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The Cost of Caring

Paula England and Nancy Folbre
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 561, Emotional Labor in the Service Economy (Jan., 1999), pp. 39-51
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1049280
Page Count: 13
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The Cost of Caring
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Abstract

Caring work involves providing a face-to-face service to recipients in jobs such as child care, teaching, therapy, and nursing. Such jobs offer low pay relative to their requirements for education and skill. What explains the penalty for doing caring work? Because caring labor is associated with women, cultural sexism militates against recognizing the value of the work. Also, the intrinsic reward people receive from helping others may allow employers to fill the jobs for lower pay. Caring labor creates public goods-widespread benefits that accrue even to those who pay nothing. For example, if children learn skills and discipline from teachers, the children's future employers benefit, with no market mechanism to make the pay given to care workers reflect these benefits. Even when the public or not-for-profit sectors do step in to hire people to provide such services for those too poor to pay, the pay is limited by how much decision makers really care about the poor. Finally, the fact that people feel queasy about putting a price on something as sacred as care limits the pay offered-as paradoxical as it is to pay less for something when it is seen as infinitely valuable!

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