The Tax-Invisible Labor Problem: Care, Work, Kinship, and Income Security Programs in the IRC

102 B.U. L. Rev. ____ (2022, Forthcoming)

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1755

42 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2022 Last revised: 14 Oct 2022

See all articles by Nyamagaga Gondwe

Nyamagaga Gondwe

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: September 4, 2022


Since the mid-1990s, American financial assistance programs have increasingly shifted to require evidence of labor market participation as a criteria for eligibility. This shift signals a change from previous welfare programs that were distributed principally based on unmet material need. The shift from need-based to income-tested income security programs has been lauded for increasing labor force participation. But in this shift, income security programs have failed to account for the labor of non-market care workers. These care workers, whose household production is a fundamental component of market life, experience both economic insolvency and tax-invisibility in the face of assistance systems that do not recognize care work as eligible labor. Because care work disproportionately falls to women in American homes, income-tested financial assistance programs place an outsized strain women's economic lives. In this Article, I argue that income security programs that fail to recognize non-market care labor undermine women's economic autonomy by constraining women's personal labor choices. I propose that if financial assistance programs continue to require evidence of labor, then those programs should account for non-market labor as having equal status with market-based labor. Policymakers can use time-use surveys that record women's time spent on household production as a way to recognize household production labor in administering tax-based income security programs.

Keywords: tax, welfare, labor, race, gender, domestic labor, household production, inequality

Suggested Citation

Gondwe, Nyamagaga, The Tax-Invisible Labor Problem: Care, Work, Kinship, and Income Security Programs in the IRC (September 4, 2022). 102 B.U. L. Rev. ____ (2022, Forthcoming), Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1755, Available at SSRN:

Nyamagaga Gondwe (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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