Mona Harrington is a lawyer, political scientist, and writer. Her article in this issue is adapted from her book Care and Equality: Inventing a New Liberal Family Politics. Previous books include The Dream of Deliverance in American Politics and Women Lawyers: Rewriting the Rules.
Women used to do all the unpaid work of caring for the kids of aging parents. Although career barriers have fallen, women won't have real equal opportunity until America recognizes its crisis of caring.
Our family care system is collapsing. When it worked well, it depended on the unpaid labor of women at home. Now that we've lost a great part of that labor force and only marginally replaced it, our society has no new philosophic consensus for an economic system that would support families as care providers. But there is a further element to the problem. As our care system has depended on the unpaid labor of women, it has depended on women's inequality, and it still does, although in new guises.