Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number



Regional Research Institute


In recent decades, increasing entrepreneurial activities among women have contributed to shifting livelihood strategies at the household, community, and regional scales. In this paper I examine home based work in an economic network to highlight the intersection of gender and economic practices in rural Appalachia. The research demonstrates that these livelihood strategies both construct and are shaped by dynamic material conditions and social processes in place. Economic restructuring in the central Appalachian region has led to the reworking of economic strategies, despite a continued reliance by households on homework and informal activities. The case study for this project as an economic network comprised of sixty home-based workers who produce knitwear for regional and national markets. In-depth interviews and extensive fieldwork are used to examine the complexity of shifting economic livelihoods in the rural Appalachian context. The analysis focuses on the (re)negotiation of gender identities by home-based workers in the context of economic restructuring. The discussion also shows how participation in these activities contributes to economic and social empowerment. Overall, this study offers a critical approach to the economy, work, and gender in a way that analyzed diverse economic practices and the construction of gender identity in a rural, economically marginalized region.