Publication Date

Spring 12-1-2014


This dissertation explores the conditions under which Dominican women invest in their own embodied capital and the embodied capital of their offspring, focusing on the tradeoffs between quantity and quality and income and stability using two different labor market economies in the Dominican Republic and in New York City. The main goals of this dissertation include three specific aims: (1) to identify different political economies and their impact on the same cultural/ethnic group, (2) to understand how access to different educational and employment opportunities influences variation in reproductive timing, considering ways in which birth control and birth spacing might facilitate delays in onset of reproduction and number of children, and (3) to understand the causes and consequences of female parental investments including the tradeoff between income and stability. A key assumption of the embodied capital theory the recognition that females face tradeoffs between investments in own embodied capital and investments in offsprings embodied capital and that the costs and benefits of parental investment may change due to the environmental context and familial and individual circumstances. Results indicate that access to educational and employment opportunities influences reproductive timing and investments in own and offspring's embodied capital although differences exist between the two populations due to economic restructuring and structural factors. In skill intensive labor markets, investments in own embodied capital and offspring's embodied capital is the result of various factors including socio-economic context, structural factors such as public funding for education and government aid such as food stamps and Medicaid, and employment and educational opportunities. My results indicate that given opportunities to invest in embodied capital and in offspring's embodied capital, Dominican women in NYC and in the Dominican Republic will invest in the education of their children. Investments in embodied capital have impacted the later onset of reproduction, differences in domestic units based on the tradeoff between income and stability, and the use of birth control and birth spacing as a coping tactic where access to employment and education is present. Different political economic contexts lead to different investment strategies in embodied capital including somatic investments in the Dominican Republic. This dissertation extends Embodied Capital Theory by illustrating the importance of contextualizing the decision making process of the same ethnic/cultural group in two highly distinct sites. This research highlights the importance of further investigation and application of theories of reproductive behavior that incorporate behavioral ecology and females as active decision makers capable of changing reproductive behavior as a response to the need for quality offspring in different political economies and changing labor market conditions.'


embodied capital theory, education, female-headed households

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First Advisor

Lancaster, Jane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lamphere, Louise

Second Committee Member

Lopez, Nancy

Third Committee Member

Field, Les

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Anthropology Commons