Precarious Entrepreneurship: Day Laborers in the US Southwest Academic Article uri icon


  • With the advent of globalization, neoliberalism, and immigration policy reforms that enlarged the non-White workforce in the United States, precarious employmentwork that is contingent, risky, and socially stratifiedhas increased dramatically. The 2008 Great Recession exacerbated labor market uncertainty, deepening the demand for precarious labor. These same structural forces have conditioned a rise in precarious entrepreneurship in the informal economy; yet little is known about how precarity is experienced among survival entrepreneurs or its effects on their entrepreneurial outcomes. This study uses unique ethnosurvey data collected between 2012 and 2018 on 116 street corner day laborers in Texas, a state in the Southwest region of the United States, to investigate these relationships. In the context of a more precarious economy, findings reveal that undocumented Latino immigrant men continue to dominate day labor activity; however, the expanding supply and demand for day laborers has resulted in a more diverse day labor pool that includes legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and U.S.-born citizens, including Black and White Americans. At the same time, day labor remains a bad job characterized by exploitive and abusive working conditions and low hourly income. That said Latino immigrant day laborers are subject to a distinct process of criminalization and racialization that conditions a lower hourly income for this group, regardless of legal status. Findings suggest that day labor is a form of precarious entrepreneurship that is polarized by race and nativity.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Valdez, Z., Plankey-Videla, N., Murga, A. L., Menchaca, A. C., & Barahona, C.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Valdez, Zulema||Plankey-Videla, Nancy||Murga, Aurelia Lorena||Menchaca, Angelica C||Barahona, Cindy

publication date

  • February 2019