Sergio Chávez

Dr. Sergio Chávez is an associate professor of sociology and qualitative methodologist at Rice University who specializes in domestic and international migration, economic sociology, and social networks.

Through his distinctively intensive fieldwork, Dr. Chávez builds trust and interpersonal connections with hard-to-find populations. His first book, a multi-year ethnographic project titled Border Lives (2016), leverages this access to examine the dynamic migration and working strategies border migrants and commuters employ on a daily basis in the cross-border urban environment of Tijuana. This unique access has also allowed him to make important methodological contributions; another piece of scholarship showcased the novel application of network sampling among hard-to-find populations, yielding unique data about a transnational network containing over 5,000 unique individuals.

Dr. Chávez’s current research addresses growing inequities in the storm restoration industry, which has seen significant growth in recent years due to the increase in climate-related natural disasters. This mixed methods project, a binational and multi-stage longitudinal study of migrant workers, fulfills a unique and critically understudied intersection between disaster studies, migration, and labor markets. It also provides vital information about the occupational health hazards faced by unauthorized immigrant workers, which would otherwise go unreported. In the future, Dr. Chávez plans to develop theories and methods that aim to understand how structural factors and group dynamics shape individual behaviors, particularly in the context of migrant labor.

Dr. Chávez’s research is shaped by his upbringing in California’s Salinas Valley—a place immortalized in the works of John Steinbeck—and his efforts to unravel the stories of those on the move closely echo the valley’s literary legacy. Prior to his arrival at Rice, he received his B.A. in sociology from the University of California Davis and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. He also completed a postdoctoral position at the Carolina Population Center at UNC Chapel Hill.



Sergio Chávez (2016). Border Lives: Fronterizos, Transnational Migrants, and Commuters in Tijuana. New York: Oxford University Press.


Sergio Chávez, Robert Bozick, and Jing Li (OnlineFirst) “How Housing, Job, and Legal Precarity affect the Sleep of Migrant Workers: A Mixed Methods Study.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. [link]

Sergio Chávez, Robin Paige, and Heather Edelblute (2021). “Emotion Work and Gender Inequality in Transnational Family Life.” Journal of Family Issues 44(3): 703-724. [link]

Sergio Chávez, Claire E. Altman, and Bridget K. Gorman (2021). “The Migration Decision Process among Returnees: Assessing the Risks and Benefits in Contemporary Mexico-US Migration.” Migration Studies 9(3): 1517-1535. [link]

Ashton Verdery, Ted Mouw, Heather Edelblute, and Sergio Chávez (2018). “Communication Flows in a Transnational Social Field.” Social Networks 53(May): 57-71. [link]

Ted Mouw, Sergio Chávez, Heather Edelblute, and Ashton Verdery (2014). “Binational Social Networks and Assimilation: A Test of the Importance of Transnationalism.” Social Problems, 61(3): 329-359. [link]

Research Areas

Internal and international migration, work, border studies, social networks, gender, emotions, qualitative and ethnographic methods.


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