Caribbean Urbanization in the Years of the Crisis (CUIC)

Project Description

This was a project undertaken in 1991-94 to examine theories of Third World urbanization in a Caribbean and Central American context. The study fielded surveys in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, and Jamaica. The survey data contained in this archive was gathered in 1993 as part of the second phase of the project. The goal of this study was twofold: first, to examine general propositions about Third World urbanization in the context of smaller nations; second, to gain greater insight into specific developments in each country.

In each selected country, a research team was assembled and placed under the direction of a senior scholar. This person had the rank of co-investigator and the five individuals designated, together with the principal investigator (Alejandro Portes), developed all phases of the study.

In Costa Rica, the co-investigator was the late Mario Lungo of FLACSO-Costa Rica; in the Dominican Republic, the co-investigator was Wilfredo Lozano of FLACSO-Santo Domingo; in Guatemala, the co-investigator was Juan Pablo Perez-Sainz of FLACSO-Guatemala (now at FLACSO Costa Rica); in Haiti the co-investigator was Sabine Manigat of National University of Haiti; and in Jamaica, co-investigators were the late Derek Gordon, Patricia Anderson, and Don Robotham of the University of the West Indies-Mona.

The study evolved as a sequence of two interrelated phases. The first phase was a macro-social analysis of urbanization trends in each country. The second phase was a micro-social study of the condition and outlooks of urban popular sectors and the character of the urban informal sector. The second phase of the study lasted 18 months and involved surveys of at least two popular neighborhoods in each capital city, followed by an observational study of selected micro-entrepreneurial sectors. The survey data from the popular neighborhoods in each capital city is presented in this archive.

Concerning sampling design, the relevant universe for each capital city's survey was defined as neighborhoods housing urban popular sectors. The latter were defined as sectors receiving lower-than-average family incomes in the respective city. Neighborhoods ranged from subsidized government projects for public employees to stable working-class industrial districts to peripheral shantytowns. The research teams in each country sought to create internal diversity by including a variety of socio-economic levels both within and between selected areas. At least two lower-income neighborhoods were selected in each city, and in each, a self-weighted probability sample of households was taken.

Several techniques were used to achieve conceptual equivalence of questionnaire items across languages and cultures. They included back-translation of questions, evaluations by expert informants, and field pre-tests whose results were used to modify the final version of the questionnaire. The result is that the questionnaire differs slightly for each country. In Costa Rica, items about political party affiliation were deleted because the survey coincided with a hotly contested electoral campaign and the question could suggest that the interview was conducted on behalf of one of the parties involved. In Jamaica, items about party preferences and affiliations were moved to the end of the questionnaire because of local sensitivities about these issues. In addition, each co-investigator was at liberty to ask more detailed questions about a given topic that she or he saw as important. The questionnaire for the Dominican Republic was expanded along these lines.

In each case, household heads were interviewed concerning both their own situations and experiences and those of other family members. In addition to basic demographic data, the questionnaire asked informants their views about changes in the city during the last decade, their knowledge of urban authorities, their participation in political parties and community organizations, their knowledge of the spatial distribution of social classes in the city, and their assignment of blame for poverty.

Data Description

For each country there is an SPSS system file with an .sav suffix (e.g. haiti.sav). There files are in binary format and must be retrieved accordingly. They can be called up and used by the SPSS statistical program. There is also an analogous data file in ascii (text) format with a .datsuffix (e.g. haiti.dat). These can be read to any statistical analysis program using an appropriate formatting statement. Stata-compatible data files are also available and have a .dta extension. For each data file there is a corresponding codebook in .cdx format, accessible with Microsoft Windows (save to a convenient location on your computer, then use Microsoft Word to open the document). These contain information about variable formats and values.


During each phase of the study, seminars were held to discuss research findings. At the end of the macro-social phase of the study, each co-investigator presented a summary report of her/his country to a project seminar held at Florida International University in Miami. The final results of this comparative project were presented at a series of seminars open to both academics and policymakers. Initial results of the second-phase surveys were presented and discussed at a conference on Caribbean Basin cities held in Santo Domingo in the summer of 1992. Two regional seminars were then held to highlight the national studies and their respective policy implications. The first took place in San Jose in July 1994 (Guatemala and Costa Rica) and the second in Santo Domingo in October 1994 (Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic).

Selected Publications

Portes, Alejandro, Carlos Dore, and Patricia Landolt (co-editors). 1997. The Urban Caribbean: Transition to the New Global Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Spanish Translation: CIUDADES DEL CARIBE. Editorial Nueva Sociedad, Caracas, Venezuela, 1996.
Portes, Alejandro and Jose Itzigsohn. 1997. "Coping with Change: The Politics and Economics of Urban Poverty." Pp. 227-252 in A. Portes, C. Dore, and P. Landolt (eds.), The Urban Caribbean: Transition to the New Global Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Portes, Alejandro and Carlos Dore. 1994. "America Latina Bajo el Neoliberalismo." Pp. 19-39 in J. Echeverria (ed.), Flexibilidad y Nuevos Modelos Productivos. Quito, Ecuador: Editores Unidos.
Portes, Alejandro and Jose Itzigsohn. 1994. "The Party or the Grassroots: A Comparative Analysis of Urban Political Participation in the Caribbean Basin." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 18 (3): 491-508
Portes, Alejandro, Jose Itzigsohn, and Carlos Dore. 1994. "Urbanization in the Caribbean Basin: Social change during the Years of the Crisis." Latin American Research Review 29 (2): 3-37.
Portes, Alejandro and Mario Lungo (co-editors). 1992. Urbanizacion en Centroamerica. San Jose, Costa Rica: FLACSO Editorial.
Portes, Alejandro and Mario Lungo (co-editors). 1992. Urbanizacion en el Caribe. San Jose, Costa Rica: FLACSO Editorial.