Mexican immigrants and informal self-employment in Chicago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research is based on a case study of ethnic entrepreneurship in Little Village, a predominantly Mexican community in Chicago. The study focuses on Mexicans, who have been understudied in the field of ethnic entrepreneurship. Instead of focusing on individuals who operate storefront businesses, this paper addresses informal self-employment, a neglected issue in studies concerning immigrants' incorporation into the labor market of the host society. By broadening the scope of the study to include not only business owners, but a full range of self-employment activities among Little Village residents, such as street vending, house repairs, and baby-sitting, this study dispels myths about the low propensity for self-employment among Mexicans and reveals the complexity of self-employment as a form of economic activity. This consideration is particularly important for immigrant women, who often supplement family income through informal self-employment. The data also confirm that most self-employment remains marginal. Given the precarious situation of Mexican immigrants in the host labor market, many individuals become informally self-employed when they lose their jobs. Informal self-employment provides incomes for people whose social circumstances (undocumented status or low education) deny them access to paid jobs and supplements incomes of low-wage salaried workers (moonlighters).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Chicago
  • Informal economy
  • Mexican immigrants
  • Self-employment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Mexican immigrants and informal self-employment in Chicago'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this