Avelardo Valdez

Contact Information
City Center
Department of Study 
Adults and Healthy Aging
Research Interest 
Behavioral Health
Social Development/Policy
Substance Abuse
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979
MA, University of California, Los Angeles, 1976
MA, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1972
BA, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1969

AVELARDO VALDEZ is currently a professor. He was previously a professor at the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston and Director of the Center for Drug & Social Policy Research. He obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A primary focus of his research has been on the relationship between substance abuse and violence and health issues among high-risk groups. His research projects have been among “hidden populations” such as youth and prison gang members, injecting and non-injecting heroin users and sex workers on the U.S./Mexico border. He has published over 75 journal articles and chapters and academic publications including two books. His most recent book is entitled Mexican American Girls and Gang Violence: Beyond Risk (2007). 

He is a recipient of federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  His current NIH funded grant focuses on examining the long-term consequences of adolescent gang membership among Mexican Americans in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Valdez is also a recipient of a NIDA Minority Institution Drug Abuse Research Development Program grant and a NIDA Interdisciplinary Research Training Institute on Hispanic Drug Abuse.

Dr. Valdez received the Award for Excellence in Mentorship from the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (NHSN) for his role in directing the NHSN Summer Training Institute. He is the recipient of numerous other awards including the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Scott Geer Award for Post Graduate Achievement in Advancing Understanding of Urban Social Institutions.  He is a founding member of the NHSN National Steering Committee.  He is a recent recipient (2009) of the Senior Scholar Award for the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Drinking and Drugs Division.

As an undergraduate student in the 1960s, Dr. Avelardo Valdez found himself drawn to the social movement and political activism of the era. Studying social work at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, seemed like a natural path to take. “I was attracted to social work because of the social justice orientation, especially compared to other disciplines,” he says. As his scholarship progressed into a decades-long research career, Valdez has maintained his early interest in marginalized populations.

After earning his undergraduate degree in 1969, Valdez spent several years as a community activist and labor organizer in Milwaukee, Miami and New York. He returned to academia to earn master’s degrees in urban affairs and sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and UCLA, respectively, as well as a doctorate in sociology from UCLA. Valdez took a position at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he spent 22 years teaching sociology courses and conducting research, largely on Mexican-origin populations and other minorities.

His focus shifted somewhat when he received a Fulbright fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico in Mexico City. As he taught courses and conducted research among highly marginalized urban communities with significant substance abuse problems, Valdez became interested in the interplay between context and culture, as well as drug use and HIV/AIDS. Upon his return to Texas, he quickly delved into related research with a focus on cities in the Southwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

As Valdez began to acquire grants from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, he started exploring the world of youth gangs and other vulnerable populations, such as heroin-injecting users and sex workers. Throughout his research, however, Valdez maintained an overarching focus on the relationship between social behavior and health consequences. One ongoing study has followed a group of young gang members from San Antonio, beginning with an initial interview in 1995 and tracing their path through drug use, crime, incarceration and violence. The project is one of the first longitudinal studies to examine the health consequences and social factors of the gang lifestyle.

Valdez joined the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Social Work in 2001, where he also served as director of the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research, until his move to the USC School of Social Work in 2011. Two members of his research team in Houston, Dr. Charles Kaplan and Dr. Alice Cepeda, also transitioned to USC, and together they plan to build upon previous work, using their ability to build strong relationships with community partners and reach hidden or difficult-to-reach populations. “Hopefully we’ll be able to use those skills and enhance them here at USC,” he says.

Awards and Distinction
National Committe Member on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration, Member, National Academy of Sciences (2012)
National Award of Excellence Senior Research Scientist, National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (2009)
Senior Scholar Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Drinking and Drugs Division (2009)
National Award of Excellence for Mentoring, National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (2006)
Scott Greer Award, Postgraduate Achievement in Advancing Understanding of Urban Social Institutions, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Urban Studies Program (2005)
Visiting Scholar, The University of Houston Department of Sociology and Mexican American Studies (1992-1993)
Fulbright Scholar, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, ENEP, Acatlan and La Universidad Autonoma (1987-1988)
More awards
Selected Publications

Torres, L., Kaplan, C.D. & Valdez, A. (2011). Health Consequences among Aging Mexican American Heroin Users. Journal of Aging and Health, 23(6), 912-932.

Valdez, A., Neaigus, A., Kaplan, C.D. & Cepeda, A. (2011). High Rates of Transitions to Injecting Drug Use among Mexican American Noninjecting Heroin Users in San Antonio. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 114, 233-236.

Cepeda, A., Kaplan, C., Saint Onge, J.M. & Valdez, A. (2010). The Association Between Disaster-Related Experiences and Mental Health Outcomes Among Drug Using African American Hurricane Katrina Evacuees.Journal of Community Mental Health, 46(6), 612-620.

