Revaluation not Devaluation

Nancy Folbre
11 August 2019

I invoke a billionaire investor to call your attention to a particularly important divergence between value and price–the low wages of care.

In a recent foray to the meetings of the American Sociological Association in New York City, organized by President Mary Romero, I put together a powerpoint presentation linking the devaluation of care work to the weak bargaining power of care workers, in turn related to the specific characteristics of care work.

Sociologists tend to emphasize the highly-gendered cultural devaluation of care, along with the vulnerability of the low-wage workers (including many immigrants and people of color) who provide it. I agree these factors are important, but I think they need to be situated in a larger analysis of institutional mechanisms that affect the bargaining power of all workers. For one thing, such an analysis could help build sympathies, and perhaps even alliances, between relatively high-wage care workers such as teachers and nurses, and others, such as child care and elder care workers.

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