Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor of urban and public policy at Northeastern University. She is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, and is working on a new book, Greenovation.

Recent Articles

Caring for Children as a Career

H igh-quality child care is the biggest missing element in welfare-to-work efforts. Despite additional funding under welfare reform, the care available to most low-income women and their children is usually custodial and unreliable. Many former welfare recipients themselves work providing child care -- at low wages in unstable employment. So upgrading child care would actually serve three related goals: It would provide a key work support for mothers. It would improve outcomes of at-risk children. And it would raise the earnings and career horizons of many people formerly on welfare, serving as a model of how to upgrade low-wage work. Unfortunately, Congress neither acknowledges the need nor provides adequate funds. The 1996 welfare law consolidated four federal child-care programs into block grants to states under the Child Care Development Fund. Total federal and state spending on child care roughly doubled between 1996 and 2000. In 2001 the fund committed $4.5 billion to child care...

Better-Paid Caregivers, Better Care

N obody is happy with the nation's nursing homes. Too many patients are receiving substandard care. Workers, particularly nurse's aides who provide the majority of direct care, suffer from low wages, lack of benefits, understaffing, inadequate training, and limited career opportunities. Families are often appalled at how their loved ones are treated. Owners and managers struggle with government reimbursements that do not allow higher pay or better treatment. Clearly, the $96.2-billion-a-year nursing home industry is failing its residents and workers. Government is deeply implicated, since the majority of nursing home bills are paid by Medicaid or Medicare. Yet the Bush administration's tax-and-budget program precludes a national strategy to upgrade nursing homes and professionalize the caregivers who work in them. States vary widely in their strategies. Massachusetts and California have made recent gains in upgrading care quality and professionalizing care. In Florida, with its large...

Ladders to a Better Life

One promising strategy for rewarding work seeks to create career ladders to enable low-wage workers to advance through a progression of higher-skilled and better-paid jobs. This approach requires several elements. Employers need to become more explicit about how they structure jobs and routes to career advancement. Workers need access to job-specific training. Institutionally, this endeavor usually requires both an intermediary, such as a community college or a union, and a supportive government strategy to fund and connect all the elements. Even so, many low-wage jobs do not logically lead to higher-paid ones, and a career-ladder strategy is a complement, not a substitute, for better pay, professionalization, and security throughout the job chain. Most career-ladder programs are organized by industrial sectors or clusters of occupations. For example, in Chicago, a community organization, Bethel New Life , is trying to move women who work as certified nursing assistants into jobs as...