Supporting Workers by Accounting for Care
Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 5, No. 5, 2011
24 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011
Date Written: May, 25 2011
The so-called "mommy wars" suggest intractable tensions among feminist projects of relieving employed parents’ difficulties affording child-care, reversing the devaluation of unpaid care-taking, and removing the privilege accorded gendered breadwinner/caretaker divisions of labor within marriage. In contrast, this paper offers an integrated analysis of these three faces of the family wage system within U.S. social policy. It does so by grounding the analysis in means-tested cash assistance programs for low-income families with children, programs that now condition assistance on work. In this context, all three problems arise in part from poverty measurement techniques that reduce economic activity to market activity and that assume child care occurs outside markets. Both errors can be corrected by redesigning antipoverty policy to treat child care as something needed in all households with children and to treat non-market care-taking as work insofar as it helps meet that need. This approach contrasts with more established ones that either treat child-care subsidies as a "work support" meant to promote parental employment or treat nonmarket caretaking as "work" based on its value to society at large. Such analyses tend to pit employment and caretaking against one another and are poorly integrated with the rationales and techniques of antipoverty policy.
Keywords: employment law, parental employment, affordable child-care, antipoverty policies, nonmarket caretaking
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