How Latinx kids and their undocumented parents struggle in the informal street food economy
Street food markets have become wildly popular in Los Angeles—and behind the scenes, Latinx children have been instrumental in making these small informal businesses grow. In Kids at Work, Emir Estrada shines a light on the surprising labor of these young workers, providing the first ethnography on the participation of Latinx children in street vending.
Drawing on dozens of interviews with children and their undocumented parents, as well as three years spent on the streets shadowing families at work, Estrada brings attention to the unique set of hardships Latinx youth experience in this occupation. She also highlights how these hardships can serve to cement family bonds, develop empathy towards parents, encourage hard work, and support children—and their parents—in their efforts to make a living together in the United States. Kids at Work provides a compassionate, up-close portrait of Latinx children, detailing the complexities and nuances of family relations when children help generate income for the household as they peddle the streets of LA alongside their immigrant parents.
"This original, thoughtful, engaging ethnography vividly captures the texture of everyday life among immigrant children and children of immigrants who work selling food in the streets of Los Angeles. In the childrens own voices, we learn about their economic contributions, their lives, and aspirations, but also from them about immigrant entrepreneurship, the complex dynamics in immigrant families, and childhood in general. Kids at Work resists facile explanations and makes an enduring contribution to the immigration scholarship. Indispensable reading for anyone interested in immigrant families." ~Cecilia Menjívar,co-author of Immigrant Families
"Emir Estradas insightful ethnography reveals the complexity of the household economy of undocumented and mixed-status families in Los Angeles, from the standpoint of children who work as street vendors. Kids at Work forces a reconsideration of traditional notions of childhood, family relations, and work, by demonstrating how children with their own agency and decision-making capacity enter into mutually supportive and protective family and work arrangements with their parents to make ends meet. In the context of a highly-stratified economy and society, where race, illegality, class, and gender intersect to shape unequal life chances, Estradas ground-breaking book uncovers the central and indispensable role that children play as co-contributors to the household economy of our most vulnerable families." ~Zulema Valdez,author of Entrepreneurs and the Search for the American Dream
"Estrada balances methodological rigor with great empathylikely partially rooted in her own experiences as a teen vendorto develop a deeply insightful and nuanced analysis of the lives of immigrant children street vendors in Los Angeles. Written clearly and accessibly, the book reveals the structural context in which vending becomes necessary, while underscoring the childrens agency that allows them to find meaning in the work they do to help support their families and their own aspirations. Kids at Work will make readers not only notice, but also appreciate youth whose public labor challenges social notions of childhood in powerfully gendered and racialized ways." ~Leisy J. Abrego,author of Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders
"Kids at Work sheds new light on the role that children and youth play in family survival strategies in the urban commons of one of the most important immigrant metropolis of our era. This book brilliantly shows the agency of these young women and men who actively contribute to the well-being of their families. Emir Estrada has made a unique contribution to the sociology of children of immigrants, studying their lives as they work alongside their parents on the streets of Los Angeles." ~Ruben Hernandez-Leon,author of Metropolitan Migrants: The Migration of Urban Mexicans to the United States