"Keeping it in the family" : domestic labor, business inheritance, and self-employment among women in Zacatecas, Mexico



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Drawing on interviews with 31 self-employed women in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, this paper illustrates the processes by which daughters are transferred skills, resources, and economic activities from their mothers. My research shows that daughters enter into self-employment through a process I refer to as “parallel inheritance” whereby daughters participate in their mothers’ businesses from a young age as part of their gendered household responsibilities. Given limited formal employment opportunities, daughters take on their mothers’ businesses despite their advanced educational credentials. I adopt anthropologist Deniz Kandiyoti’s (1988) concept of the “patriarchal bargain” to highlight the reliance of mothers on their daughters’ labor in their households and businesses. Mothers encourage their daughters to continue and increase their participation in “family businesses” by reminding them of their responsibilities as “good daughters” and by invoking the importance of family duty and legacy. In turn, daughters express feelings of ambivalence and burden towards the enterprises they have inherited. This paper builds on feminist and economic sociological literatures by shedding light on the ways by which women’s self-employed practices shape and are shaped by their negotiations with household members.