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July 2019
New York University Press

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Kids at Work

Latinx Families Selling Food on the Streets of Los Angeles
Emir Estrada

Street food markets have become wildly popular in Los Angeles — and behind the scenes, Latinx children have been instrumental in making these small informal businesses grow. In "Kids at Work," Emir Estrada shines a light on the surprising labor of these young workers, providing the first ethnography on the participation of Latinx children in street vending.

Drawing on dozens of interviews with children and their undocumented parents, as well as three years spent on the streets shadowing families at work, Estrada brings attention to the unique set of hardships Latinx youth experience in this occupation. She also highlights how these hardships can serve to cement family bonds, develop empathy toward parents, encourage hard work, and support children — and their parents — in their efforts to make a living together in the United States. "Kids at Work" provides a compassionate, up-close portrait of Latinx children, detailing the complexities and nuances of family relations when children help generate income for the household as they peddle on the streets of L.A. alongside their immigrant parents.


Emir Estrada, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, is a qualitative immigration scholar interested in the migration and incorporation aspects of immigrants from Latin America. Her research interests in immigration and gender are influenced in great part by her own immigration experience.

Praise for this book

This original, thoughtful, engaging ethnography vividly captures the texture of everyday life among immigrant children and children of immigrants who work selling food in the streets of Los Angeles. In the children's own voices, we learn about their economic contributions, lives and aspirations, but also from them about immigrant entrepreneurship, the complex dynamics in immigrant families and childhood in general. "Kids at Work" resists facile explanations and makes an enduring contribution to the immigration scholarship.

Cecilia Menjívar
Co-author of "Immigrant Families"

"Kids at Work" sheds new light on the role that children and youth play in family survival strategies in the urban commons of one of the most important immigrant metropolises of our era. This book brilliantly shows the agency of these young women and men who actively contribute to the well-being of their families. Emir Estrada has made a unique contribution to the sociology of children of immigrants, studying their lives as they work alongside their parents on the streets of Los Angeles.

Ruben Hernandez-Leon
Author of "Metropolitan Migrants: The Migration of Urban Mexicans to the United States"