Noah Zatz, LAPA Fellow & UCLA Law School

Accounting for Care in the Age of Work

Mon, 04/06/2009
6-7:30 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

Please join us for a LAPA seminar with Noah Zatz, LAPA Fellow and Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA Law School. The paper he will give is called, "Accounting for Care in the Age of Work."  His commentator will be Viviana Zelizer, the Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology. 

Professor Zatz writes: Working parents' difficulties affording child-care, the devaluation of unpaid caretaking as "sitting at home doing nothing," and the privilege accorded both marriage and gendered breadwinner/caretaker divisions of labor within it – all of these are longstanding themes in feminist critique of U.S. social policy.  Often they seem mutually incompatible, as in "mommy wars" over tradeoffs between employment and caretaking.  This paper attempts an integrated analysis of these problems specifically as they arise in programs that provide means-tested cash assistance to low-income families with children and that, after the last 20 years of "welfare reform," condition this assistance on work.  I argue that all three problems have been hard-wired into means-tested programs by techniques of poverty measurement that reduce economic activity to market activity and that assume child care occurs outside markets.  Both errors can be corrected by redesigning means tests to treat child care as a basic need of all households and by treating nonmarket caretaking as work insofar as it helps meet that need.  This approach differs from those that justify child-care subsidies as "work supports" and others that designate caretaking as "work" by analogizing it to volunteerism that benefits society as a whole but doesn't help balance the family budget.  Among these differences is a greater ability to conceive feminist theory and policy that takes on all three faces of the family wage system in ways that are mutually reinforcing.

Noah Zatz is Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA Law School and comes to LAPA after a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Law School. His main scholarly interests are in employment and labor law, welfare and poverty law, work/family policy, and feminist legal theory. Zatz's research primarily explores how and why the law distinguishes work from other activities and differentiates market and nonmarket modes of organizing labor. His publications in this area have analyzed what qualifies as work under welfare work requirements, the application of labor and employment law to prison labor and other paid work that is organized outside traditional labor markets, and feminist perspectives on prostitution as sex work. For more on Noah Zatz, see his LAPA profile.

Viviana A. Zelizer is Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She specializes in historical analysis, economic processes, interpersonal relations, and childhood. She has published books on the development of life insurance, the changing economic and sentimental value of children, and on the place of money in social life. Her most recent book, The Purchase of Intimacy (Princeton University Press, 2005) deals with the interplay of economic activity and personal ties, especially intimate ties, both in everyday practice and in the law. It includes the formation of couples, the provision of personal care, and social relations within households.  For more on Viviana Zelizer, please see her LAPA profile.