Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bruce Bagley

Second Committee Member

Ruth Reitan

Third Committee Member

Ambler Moss

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Weisskoff


Among the ever-growing studies on globalization and economic development, research studies focused on specific women's issues are few and far between. An increasing concentration of immigrant women in the ethnic markets across the United States has raised interest into the motivation and rationality behind these women in choosing this entrepreneurial niche as a main venue to enter the labor market in the North American economy. The implications of this phenomenon, both for the women involved and for the local economy, need to be ascertained and analyzed. This dissertation is a case study that uses the ethnographic method and several ethnographic techniques, such as archival research, focus groups, participant observation, and in-depth interviews, as means of exploring this research problem. The main goal of this study is to investigate the socio-economic relationship between immigrant women from Latin America and the Caribbean and The Redland Harvest Market Village in South Dade County, Florida. It seeks to understand why these immigrant women choose this ethnic market as a venue to enter the local labor market. This study examines the impact upon these women's livelihoods caused by their participation in the ethnic market as well as the ethnic market itself as a modifier of both immigrant women's relations of class, ethnicity and gender; and of the local economy framed within the Cuban economic enclave. This case study is guided by the following research questions. Do immigrant women improve their socio-economic status via incorporation into the ethnic market? Do immigrant women increase their sense of "empowerment" and "well-being" via incorporation into the ethnic market? Employing primary data, including 36 in-depth interviews of immigrant women working in The Redland Harvest Market Village in South Dade County, Florida, this case study identifies a variety of socio-economic elements that allowed for the separation of the findings into two conclusion sets: analytical and theoretical. Within the analytical conclusions, this case study points out several socio-economic variables. Immigrant women's livelihood is identified as the unit of analysis and its components are the main independent variables. Income is identified as the main dependent variable to modify the independent variables. At The Redland Harvest Market Village, immigrant women participate under certain conditions that limit their production value. Only Cash transactions and the low market value of the commodities offered in this ethnic market, yield a very limited income that constrains these women to a marginal and alternative subdivision of the informal sector within the local economy. However, this participation allows them to acquire some retailing skills useful in future entrepreneur ventures. In their private sphere, these women experience a perceivable gain in decision-making power within their family structure, despite obtaining limited financial independence. Within the theoretical conclusions, this study reveals similar levels of variation consistent with previous studies of female immigrants groups in the U.S. These women's socio-economic livelihood categories of ethnicity, class, educational level, labor skills and family structure hold patterns of similitude with women involved in zones of mass production in Southeast Asia and those working in the Maquiladora model of mass production on the U.S. Mexican border. The benefits obtained by these women from their participation in The Redland Harvest Market Village can be measured in terms of their gains in the degree of financial independence, decision-making, spatial mobility, and voice. The process of empowerment is completed through the creation of agency in these women livelihoods; an inventory of their capabilities or potentialities to live their life; and the actual funtionings or achievements of their capabilities. The sense of well-being and empowerment achieved through the introduction of a socio-economic modifier, such as earned income, is noticeable in the change in these women's disposition toward their role as individuals, wives, and mothers living within the community.


Immigrant Women; Socio-economic Variables; Livelihood; Ethnicity; Class; Agency; Gender; Economic Niches; Economic Enclaves.; Empowerment; Ethnic Market