A comparative analysis of the cases of Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, México capital and São Paulo

Name of the project: Gender, social networks, attachment to place, local welfare and care provisionin  Ibero-American cities: a comparative analysis of the cases of Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, México capital and Sao Paulo. Ref. UP0JA014

Time lasted: 2020

Principal Researcher: Margarita Barañano Cid, (Title of University, Departamento Sociología Aplicada Universidad Complutense de Madrid).


Margarita Barañano Cid, (Title of University, Departamento Sociología Aplicada Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

Cristina López Villanueva, (Teacher Added, Departament de Sociologia, Universitat de Barcelona)

Roberta Consentino Kronka Mülfarth, (School of Architecture and Urban Desing, University of Sao Paulo)

Mercedes di Virgilio, (Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani, Faculty of Social Sciencies Buenos Aires University)

Claudia Ortiz Chao, (Urban Environmental Department, Faculty of Architecture, Universidad Nacioanl Autónoma de México)

Squad of enquiry: 

Jordi Bayona Carrasco, (Associate Professor, Departament de Geografia, UB / Investigador Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics, UAB)

Fernando Gil Alonso, (Teacher Added, Departament de Geografia, UB)

Cristina López Villanueva, (Teacher Added, Departament de Sociologia, UB)

Miguel Rubiales Pérez,  (Associate Professor, Departament de Geografia, UB)

Gemma Vilà Bosqued, (Lecturer, Departament de Sociologia, UB)

Lara Navarro Varas, (Researcher, Institut d’Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans, UAB)

Isabel Pujadas Rúbies, (Full Professor, Departament de Geografia, UB)


This project aims to conduct collaborative research focused on the comparative  analysis  of one of the main points of convergence between the Ibero-American cities of UIU: the importance of «local welfare» and social networks, gender and attachment to place in the provision of care. The aim is to analyze the «local» dimension of these welfare regimes grounded in spatial attachment and rooted ness. This will also be explored in light of social networks’ central ity to the ways of life and resi l ience of many of the cities’ inhabitants , taking these networks to encompass neighborhood bonds and ties formed in local intermediate organizations, as wel l as in fami ly. In vul nerable spaces, al i these phenomena would increase in prom inence. An analysis of the gender dimension of this spatial and welfare system will be carried out with regard to the hegemon ic partici pation of women in basic care responsibi lities, also studying the  role of the smart city in this respect and proposing interventions.

Previous research funded by a UIU revealed the existence of spaces in Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and  Sao Paulo with high proportions of inhabitants who are potentially vulnerable in relation to the smart city due to limits to their digital connectivity. These limitation s relate to the frequency and form of digital access, but they are particu larly evident when analyzing the type of digital use; advanced use percentages (connecting to public adm inistrations, etc.) are much lower than those exhibited by the inhabitants of more privileged parts of the city. In add ition, the differences between zones in this respect overlap with social-spatial segregation in these five cities. This highlights the importance of developing initiatives to stop potentially vulnerable territories and collectives, principally distingu ished by their lower leve! of education , and, to a lesser extent, by their age, from missing out on  chances to benefit from the opportunities offered  by the smart city, or even from being partial ly or totally excluded from it, despite the fact that it is they who need it the most.

This project aims to carry out col laborative research focused on the comparative analysis of a social phenomenon which constitutes one of the main points of convergence between the Ibero-American cities involved in UIU, namely, the importance of local welfare and the local dimension of care provision present in ali of them (Allen, Barlow, Leal, Maloutas and Padovani , 2004), as well as the relevance of social networks, and the dimension of gender and attachment to place. The local leve! is referred to in terms of its importance for the attainment of well-being, that is, for the provision of care within these cities and the societies to wh ich they belong. As has been pointed out, it is at the local leve! how the d ifferent configurations of care are concretized and shaped (Lyon and Gluskmann , 2008). The investigation takes as its starting point Esping-Andersen ‘s (1999) approach to welfare regimes, along with more recent work reflecting on the importance and difficu lties involved in care provision (Tronto et al, 2013 , Martín Palomo, 2016), and contributions highlighting the pitfalls of attempting to understand the social processes at work in the cities under study by extrapolating analyses from other contexts (for example how transformations occurring in the cities of the Global South are often only analyzed on the basis of experiences from other spaces (Parnell and Oldfield , eds, 2014; Marques, 2016). Thus, taking into account the social dynamics prevai l ing i n these cities, thanks to which vastly d ifferent col lectives and social sectors prosper, we intend to carry out a comparative investigation with the overall aim of establishing whether the hegemonic welfare regime operating within them may be described as a «localized» regime of attachment, fostered in large part by spatial  attachment and rooted ness. Relevant data about the cities under study support this first hypothesis. They ind icate the lower residential mobility in comparison to other contexts; the preference for residential proximity to family, acquaintances and friends (Bonvalet, 2003; Martín Palomo 2010); the greater time spent residing in one house; the delay in chi ldren leaving home; the greater frequency of cohabitation between relatives; and, above ali, the existence of what can be identified as a «network of homes» (Barañano, 1999 and 2006).

