The Intersection of Work and Gender: Central American Immigrant Women and Employment in California

Cecilia Menjívar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


This article examines the intersection of U.S. employment and gender relations in the family lives of Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrant women and how immigration experiences affect gendered perceptions of work. It is based on intensive interviews with 26 Salvadoran women in San Francisco and 25 Guatemalan-ladinas and indigenous women in Los Angeles, complemented with ethnographic observations. The study shows that immigration affects gender relations, sometimes transforming and other times affirming them. Such changes do not depend automatically on entering paid work but on important social processes of working outside the home in the new context. A partial explanation can be found in the interaction between the structure of opportunity that these Central Americans encounter and their own social position, such as their ethnicity and class. This analysis prevents a universalizing of the employment experiences of immigrant women and a portrayal of these women's experiences in simple or unidirectional terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-627
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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