Cepeda, A. & Valdez, A. (2010). Ethnographic Strategies in the Tracking and Retention of Street Recruited Community-Based Samples of Substance Using Hidden Populations in Longitudinal Studies. Journal of Substance Use and Misuse, 45(5), 700-716.

Cepeda, A., Valdez, A., Kaplan, C.D. & Hill, L. (2010). Patterns of substance use among Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston, Texas. Disasters: The Journal of Disaster Studies Policy and Management, 34(2), 426-446.

Valdez, A., Cepeda, A., Negi, N. & Kaplan, C. (2010). Fumando La Piedras: Emerging Patterns of Crack Use among Latino Immigrant Day Laborers in New Orleans. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 12(5), 737-742.

Valdez, A., Cepeda, A. & Kaplan, C. (2009). Homicidal Events among Mexican American Street Gangs: A Situational Analysis. Homicide Studies, 13(3), 288-306.

Valdez, A., Cepeda, A., Neaigus, A. & Russell, A. (2008). Heroin Transition Risk among Daily and Non-Daily Marijuana Users who are Non-Injectors of Heroin. International Journal of Drug Policy, 19, 442-449.

Valdez, A. (2007). Mexican American Girls and Gang Violence Beyond Risk. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Valdez, A. & Kaplan, C.D. (2007). Conditions That Increase Drug Market Involvement: The Invitational Edge and The Case Of Mexicans In South Texas. Journal of Drug Issues, 37(4), 893-917.

Valdez, A., Neaigus, A. & Kaplan, C.D. (2007). The Influence Of Family And Peer Risk Networks On Drug Use Practices And Other Risks Among Mexican American Non Injecting Heroin Users. Risks Among Mexican American Non Injecting Heroin Users, 37(1), 79-107.

Valdez, A., Kaplan, C.D. & Curtis, R.L. (2007). Aggressive Crime Alcohol And Drug Use And Concentrated Poverty In 24 U.S. Urban Areas. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Use, 33(4), 595-603.

Valdez, A., Neaigus, A. & Cepeda, A. (2007). Potential Risk Factors for Transitioning to Injecting among Mexican American Non-Injecting Heroin Users. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 6(2), 49-73.

Valdez, A. (2007). Machismo. Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, 2(G-R), 271-274.

Valdez, A., Mikow, J. & Cepeda, A. (2006). The Role of Stress Family Coping Ethnic Identity and Mother-Daughter Relationships on Substance Use among Gang Affiliated Hispanic Females. Journal of Social Work Addictions, 6(4), 31-54.

Cervantes, R., Duenas, N., Valdez, A. & Kaplan, C. (2006). Measuring Violence Risk and Outcomes among Mexican American Adolescent Females.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(1), 24-41.

Valdez, A., Kaplan, C.D. & Cepeda, A. (2006). The Drugs-Violence Nexus among Mexican-American Gang Members. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 38(2), 109-121.

Warner, L.A., Valdez, A., Vega, W.A., de la Rosa, M., Turner, R.J. & Canino, G. (2006). Hispanic drug abuse in an evolving cultural context An agenda for research. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 84(S1), S8-S16.

Valdez, A. (2005). Mexican American Youth and Adult Prison Gangs in a Changing Heroin Market. Journal of Drug Issues, 35(4), 842-867.

Valdez, A., Kaplan, C.D., Cepeda, A. & Mata, A.G. (2005). Precocious Transitions and Substance Use Patterns among Mexican American Gang Members: A Correlation Analysis. Free Inquiry in Creative Sociolgy, 33(1), 51-62.

Valdez, A. & Flores, R. (2005). A Situational Analysis of Dating Violence Among Mexican American Females Associated with Street Gangs.Sociological Focus, 38(2), 95-114.

Petersen, R. & Valdez, A. (2005). Based Methods in Hidden Populations to Generate a Randomized Community Sample of Gang Affiliated Adolescents.Youth Violence and Juvenile justice, 3(2), 151-167.

Valdez, A. & Petersen, R.D. (2005). Using Snowball Based Methods in Hidden Populations to Generate a Randomized Community Sample of Gang Affiliated Adolescents. Youth Violence and Juvenile justice, 3(2), 151-167.

Cepeda, A. & Valdez, A. (2004). Sex Work, High Risk Sexual Behavior and Injecting Drug Use on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Nuevo Laredo. Journal of Border Health, 7(1), 84-94.

Petersen, R. & Valdez, A. (2004). Intimate Partner Violence among Mexican American Adolescent Females. Journal of Ethnicity and Criminal Justice, 2(1/2), 67-89.

Valdez, A. & Sifaneck, S.J. (2004). "Getting High and Getting By": Dimensions of Drug Selling Behaviors among American Mexican Gang Members in South Texas. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 41(1), 82-105.

Cepeda, A. & Valdez, A. (2003). Risk Behaviors among Young Mexican American Gang-Associated Females: Sexual Relations Partying, Substance Use and Crime. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18(1), 90-106.