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Welfare Dependencies

Welfare Dependencies

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E mory University School of L aw

L egal Studies Research Paper Series Research Paper No. 12-221


Martha Albertson Fineman

This paper can be downloaded without charge from: The Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2132296

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2132296

Martha Albertson Fineman I. Although subsidies often consist of direct grants.. who have become the targets of social scorn and are often characterized as paradigms of welfare gone wrong. Although particular manifestations of dependency and the form of subsidy they require may be related to the societal circumstances in which an individual operates.DEPENDENCIES. will misuse the charity. Each of these assumptions about welfare mothers contains flaws. These characterizations of welfare mothers rest upon a certain set of assumptions. Subsidy can take many forms. and law abiding.” Dependency justifies. Young people can learn from independent adults the positive lesson that. A series of related negative associations attach to the word “dependency. It is a way of life... dependency and subsidy as social phenomena are inevitable and universal.. of subsidy distinguishes the independent from the dependent. As a result. II.. Harsh disciplinary measures are considered warranted because they alone have the potential to turn individual failure into self-sufficiency. individual merit is rewarded. Those wishing to trim welfare costs depict the single mother is viewed as a burden on the taxpayer and. Introduction The issue of welfare reform has generated a great deal of discussion in political and public arenas on welfare reform. Moreover. disability or illness. is.. Material success is equated with both personal worth and individual merit.. Some participants in this debate assume that the goal of welfare reform can and should be the eradication of public financial support for those who currently rely on welfare subsidies to provide for themselves and their families. This article argues that all individuals in our society. transmitted to the young. as well as the desirability. These solutions are inadequate and doomed to fail because they rely on unrealistic assumptions about the nature of dependency and the possibility.. by contrast. this dependency is not only an individual matter — society relies on the subsidy of caretakers perform an essential and valuable functions. An independent person makes his or her own way and does not ask for handouts or rely on charity.2 Dependence is used in a pejorative manner. The nature. One such assumption is that dependency is an avoidable condition — the consequence of self indulgence. those individuals or groups who receive tax assistance or relief also receive subsidies. The final section of this essay critiques two “solutions” that have been advanced to address the perceived dependency problems with and of single mothers: the encouragement of the traditional nuclear family and the efforts to force single mothers into the paid labor force.. Even charitable efforts are characterized as potentially harmful because they perpetuate dependence or because it is imagined that the receiving party.. Another assumption involves the belief that certain types of societal transfers are earned and the recipients are therefore entitled to receive them. of living an independent life.. with hard work. receive some form of subsidization. or will be dependent on others for essential care since we have all been infants and many of us will require assistance due to either age... Independence is the reward for living an unsubsidized existence.. not the fact. negatively contrasted with the designated ideal of “independence” — a state of grace attained by individuals who take “personal responsibility” for themselves and meet their family obligations.. weakness of will and laziness.. Everyone has been....” Single mothers are considered to have relied on public support to such an extent and for such an extended period of time as to negatively affect their personalities and their potential for productive lives in society. negative judgments of individuals. The ideal of the independent person often carries positive cultural images with it. as pathologically dependent upon the “dole. its byproducts are laziness and degeneration which lead to poverty and crime. Through attaining self-sufficiency one earns one’s place in society and deserves the material goods that one receives. Independence.com/abstract=2132296 . generating “cycles of dependency. those men and children who derive significant benefits from their consumption of women’s unpaid caretaking labor also receive a subsidy. ! "! ! ! ! Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.” Dependence is decadent.. After discussing the contemporary discourse in our society concerning dependence versus independence. as a political construct.. Resorting to romantic visions of the family and simplistic applications of an outmoded work ethic without other reforms will not address the significant problems in today’s society. Dependency Discourse The term “dependent” has been freely and loosely used to indicate pathological behavior in recent revisionist and regressive policy discussions. both political parties currently enthusiastically endorse punitive measures to help spur dependents to independence. is associated with productivity and strong moral character.. while other subsidies are charitable concessions to those people who are too irresponsible to provide for themselves.. a person whose character arguably has already been warped as a result of his or her status as dependent. In the context of the family..1 The debate has focused on single mothers.. including those who consider themselves independent. An independent person adheres to a rigorous work ethic.... this article examines the manner in which only certain subsidized individuals are currently characterized as dependent based on the type of subsidy they receive... even compels. is upstanding. such as the debates over the welfare system.

