THE BROAD IMPACT OF LABOR ON THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE IS CENTRAL TO any thorough discussion of class. Work affects the natural environment, local infrastructures, transnational processes, and access to resources, prestige, and social identity. Work is the primary factor in determining how socioeconomic status is perceived and experienced. This chapter looks at income generation among the women and men that participated in this study from a perspective that will illuminate historical continuities and divergences from past patterns.
Obtaining information on individual’s earnings was an important but elusive goal in my research design. Few women and men conveyed the exact amount of their earnings to me and as I indicate in chapter one, in accordance with the social taboo against openly divulging this kind of information, I did not directly question the project participants about the specifics of their salaries. Instead I made estimates about their earnings through indirect information.
I considered the range incomes associated with particular occupations based on the sector of the economy in which the person was involved. I was mindful of comments or complaints made about personal finances, and would initiate informal discussions about money and spending. In some instances, we talked about budgeting and plans for major expenditures. I carefully observed both the appearance of each household I visited and individual attire to gain insight into what these may indicate about earnings. It is because of these existing and self-imposed limitations that I present my discussion of income in a more general way. The strategies I used precluded the generation of hard numbers.