The Site

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The Site

The Austin Metropolitan Area

This study is located in the particular local context of the larger metropolitan area of Austin. Recently named the 11th biggest city in the U.S, this area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Once provincial, known for its legislative or educational operations, in the last twenty-five years Austin has exploded as a major destination not only for immigrants from other countries, but also for Americans from all over the country. The "new immigration" has in particular increased the share of the Latino/Hispanic population who went from 23% in 1990, to 31% in 2000, to 35 in 2010. According to a recent report, Austin is ranked as the 20th largest area by Hispanic population in the country (Pew Hispanic Center 2013) With a population of 842,592, the city has become ethnically diverse. The Latino/Hispanic group has a share 35.1%, the White Anglos 48.7%, Blacks or African Americans 8.1%, and Asians 6.3% (U.S. Census Bureau 2013). Although the metropolitan area of Austin has a history of spatial segregation, that has been gradually changing. The eastern portion of the city, separated from downtown by Interstate I-35, is historically home to minority communities, a configuration established even before the highway’s completion in the early 1960s. (Straubhaar et al. 2012) The recent development efforts, combined with the massive scale of the "new immigration" and the boom of the area as a technological and innovation hub, Austin has experienced a wave of gentrification that has displaced minority populations unevenly through the city. A look at a map of the Latino/Hispanic population in Austin shows that although this group is concentrated in three major zones (80% plus): the lower east Austin, greater Dove Springs, and the St. Johns area, this population is also concentrating in several little pockets (60-80%) distributed unevenly across the city. (Robinson 2011) It is precisely in an area that contains one of these growing Latino/Hispanic clusters, where the immigrant youth from Mexican origin I am studying live and go to school.

School, Education, Demographic Stats

Freeway High School (FHS) is a large-scale public school located at the edge of the city, near what could be considered the urban fringe. The school serves a community that is racially and economically diverse. However, the majority of the population is minority (87.5%) and economically disadvantaged (60.2%). Hispanic/Latinos share the 45.2%% of a total of 2,061 students, White share 12.5%, Asian 13.7%, and African-American 25.1%. (Texas Education Agency 2010-2011) Almost half of the students (45%) classify to the Free Lunch Program, and 11% are in the Reduced-Price Lunch Program. (Propublica 2013) According to the Texas Education Agency Academic Excelence Indicator System the school had an "academically acceptable" rating in the year 2010-2011. The school provides few educational programs like Advanced Placement (AP), gifted and talented programs, and advanced math and science classes. Furthermore, very few students are enrolled in AP classes (24%), and even less are in gifted/talented programs (6%). (Propublica 2013)

Rationale for using this site for case studies and analysis

Because of its minority-majority student population, its location at the margins of the city, and its digital media oriented after school programs and elective classes, FHS and its community offered us a unique opportunity for researching the evolving social inequalities of the U.S. and the changing face of American demographics. Moreover, by studying this site we were able to investigate, on the ground and for an extended period of time, how Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth are developing new media practices, constructing multiple identities, and navigating their everyday life with the help of digital tools and networks.