Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre is emerita professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and editor of For Love and Money: Care Provision in the U.S. (Russell Sage Foundation, 2012).

Recent Articles

What Happens When the Person Taking Care of Your Mom Can’t Earn a Living Wage?

When the Supreme Court ruled that unions could not collect dues from the home-care workers they represent, the justices set workers and their clients on a course that could harm them both.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that a key strategy used by unions to raise the earnings and professionalism of home-care workers was illegal. Since the 1990s, the labor movement has worked with states and countries to get laws or executive orders to allow home-care workers to be treated as employees of public authorities rather than as individual contractors. The result has been to allow these workers to form unions and to bargain collectively with government for better wages and working standards. In the Harris v. Quinn case, however, the Court held that workers could still unionize, but that they were not true public employees. Unions thus could not collect dues from workers who choose to remain outside the bargaining unit. The Service Employees International Union, which pioneered the strategy, took the ruling as a temporary setback but also as a challenge to redouble organizing of home-care workers. This campaign may yet succeed, but in the short run these workers will have a...

Family Unfriendly

Now we are told to add parents and children to the list of privileged groups who are getting a free ride from the government. Leading the backlash against "family friendly" social policy is Elinor Burkett's Baby Boon , which argues that nonparents shouldn't be forced to pay taxes and suffer other inconveniences to help support other people's children. "Handing out goodies to parents just because they are parents," writes Burkett, "is affirmative action--the preferential treatment of one group designed to correct real or perceived discrimination or inequality--based on reproductive choice." Philosophically, Burkett's argument is grounded in the libertarian assumption that Ayn Rand so effectively popularized: We don't have obligations to others, except the ones we freely choose, which, of course, are entirely our own responsibility. She assumes that children provide no benefits to anyone but their parents and themselves. It's as though she thinks of them as golden retriever puppies...

Leave No Child Behind?

I f there's one thing most Americans agree on, it is the ideal of giving all children a fair opportunity to succeed in life. Government programs such as Head Start and election-year slogans such as "Leave no child behind" invoke the time-honored metaphor of a contest that every child has a chance to win. The very idea of free public schooling is based on this goal--and to the extent that schools don't succeed in providing equal opportunity, they are vulnerable to criticism from liberals and conservatives alike. But we're a long way from the "opportunity society" that our Horatio Alger -style political rhetoric extols. What we have is an "inequality society." The average income of the richest 20 percent of American families, for example, amounts to about 12 times the average of those in the bottom 20 percent. Families at the bottom spend more than they bring in, accumulating debt. Families at the top spend a lower percentage of their income, saving money and accumulating wealth...