The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Welfare Reform and Household Survival in a Transnational Community: Findings from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Mark Harvey

During the 1990s the U.S. experienced unprecedented levels of immigration from Latin America accompanied by the “feminization” of migration and significant growth in “transnational” communities. In 1996 the federal government passed welfare “reform,” significantly restricting immigrant access to public assistance. In this paper I present data from interviews with 62 families at the Texas-Mexico border to analyze how this affected household survival strategies. The findings indicate that membership in a transnational community strongly conditions survival strategies and the impacts of reform on them. I argue that when analyzed in its transnational context, immigrant-targeted welfare retrenchment functions to ensure that the costs of reproducing a cheap, docile, and flexible labor force remain borne by sending nations, immigrant families, and transnational communities despite increased settlement in the receiving country. 

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 1-2, Vol. 30, 2010, pp 19 - 26

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