatory planning tradition, my goal is to understand the logics informing evictions today in Brazil, including how they are being supported through policy and legal systems.

Joseph KleinAnthropology, UC Santa Cruz, "Tracing Circuits of Credit and Debt in Indonesian Marine Product Economies"

My dissertation project is an ethnographic study of the live coral industry which connects marine product collectors along Indonesia's rural littoral with aquarium keepers in the global north. Drawing from extensive research in Indonesia, I explore the interconnections between economic and environmental change in coastal communities for whom coral reefs become sites of both fortune and risk.

Andrew LeSociology, UC Los Angeles"When All the Fish are Dead: An Environmental Disaster, Poverty, and the Rise of Undocumented Migration"

I study international migration, political and environmental sociology, religion, organizations, and comparative ethnicity. In my dissertation, I ask how does the relationship between the migrants, brokers, and the state influence why, where, and how individuals migrate? To answer this question, I focus on the labor exportation of Vietnamese persons across the globe. Through ethnography and interviews conducted in Vietnamese, I study how these social actors bring migratory options into being. Part of my dissertation explores the relationship between an environmental disaster and the rise undocumented migration in Vietnam.

Angela Okune, Anthropology, UC Irvine, "An Ethnography of Civic Data Capacity in Nairobi"

Through a comparative study of Nairobi-based research organizations working in and on technology and development, my project examines negotiations over privacy, quality, ownership, and ethical responsibility enacted by the processes of opening up qualitative research data. This research will analyze changing ideas about data sharing amongst social scientists in Africa, responding both to increasing concern that scientific knowledge is not benefiting the communities studied and to growing, global interest in the possible benefits of “open data.”

Belinda RamirezAnthropology, UC San Diego"Growing Community, Cultivating Space: Race and Politics in the San Diego-Tijuana Agriculture Movement"

I am studying the values and motivations behind those engaged in the urban agriculture and food justice movements in San Diego and Tijuana. I will investigate why, how, and under what circumstances people sustain the values and hopeful visions of these movements so that we can better understand the transformative power of urban agriculture within a global industrialized agricultural system.

Rachel WellsSocial Welfare, UC Los Angeles, "The Role of Community-based Organizations in Challenging Narratives of Poverty"

Through an ethnography of two community-based organizations (CBOs), my dissertation examines ideas of poverty within community organizing and service delivery. My research focuses on frontline work that combines organizing and service delivery and whether community-based organizations can offer an alternative conceptualization of poverty through these interactions.

Interested in the research being done by Blum affiliated faculty across the UC system?

Check out the Blum Research Compendium for more details on work being done to reduce poverty and improve health around the world.