” such as Social Security payments to retired workers. In sum. and certain payments to businesses. Home mortgage interest.6 These subsidies carry a negative impression often because they are perceived as leading to further dependence since they do not generate a perceived social value and they are neither earned nor deserved. The individual’s position in the social and economic hierarchy remains essentially unaffected by existing allocations of societal privileges and benefits or by burdens imposed by racism. families take on the characteristics of the individuals who build them. Dependencies and Subsidies A. The individual is a free agent — in charge of his or her own actions and responsible for his or her circumstances. However. it is interesting to note that these descriptions of dependency and independency are built around the abstracted concept of the individual. but rather an investment. The stigma attached to certain subsidies is related to our perception of the process and product of subsidy.3 The pathological families and the dependent individuals who populate them produce social problems and create a drain on society’s resources. Individuals do build families within the context of this discourse. This focus has important implications for the way we think about dependence. An examination of the nature of dependency reveals that social policy built on distorted and simplistic notions of the individual cannot adequately address the very real problems facing our society today. for example. Although mainstream culture measures individual success largely in material and economic terms. In contrast. or ideologies of family responsibility. Various provisions of the tax code allow a percentage of wages or compensation to go untaxed. The contemporary policy debate on welfare reform recognizes neither an individual’s relevant history nor an individual’s location in the context of the greater society. but not others. Thus. other groups that deviate from societal ideals. Consequently. Governmental Subsidies The receipt of a “subsidy. or through indirect compensation programs. and thus contest. Society views these families that deviate from societal ideals as incomplete families that are at risk of not attaining the independent ideal. Receiving a subsidy often indicates dependent status. however. Conceptually. whether the subsidy we receive comes from the government in the form of transfer programs. The existence of subsidies is not remarkable. or cultural norms.10 By not taxing these forms of employee compensation.11 The revenue that the federal government forgoes as a result of these subsidies must be recovered ! #! ! ! ! Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.5 I want to complicate. “single-mother-headed” units. Others. If subsidization produces or promises to produce something we perceive to be of social value. Current welfare policy discourages individuals in these social categories from reproducing themselves either biologically or culturally. The concept renders structural and ideological contexts invisible and assumes that individuals operate free from negative constraints. this dominant dependency discourse.7 The variety of government expenditures that benefit families generates significant differences in public attitudes depending upon the form of the expenditure. Deductions and tax credits are another form of selective subsidy delivered through the tax system. wage-earning families do receive a significant governmental subsidy through the tax system. One important question is why do we stigmatize some subsidies.4 Many policy discussions have uncritically incorporated this rhetoric.9 For example. are highly visible.In the first instance. the government assists some families and consequentially loses potential general revenues. We all live subsidized lives. Society judges the family members according to the same ideals. III. it likely will not be considered a subsidy. autonomous and self-sufficient entities produce good individuals who share those traits. labeled “broken” families. go unnoticed in the debates. families perceived as independent. If we think a subsidy is “earned. no real appreciation for the advantages provided to some members of society by unequal distributions of wealth or other social goods exists. are at risk of becoming dependant. The individual also receives corresponding rewards or punishments — “just deserts” — meted out within a meritocracy that provides equal access and opportunity for all. or other pathological groupings. the individual stands alone and represents the only relevant unit of social policy. discussions do not take anything which might alter the assignment of blame or praise for an individual’s personal achievements into account. like those designed to assist wage-earning families. such as jobs or a common good like medical research. Though this form of government assistance receives less attention than other forms. can be deducted from gross income and some child care expenses may qualify to earn tax credits.” is evidenced by some direct financial assistance from the government. such as food stamps.8 Some subsidies. other subsidies — particularly those that go to the poor such as welfare benefits — are highly stigmatized. Therefore. Society not only accepts investment and earned subsidies but also seeks to encourage them through policy. some employers provide health insurance benefits and spending accounts that shield money for payment of medical and child care expenses from taxation.com/abstract=2132296 . the place to begin a challenge to existing social policy is with the observation that we all are dependent on public subsidy in the United States. it is viewed as part of an insurance system. such as welfare. subsidies are common. assistance checks. sexism.

