Folbre focuses on the economics of care, which she defines as, “work that involves connecting to other people, trying to help people meet their needs, things like the work of caring for children, caring for the elderly, caring for sick people or teaching is a form of caring labor,” and she adds that caring labor can be paid or unpaid. Folbre argues that mainstream economists do not pay enough attention to the economics of care. This is detrimental to women because the exclusion of non-market and care work from mainstream economic analysis can marginalize women and children and undervalue their contributions to the home and the community.
Care is a unique form of work because it is “intrinsically motivated,” in that not just money motivates people to care. Folbre argues that care work has been historically undervalued because it has been historically provided by women at low or no cost, and goes far to explain why women earn less than men. To this end, Folbre questions why women would even take care jobs and argues that the social construction of femininity links femininity and care. Folbre argues that only by working collectively to ensure a greater supply and quality of care, independent of the market, can we ensure that the responsibility of care is equitably distributed and not disproportionately placed upon women.
In her well-known book The Invisible Heart, Folbre explores the market and the individualistic competition that it engenders, and argues that the necessary care of elders and children is not provided in the market, yet is still absolutely necessary for society. Historically women have provided this care, whether as non-market work or low-paying market work. Folbre examines the social and governmental structures that support and provide for care, and their evolution throughout history. She concludes with the answer that we all have a responsibility to care for others, and provides a vision for the future in which care and care work are given greater priority and support.
Folbre has also written extensively on the social organization of time, namely the time allotted to care for children and the elderly and how family policies and social institutions limit the choices people can make between paid and unpaid work.
Folbre kept the blog 'Care Talk: coordinating research on care provision' from 2008 to 2009. She is a contributor to the New York Times Economix blog, an opportunity she has said she relishes because, "most academics spend a lot of time writing stuff that very few people will ever read."
Read more about this topic: Nancy Folbre
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