Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Angela Stuesse, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Tara Deubel, Ph.D.


anthropology, banking, financial industry, financial literacy, microfinance, migrant workers


Migrant farmworkers' social and economic mobility is frequently constrained through the denial of basic resources, such as access to the formal financial sector. This thesis ethnographically examines banking policies as they apply to low-income, mobile, populations that temporarily reside in Florida. It utilizes participant observation, interviews, and participatory mapping with migrant farmworkers. It also considers how policymakers and service providers in the formal and informal financial sectors rationalize control of resources and the effects on mobile populations. Particular attention is paid to adaptive practices in the alternative financial sector – cash checking services, carrying cash, and remittances. By utilizing the lens of activist anthropology and anthropology of policy and incorporating theoretical frameworks of neoliberalism, debt and credit, bare life, and economic socialization theory the thesis explores how society has been shaped around managing debt and building credit. It examines how structural inequities restrict banking resources from those who lack full personhood or citizenship. This thesis uncovers the paradox that while banking is a vital resource in establishing full participation in United States society, it remains largely inaccessible to migrant workers, particularly the undocumented. The financial sectors’ neoliberal model has effectively barred low-income, mobile populations through the erasure of small deposit accounts and increased scrutiny of customers. Migrant workers face corporeal and economic mobility difficulties, which depreciate their low wages even farther. The United States’ current financial industry violates second generation human rights as codified in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) [particularly article six], and also in Articles 23-29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) as the Unbanked and underbanked cannot access their own money. I recommend providing better financial literacy education that considers challenges faced by unbanked and underbanked migrant workers and microfinance opportunities to substitute the lack of small-deposit accounts, particularly individual development accounts.