Maria Rein

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2011

Capstone Advisor

Susan H. Gensemer

Honors Reader

Gladys McCormick

Capstone Major

International Relations

Capstone College

Citizenship and Public Affairs

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies | Latin American Studies


My project addresses the issues surrounding the informal economy in Latin America specifically as it pertains to Latin American women. Though my biggest difficulty was the lack of official statistics of an informal economy, I was able to perform my research through an in depth analysis of many other documents concerning social, cultural, economic and political factors. The first part of my research addressed the definition of an informal economy and how it is measured. Importantly, it distinguishes between an “illegal” informal economy and a “proper” informal economy, with most of my research relating to the “proper” informal economy. I then discussed how the informal economy is not a new phenomenon in Latin America and how its roots and existence can be traced back to colonialism and throughout the rest of its history. I also included three major perspectives of the causes and nature of the modern informal economy now seen in Latin America.

After evaluating the informal economy itself, I then analyzed the roles of women in the informal economy and how women are forced into the informal economy, whether directly or indirectly, and come to dominate the sector at a highly disproportionate level in comparison to men. I also outlined the typical jobs women perform in the sector and moved on to briefly compare the situation of women and men in the informal sector, accounting for the significant gender issues relevant to my paper. Overall, I analyzed these differences and the role of women in the informal sector according to a social institutions model developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In addition, in order to overcome the generalities and similarities seen between most countries in Latin America concerning women and the informal economy that I had utilized with a gendered lens for this paper, I addressed the issue further through two case studies to account for geographical variations. The first case study analyzed Chile, no longer a developing country, and the second case study analyzed Nicaragua, a developing country and one of the poorest in the world. This comparison allowed me to once again trace similarities in the region but also to analyze differences in the informal economy and situation in women across countries in the region.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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