Date of Graduation

Winter 12-12-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Christopher Loperena


In light of the scholarly debate surrounding the goals and mixed effects of development programs, particularly in recent years in relation to microfinance, this study investigates the effects of economic development programs on Latin American women entrepreneurs in San Francisco’s Mission District. It demonstrates that microfinance, when combined with education, can provide important non-economic benefits that contribute to increased freedoms and capabilities for immigrant women entrepreneurs. Drawing on qualitative interviews with ten business owners, as well as a review of the existing literature surrounding development, immigration, and gender, this research argues that owning a business in the US can produce enhanced freedoms and capabilities for Latin American immigrant women, including changing identities and family dynamics and increased social opportunities like education and healthcare.

This study also expands the notion of capital beyond the economic by considering how the shared cultural capital of the Latino community can contribute to a strong network of social capital among immigrant women entrepreneurs, which in turn helps to sustain their businesses and ensure their continued economic success. Several potential barriers to success that this group of immigrant women faces are the challenges of renegotiating gender norms upon transition to a new culture and joining the work force, as well as the obstacles and social stigmas associated with immigration status and citizenship rights. This study concludes that these barriers can prevent the enjoyment of other freedoms like political participation and that displacement of immigrants through gentrification also threatens economic success by devaluing established immigrant networks of social capital.