Conceptualizing the Foundation of Inequalities in Care Work

Mary Romero, Nancy Pérez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, social science researchers in the area of feminism, labor, immigration, and family have written extensively on the care work crisis and globalized care work. Depending on how broadly care work is conceived, these writings emphasize unique aspects of gender, race, class, and/or citizenship inequalities. Second wave of feminist perspectives, for instance, identify housework and most work culturally defined as “women’s work”—including all paid health occupations dominated by women, such as nurses, direct care workers, and hospital workers but also possibly even health, education, and social service occupations—as central to gender subordination. Another important research stream, focusing on domestic labor as women’s work, but recognizing its traditional outsourcing to slaves, servants, and later employees, highlights the complexities of the inequality generated, not only in terms of gender but race, class, and citizenship as well. Bringing these two bodies of literature together in conversation initially pointed to the inaccurate assumption that care work was valued when it became wage labor. The paid labor of domestics, nannies, and elderly care workers, however, remains deeply devalued, most often with those with limited options entering the profession. This article both assesses contradictions within dominant approaches to care work and highlights the cultural and political foundations of the very inequalities that domestic care workers experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-188
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • care work
  • inequality
  • intersectionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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