The second hypothesis informing this proposal is that the importance given to spatial rootedness indicates how central social networks are to the ways of life and resilience of a high proportion of the populations inhabiting these cities, particularly in terms of the organization of care. As Esping-Andersen poi nted out, in Southern Europe a welfare regime based on the role of the family was to prevail. However, moving beyond Esping-Andersen, this project is concerned with whether it makes sense to talk about social networks as a whole, rather than just the family. Whether it makes sense to talk about relationships within neighborhoods and those constituted in intermediate social organizations, like educational, sporting, cultural, and social facil ities, health centers, and third sector associations  and organizations (Eseverri, 2009; Desmond and Ibáñez, 2016; Serrano et al, 2019). The strength of these networks, their territorial anchoring, and their importance for the resilience of city dwellers would thus also be considered characteristic features of Southern Europe and lbero-America, as they are in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Madrid and Sao Pau lo. The importance of proximity in these cities would also be considered characteristic. In these environments the notion of face-to-face proximity has become more complex due to its entanglement with proximity generated across virtual space and with new mobilities (Urry, 2007) incl uding transnational migration s, in a process similar to that undergone by social networks. Another important concern, emerging in continuity with the previous project, revolves around whether the instruments of the «smart city» are making any contributions in this sense.

The proposed objectives and activities include: (1) examinning the importance of social networks in the cities under study from a comparative perspective, where social networks include both fami ly members and intermed iate groups at the local level, and play an important part in «local welfare», and, specifically, in the basic tasks of care provision; (2) studying transformations of families in the 5 cities, focusing on the increase in the n umbers of households l inked to situations of greater vulnerability, including female-headed single-parent households and non-family households, as wel l as extended households; (3) analyzing to what extent territorial attachment within the neighborhood constitutes a specific source of social integration in the researched cities, and how networks are articulated at a distance and in proximity, above all, in a context of increasing mobi l ity, much of wh ich is linked to transnational m igration and virtual space; (4) investigating the gender dimension of the provision  of local welfare, specifically  in  relation  to the  basic tasks of care provision (Daly y Lewis 2000), and its importance for social networks (in the area and spanning farther afield), includ ing the family and intermed iate groups at the local level; (5) explicitly investigating the configuration of attachment to place and of this type of local  network of social solidarity as well as the gender dimension i n the provision of local welfare, and more specifical ly of basic care provision in a vu lnerable district in each city; (6) recognizing and analyzing the potential opportunities and weaknesses of the welfare and care provision model and the main unresolved  issues in the latter; (7) discovering whether the programs  linked  to the smart city in these cities involve interventions in the field of care provision; (8) recommending measures aimed at enriching synergies between social networks, intermediate groups, family structures and local administrations; (9) devising measures aimed at raising awareness about gender ineq ualities in this field and promoting community co­responsibility and co-responsibility between men and women; (10) Obtaining complementary funding is pending, but one of the main objectives of this project, in this second call, is to strengthen alliances with externa! institutions and entities that may lead to obtaining complementary funding, which we believe will be to be able to achieve.

The issues discussed above would be even more salient in the case of vulnerable spaces in cities, in which resilience would in fact be based on recourse to social networks (Desmond, 2012; Herrera and Ibáñez, 2016; Serrano et al, 2019, Revilla, 2017), and to a large extent, on attachment to and integration within neighborhoods (Barañano, Domínguez, Sorando, 2019; Porras, Barañano and Donati, 2019). Moreover, in these vulnerable neighborhoods the possibi lity of supplementing or offsetting the support provided by these face-to-face networks through the use of remote services wou ld be hindered by the lower digital connectivity of a significant proportion of their inhabitants, especially those with lower levels of education. This last observation is grounded in the conclusions drawn from research in the five cities in the framework of the 2017 UIU/Banco Santander Call (Barañano, Pujadas, Ortiz, Di Virgilio and Kronka, Domínguez and Sorando, 2019 ; and Arroyo, Barañano and Uceda, 2019).

Lastly, the investigation plans to engage with the gender dimension of this spatial model and welfare system, marked as they are by the heightened significance of territorial location and the local dimension. This will involve analyzing the hegemonic partici pation of women in the provision of basic care responsi bi l ities considered here.