Origins of Informality: Examining the Historical and Spatial Roots of Informal Day-Labor Hiring Sites.

Crotty, Sean M. 

In Temporary Appropriation in Cities, pp. 127-146. Springer, Cham, 2020.


Informal day-labor hiring sites, public and semi-spaces where (mostly) men wait to be hired for short-term work, are found in cities throughout the United States. The daily-appropriation of space for labor-seeking is not a new phenomenon, however media and academic accounts of day-labor hiring sites almost exclusively focus on the contingent nature of laborers’ employment to suggest that this use of space is socially unsustainable. Despite the fact that day-labor is a spatial means of employment-seeking, the process by which particular spaces are selected for day-labor hiring sites remains almost entirely unexamined. Drawing on more than five years of mixed-methods research in the San Diego Metropolitan Area, I examine the places where hiring sites operate to demonstrate the linkages between neighborhood characteristics and the establishment of day-labor hiring sites. Ethnographic data further supports an argument that hiring sites exhibit a high-degree of locational “stickiness,” due to the historical, economic, and emotional content embedded in each site through the production of space. The paper concludes by examining the specific ways that laborers and other stakeholders interact to ensure that access to space is maintained and in so doing, foster relationships that produce socially-sustainable outcomes for day-laborers and their neighbors.

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