Department of Sociology

Jacinto Cuvi

M.A., Sciences Po

Jacinto Cuvi



Urban Economies, Social Policy, Inequality, Development, Mixed Methods, Latin America


I am a PhD candidate in sociology. Before coming to UT, I obtained a master’s degree in comparative politics with a focus on Latin America at Sciences Po. My advisor is Javier Auyero.

My research scrutinizes the street vending economy of Brazil’s economic capital, São Paulo, using ethnographic observation, archival research, and survey data analysis. Street vending is a central part of the informal economy, that is, the host of off-the-books economic activities carried out by the urban poor. Nearly half of all workers hold informal jobs in Latin America according to the the International Labor Organization. While cities in the region and beyond keep growing with flows of low-income migrants, street vendors and other groups in the informal economy have come under attack from policymakers committed to building “clean” and efficient urban spaces. My work explores the implications of these policy trends that put the livelihoods of vast segments of the urban poor at risk. 

I focus on the role that the state plays in shaping informal economies. The informal sector is often conceived as operating outside the realm of state regulation. However, ethnographic evidence shows that state agents engage informal actors on a daily basis. But much is still unknown about the causes, forms, and impacts of state participation in informal economies. Who can appeal to the state to solve business problems or deal with larger threats? Do relations with state authorities create inequalities among informal workers? And how do street vendors who lack access to state officials respond to repression and evictions?     

In a forthcoming paper with Social Problems, I examine the conditions under which the judiciary can protect street vendors threatened with eviction despite them having few and precarious legal rights. Another paper seeks to assess and explain the impact of the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil. Yet another paper now under review examines how current patterns of informal stratification among street vendors formed as a result of policy decisions adopted in the 1950s. Throughout these studies, I pay special attention to the politics behind state intervention (or lack thereof), the short- and long-term consequences of such interventions, and the ways in which vendors deal with pressures from state agents and competitors in securing their livelihood.

My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Swiss National Science Foundation.


In Press. “The Politics of Field Destruction and the Survival of São Paulo’s Street Vendors.” at Social Problems

2015. “Santos: The Gold Hunter” in Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City, edited by Javier Auyero, pp. 42-58. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Review of Janice Perlman, Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, published in Volume 36 (2), Pp. 403-4. March 2012. 



SOC 307N • Intro To Soc Of Development

44890 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 900am-1000am CLA 0.102

Course Description:

In 2013 the average GDP per capita of the twenty wealthiest countries in the world was just over $50,000, while that of the poorest twenty countries was only $1,000. In low-income countries, literacy rates remain between 25% and 50% and 1 in 10 newborn children is expected to die before the age of 5. What accounts for the persisting gap between rich and poor countries? How does globalization affect the development strategies of places like Haiti or Vietnam? And what roles do social actors like drug cartels, the World Bank, or McDonald’s play with regard to labor markets and social well-being in the developing world?

This course is designed to introduce students to major concepts and theories in the study of development and globalization with a focus on problems of inequality in wealth and well-being. The first part of the course will present the major concepts and tools used in the field. In the second part, we will discuss theories of economic development, exploring the causes and consequences of inequalities among countries. The third and last section will take a closer look at the social actors and forces that shape social and economic change on the ground, with a special focus on Latin America. Students with an interest in the global economic system and global inequalities as well as students seeking to add an international perspective to questions about growth, wealth, and inequality in their home country will benefit from this class.  

Optional texts:

McMichael, Philip. 2012. Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective. London: Sage. 5th ed. 

Other required readings will be posted on Canvas.


2 In Class Exams

1 Short Paper


Curriculum Vitae

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  • Department of Sociology

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