Economic Informality on the U.S.-Mexican Border: A (Re)View from South Texas

Michael J. Pisani, Chad Richardson, J. Michael Patrick


In this paper, we review and extend previous work on U.S.-Mexico border economic informality with a special focus on the South Texas borderlands. Specifically, we offer three conceptual models of economic informality relevant to South Texas: 1) the informal marketplace at the border; 2) the confluence of (in)formality through the possession of different forms of personal documentation including the relationship between earnings and individual documentation; and 3) the graduation of informality to formality as informal firms mature (and grow) over time. Each of these models is supported with fieldwork, extended interviews, and case studies from the region. We conclude with a call for further research initiatives based upon the conceptual models proposed and offer methodological suggestions in the conduct of borderlands research on economic informality.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229