wives. ! $! ! ! ! Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn. Far from being recognized or compensated. however. caretaking work is taken for granted. The recipients of this type of subsidy are not taxed on the value they receive and do not consider themselves dependent as a result of their acceptance of the fruits of another's time and effort.com/abstract=2132296 .14 Yet. not just those receiving “welfare” transfers. It relieves the rest of us from our collective responsibility for the dependency inherent in this process of social reproduction. Many individuals who society deems economically self-sufficient frequently rely on the unpaid labor of women within the family. the elderly and ill parents and others who receive it . I view “inevitable dependency” as a biological category. The family is the institution to which children. The tax system in this regard has been labeled a “spending program” as well as a revenue raising one. function conceptually the same as a tax expenditure. The uncompensated work of caretakers allows us to indulge in myths of independence and autonomy. Derivative dependency is neither inevitable nor universal since many members of our society manage to escape the direct caretaking of others. Tax policy only targets benefits to selected families in society since these families benefit if tax money is collected and then distributed back to them or if the tax money is never collected from them. The gross national product calculation does not include labor overwhelmingly supplied by women working as mothers. there is another. benefit from governmental support. dependency is an inevitable part of the human condition. Therefore. Inevitable dependants constituted the “deserving poor. In this regard. There is another important dimension to an understanding of dependency. the type of dependency that caretakers experience is derivative. the husbands. but dependency would not go away. then we all need caretakers to provide for us during parts of our lives. and daughters. We need to make this labor subsidy visible and explicitly interweave it into public discussion about dependency. realization is that caretakers of inevitable dependents are themselves dependent on economic and institutional resources in order to provide that care. Some forms of dependency are inevitable and must be considered and factored into policy discussions in non pejorative ways. Inevitable Dependency My own analysis has been that marriage has historically served as the "natural" repository for dependencies. this labor.” epitomized by innocent children entitled to protection by the state and collective resources dedicated to their education and welfare. This subsidy consists of the time and energy expended by some individuals who take care of others. Family labor as subsidy is invisible in large part because we do not understand dependency. Family labor produces workers and consumers. Thus. often at the expense of the caretaker’s full market participation and job development. Subsidization through Unpaid Family Labor As important as governmental subsidy is.13 B. deductions deferrals or credits. Our universal reliance on some forms of subsidy should not be misunderstood or distorted within the confines of the current dependency debate. It is universal. this labor substantially benefits the children. Both governmental subsidies in the form of tax benefits and women’s unpaid labor in assuming caretaking roles should cast serious doubt on the assumptions underlying dependency discourse. it becomes apparent that subsidization occurs within individual families.” Far from being a “pathological” condition associated with human failure. future voters and taxpayers. and society at large. which often benefit other families. All of us benefit directly and indirectly from the reproduction of our society that occurs in the home. which requires a distinction between “inevitable” dependency and “derivative dependency. more significant subsidy that should be clearly detailed.15 During most of this century. become ill or are disabled. Once one recognizes that money need not actually change hands for a subsidy to exist. students and service providers.12 The logic behind this “spending program” characterization is the realization that policies such as income exclusion. the elderly and the ill are referred — it is the way that the state has effectively "privatized" care for dependents who otherwise might become the responsibility of the collective unit or state. even if typically overlooked. This labor is also essential to the functioning of businesses and government. In considering this assertion. Furthermore. The wide scope and common nature of subsidies support the conclusion that dependency may never be eradicated from society — governmental subsidies could cease completely and men could finally assume equal responsibility for domestic and child care tasks. a shared experience. has implications on an ideological level. hidden within families. progressive social welfare policies addressed inevitable dependency in this and all other industrialized democracies. some dependency is “inevitable. The simple and entirely obvious. it is necessary to examine dependency as a complex human phenomenon that assumes many forms and is not reducible to one simplistic category. Nearly all individuals. All of us were dependent as children and many of us will be dependent as we age.” If dependency in its biological manifestations is universal and inevitable.by either taxing other forms of compensation or cutting spending by curtailing government assistance programs. C.

