This article explores the variable, contextual nature of drug dealing as an economic activity. It juxtaposes Steven Levitt and Sudhir Venkatesh's (2000) wellknown study of the finances of a drug-dealing gang in Chicago with an analogous investigation carried out in Managua. It highlights how diff erences in the labor market contribute to individuals associated with drug dealing in Managua earning much more than the median local wage, in stark contrast to the situation famously described in Chicago. These disparities can be linked on the one hand to the more decentralized organization of the drug trade in Nicaragua and the fact that drug dealing was more of a specialist activity, and on the other to the fundamentally diff erent broader political economies of the United States and Nicaragua.