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Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State


  • Boris, Eileen

    (Professor of History and Women's Studies at UC-Santa Barbara)

  • Klein, Jennifer

    (Assistant Professor of History at Yale University)


Through a sweeping analytical narrative, from the Great Depression of the 1930s to the Great Recession of today, Caring for America shows how law and social policy shaped home care into a low-wage job, stigmatized as part of public welfare, primarily funded through Medicaid, and relegated to the bottom of the medical hierarchy. Care work became a job for African American and immigrant women that kept them in poverty, while providing independence from institutionalization for needy elderly and disabled people. But while the state organized home care, it did not do so without eliciting contestation and confrontation from the citizens themselves who gave and received it. Authors Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein trace the intertwined, sometimes conflicting search of care providers and receivers for dignity, self-determination, security, and personal and social worth. This book highlights social movements of senior citizens for disability rights and independent living, the civil rights organizing of women on welfare and domestic workers, the battles of public sector unions, and the unionization of health and service workers. It rethinks the history of the American welfare state from the perspective of care work, all the while re-examining the strategies of the U.S. labor movement in terms of a growing care work economy. An unprecedented study, Caring for America serves as a definitive historical account of how public policy has impacted major modern movements and trends in class, race, and gender politics in the United States. Available in OSO:

Suggested Citation

  • Boris, Eileen & Klein, Jennifer, 2012. "Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195329117.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780195329117

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    Cited by:

    1. Danielle Docka‐Filipek & Lindsey B. Stone, 2021. "Twice a “housewife”: On academic precarity, “hysterical” women, faculty mental health, and service as gendered care work for the “university family” in pandemic times," Gender, Work and Organization, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(6), pages 2158-2179, November.
    2. Dukes, Ruth & Streeck, Wolfgang, 2020. "From industrial citizenship to private ordering? Contract, status, and the question of consent," MPIfG Discussion Paper 20/13, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    3. Goldberg, Harmony., 2015. "The long journey home : the contested exclusion and inclusion of domestic workers from federal wage and hour protections in the United States," ILO Working Papers 994878543402676, International Labour Organization.
    4. Louise Birdsell Bauer & Cynthia Cranford, 2017. "The community dimensions of union renewal: racialized and caring relations in personal support services," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 31(2), pages 302-318, April.
    5. Amy Horton, 2022. "Financialization and non-disposable women: Real estate, debt and labour in UK care homes," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 54(1), pages 144-159, February.

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