Chapter 26: In the Factories and on the Streets: Studying Asian and Latino Garment Workers in New York City
Margaret M. Chin This chapter examines how trust develops between respondents and researcher in a study of two types of garment shops and the women garment workers in New York City. Specifically, the research examined the Chinese who hire co-ethnics, and the Koreans who hire Mexicans, Ecuadorians, and Dominicans. The project explored immigrant garment shop owners’ and women workers’ views on who they worked with and why they worked. The study also looked at how immigrants fared in employment and how ethnicity was invoked as a resource. In the end, immigrant women workers looked for jobs that complemented their household roles as parents, providers, or overseas kin rather than just jobs with wages. Ethnic relations mattered, although not all of the time. 26.1 THE RESEARCH Although the New York City garment industry itself has been studied extensively, no comparisons exist of the Chinese, Korean, and Latino groups within the industry. Methodologically, by choosing different immigrant groups in the same industry, I was able to draw inferences about economic adaptation, the use of social ties to attain jobs, and the benefit of those jobs to the workers. My initial premise was to study the garment industry in New York City’s Chinatown. I was very interested in ethnicity and how ethnic groups and ethnic enclaves seemed to support one another. Studying just the Chinese and garment work in depth would surely have led me to interesting findings, but would the study help me understand ethnicity any better? I was intrigued and for...
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