April 30, 2015 | Interview
  • Intro Text: Nancy Folbre, Professor Emerita of Economics at UMass Amherst, is the Director of the PERI Program on Gender and Care Work. Here, she speaks with PERI about her research, and her goals for the new program. 
  • Type of publication: Interview
  • Research or In The Media: Commentary
  • Research Area: Gender and Care Work
  • Publication Date: 2015-04-30
  • Authors:
    • Add Authors: Nancy Folbre
  • Show in Front Page Modules: Yes
  • Publisher: PERI In Focus
Nancy Folbre on PERI's Program on Gender and Care Work

What is the focus of the new PERI Program on Gender and Care Work?

The new program will be pursuing a research agenda focusing on the links between gender, inequality, and work (both unpaid and paid) that involves direct care for others. This is work that typically involves personal connection and affection, where concern for the well being of the care recipient is likely to affect the quality of services provided. How are these forms of work organized? What are the consequences for care providers? How can we measure and assess the value of care work to society? 

How did it come about?

The program builds on my earlier experiences coordinating a research network on the Family and the Economy for the MacArthur Foundation, and a Working Group on Care Work for the Russell Sage Foundation. Now that I have officially retired from teaching at UMass, I have more time to devote to research, and am excited about the possibilities for interdisciplinary and international collaboration. Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein have long been supportive of this care work agenda, and I am thrilled that PERI will now provide an institutional platform for it.

What are your goals for the program?

Care work has now become the rubric for a broad range of efforts to bring insights of feminist theory into political economy. Women provide the bulk of unpaid care within families and communities, and are also highly concentrated in caring occupations such as teaching, nursing, child care, and elder care.

Our research will explore a number of theoretical and empirical questions, including the contribution that unpaid care makes to living standards and the development of human capabilities. Development of a better understanding of the links between care work and income inequality will be a high priority. Related public policy issues include work/family benefits, taxation and government transfers based on care responsibilities, and improved compensation for low-wage care workers. 

How will other economists participate in the Program on Gender and Care Work?

We anticipate that both graduate students at UMass and other academics will be involved in the program. Recent collaborators include John Schmitt of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Randy Albelda from UMass-Boston, and Sara Cantillon of Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland.

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