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Sociological Forum

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 647–670 | Cite as

Race, Labor Market Disadvantage, and Survivalist Entrepreneurship: Black Women in the Urban North During the Great Depression

  • Robert L. Boyd
Article

Abstract

The resource constraint version of the disadvantage theory of entrepreneurship holds that members of destitute ethnic groups often respond to labor market exclusion by becoming “survivalist entrepreneurs,” that is, persons who start marginal businesses in response to a need to become self-employed. Applying this theory, I analyze survivalist entrepreneurship among Black women in the urban North during the Great Depression, when many Black women had to find an independent means of livelihood. I hypothesize that (1) the participation of Black women in entrepreneurial occupations, i.e., occupations that lend themselves to self-employment, was positively associated with the disadvantage of these women in the labor market and (2) Black women would be inclined to participate in those entrepreneurial occupations with low barriers to entry, namely, boarding and lodging house keeping and hairdressing and beauty culture. These occupations, according to a review of historical studies, provided northern Black women with their best opportunities for survivalist entrepreneurship. The analyses of census data support my hypotheses and suggest that the resource constraint version of the disadvantage theory of entrepreneurship is relevant to the economic adjustment strategies of northern Black women during the nation's worst employment crisis.

black women entrepreneurship Great Depression northern cities 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Boyd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social WorkMississippi State University

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