I have worked a lot on the reality that women and particularly women of color are more likely to age into poverty. I was fortunate enough to work on two separate papers on what the drivers of poverty are for older women. And one primary driver is caregiving. Caregiving is typically unpaid – whether it is for children or for older adults or people with disabilities. And it’s predominately women who do this work. We take out time from the workforce. Or reduce our hours. And even if we do not take time off work, we are paid less than men when we become mothers – men on the other hand are paid more when they become fathers. The end result is that women earn less and are unable to pay as much into retirement savings. On average, a woman has $300 less a month in retirement than men. For women of color, it’s $400 a month less.
Caregiving is what holds our society together. We see that so acutely now. Schools closing mean we have lost the biggest source of caregiving we all rely on. Essential workers or those who have lost their jobs face even more significant stress. It’s caregivers in hospitals keeping us alive and caregivers in nursing homes and other congregate care settings that are fighting every day to save the lives of older adults and people with disabilities working for less than $12 an hour. It’s caregivers going into homes and helping people cook their meals, get dressed, and go to the bathroom. Despite the enormous value they have, our system and policies are devaluing. They ensure women age into poverty. Enormous reform is needed – universal paid leave; paying caregivers a wage that matches that of the value of the work being done – from early childhood care, to school teachers, to caregivers in nursing homes. The solutions are there, but the political will is not – and the reason why it’s not is because it’s women of color who are most harmed by the status quo. Systems of policies built on each other to maintain racial and gender power.
On mother’s day weekend when we all turn to celebrating women and the moms in our lives and how they have cared for us, I wish that celebration would take the form of calling our legislators and demanding that our systems valued caregiving as much as our Hallmark cards or Facebook and Instagram posts profess.
This week in good…
Our jasmine is in full bloom and it smells divine.
We recognized caregiving at work with our best muscle flex (I have zero muscles).
This weekend, trails in LA opened for hiking again with mask wearing, so Jake and I went to Elysian Park for a hike. And then drove all through the city. Being able to drive from Silver Lake through Hollywood to Beverly Hills and back home in less than hour is worth noting.
And celebrated my mom and Jake’s mom – here are a few pics of my mom :)