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Gender and Household Economic Strategies in Rural Appalachia

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In recent decades, many Appalachian households have experienced declining incomes due to the loss of traditional male jobs in the mining and manufacturing sectors. One response to this decline has been an increase in female employment in formal sector activities. Another response is homework, or the home-based production of goods and services for sale in the formal and informal sectors. In rural Appalachia, where formal jobs are often unavailable or inadequate to support a household, many women are engaging in homework as an economic strategy. Consequently, economic restructuring cannot be fully understood without analyzing household strategies and gender relations. This paper examines the intersection of gender, households, and economic restructuring as it relates to women's homework and employment shifts in rural Appalachia. Research for this paper entailed qualitative interviews with 50 West Virginia women who are engaged in the home-based production of goods and services. The study analyzes the variety of homework activities done by rural women, their contribution to household incomes, and the effect of these activities on gender relations and divisions of labor in the home. The research forwarded in this study advances a conceptual understanding of household economic strategies and has some practical applications for women and economic development in underdeveloped regions .

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 1995

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