Social Networks, Segregation and Poverty in São Paulo


The associations between segregation and urban poverty have been intensely scrutinized by the sociology and urban studies literatures. More recently, several studies have emphasized the importance of social networks for living conditions. Yet relatively few studies have tested the precise effects of social networks, and fewer still have focused on the joint effects of residential segregation and social networks on living conditions. This article explores the associations between networks, segregation and some of the most important dimensions of access to goods and services obtained in markets: escaping from social precariousness and obtaining monetary income. It is based on a study of the personal networks of 209 individuals living in situations of poverty in seven locales in the metropolitan area of São Paulo. Using network analysis and multivariate techniques, I show that relational settings strongly influence the access individuals have to markets, leading some individuals into worse living conditions and poverty. At the same time, although segregation plays an important role in poverty, its effects tend to be mediated by the networks in which individuals are embedded. Networks in this sense may enhance or mitigate the effects of isolation produced by space.