provides economically for his wife and children.” Her specialized role contrasts and complements the economic or market role performed by the “head of the household. couples both within and without marriage frequently choose not to have children. Observers increasingly recognize domestic abuse as a widespread problem transcending race and class lines. Traditional marriage was a lifelong commitment to an institution with well-defined. Politicians plead with private employers to hire current welfare recipients.23 Resort to either marriage or market work as “solutions” to poverty and a way out of dependency illustrates the way myth has overtaken reality in contemporary policy debates. male economic responsibility can be established through paternity proceedings and child support orders. as well as the valid basis for caretakers’ claims to societal resources? (2) society may have designated who will be responsible for dependency. If we decide to recognize dependency as inevitable and therefore of societal concern.25 Despite the rhetorical promulgation of the institution of marriage as the solution to dependency.24 legal and political thinkers often consider the attachment of a legal responsibility for providing for women and children to men as the panacea for many social ills. mothers.29 Revelation of the potential violence in traditional marriage has shaken adherence to the belief that marriage should be a lifelong commitment. derivative dependency.30 The figures that indicate the nature and extent of private violence call into question the wisdom of policies designed to persuade or coerce women to stay with male partners. In addition. we can no longer assume that families alone will handle inevitable dependency. some politicians seriously suggest marriage.19 Through the traditional family ideology. Social processes define and assign caregiving roles. we have foregone the opportunity to develop a theory of collective responsibility for children and other dependents.26 The increasing resort to divorce corresponds to statistics that indicate that traditional marriage and family are not as central to contemporary lives as in the past.16 Society assigns women their caretaking roles as wives.22 They impose time limits on aid with faith that jobs do in fact exist for willing workers. no social security or other benefits. attendance at short-term training programs and participation in job searches is mandated for continued assistance. Proposed Political Solutions to Problems of Dependency Policy makers should have based reconsideration of our nation’s family policies upon a search for answers to these questions and for provisions to justly share collective responsibility for the dependent and weak. tradition.18 Women function as societal caretakers within the uncompensated sphere of the private family. as the most appropriate answer to social problems. society perpetuates an injustice that has had serious negative and indefensible consequences for many women and children. empirical information indicates that the institution in its traditional form fails in this end. The most telling statistic indicating the decline of this traditional family is the divorce rate. Marriage and Other Forms of Establishing Male Economic Responsibility While empirical information refutes the general applicability of the traditional ideal of a male who. inside and outside the family. social injustice. By considering dependency to be a private matter and by not compensating caretakers. By allocating dependency to the private sphere. is gendered. complementary gendered roles. are typically women. it need not always be women who do dependency work. should be the top policy priority. and cultural myths about the family have created and now reinforce the assumption that dependency work is women’s work. and daughters within families. IV. typically. while not universal or inevitable.20 They perceived marriage as a solution because they believed it would ensure male economic responsibility for wives and children. ! %! ! ! ! . the default norm is work. the family is failing. Furthermore. politicians in the most recent welfare debates offered unrealistic solutions — marriage and maternal work — for problems associated with inevitable and derivative dependency. but under what conditions should the assigned caregivers be expected to fulfill their roles? (3) how will we determine the value of the social product produced by caretakers? In considering these questions we must remember that caretaking requires the sacrifice of individual autonomy and entails compromises that negatively affect economic and market possibilities. society segregates and hides the reality of dependency work by assigning the responsibility for social reproduction to the mother as “homemaker.” Of course. and instability increase. Caretakers. In light of the stunning scope of child poverty. Unfortunately. If a person is unemployable. If women refuse or are unable to marry. A. Feminist criticism of marriage has certainly contributed to a sense of disillusion with the institution.28 marriage no longer mandates procreation.” receiving low wages and. Meanwhile.21 Public works positions are provided for those unsuccessful in the private job market. History. many individuals marry at older ages.27 Now. as head of the household. if the marriage “solution” fails. Three fundamental questions need to be resolved: (1) why is dependency not a matter of collective responsibility and concern.In our society. we must determine how to value caretakers and reward caretaking.17 Women work in overwhelming numbers in caretaking positions as the “hired help. As childhood poverty.

may hire someone to care for children. women. expectations for marriage displaced old notions. The emerging social reality consists of a family composed of a single mother. The legal system reflects these altered aspirations in laws that reject the traditional characterization of the family as a hierarchical.41 Second. In addition.” ! &! ! ! ! .39 In response to this changing demographic. the average amount of child support received is very low. readily available during better times. Maternal Work Perhaps because statistics reveal that the traditional family model cannot end poverty in a world where familial subsistence often requires the income of two working adults and where many women refuse to adopt traditional family roles. collection of child support remains a serious problem.36 Primary reliance on men and marriage as the way to resolve the dependency needs of children and their caretakers also ignores the abundance of unemployed and poor men who can barely provide for themselves. Families often need more than one paycheck to support themselves at a comfortable level and not fall behind economically. the average child support received was only $2200. particularly after a divorce or when these men father children outside of marriage. even states with improved collection records incur substantial enforcement costs that eat into the benefits realized. B.37 Often men who have experienced the negative effects from workforce downsizing can no longer provide adequately for their families. Economic realities destroy the viability of the breadwinner/housewife model for most families.32 Problems with the traditional ideal arose when new. even among the many people who do marry. We now speak of a marital “partnership” and presume marriage to be an egalitarian relationship. In response. reject the traditional model of the homemaker who confines her time and energy to the demands of her role within the family. many other men do not feel economically responsible for their children. Additionally. unwilling to sacrifice personal and market advancement for full-time uncompensated caretaking. Lastly. Both are expected to share domestic tasks. men live outside the family unit. and her children. Although many men wish to provide for their children yet cannot due to their dire economic straits. The most recent census figures provide that in 1985. let alone assume responsibility for women and children. the expectations for the institution have changed significantly.Furthermore. some women forego childbearing or limit the number of children they have. These policy makers vigorously promote maternal work as a solution to welfare mothers’ “dependency.34 These legal changes reflect real and irreversible ideological changes in our expectations for and about marriage. After well-paid jobs. under the dictates of equal protection analysis. many men found themselves on a downwardly mobile career path of employment without benefits and with little security.38 All of the trends described above indicate problems with the reliance on men to support children. Others women.35 In either situation.40 Difficulties abound with the idea of child support as the solution to poverty. disappeared.42 This amount represented a decrease in real terms. First. 43 How far do such amounts go toward eliminating poverty? Non-marital children face an even bleaker situation. wives share equal responsibility for financial obligations presented by an economically dependent spouse and/or children. Even the middle class has experienced a real loss in wages and opportunities in the past few years. Paternity proceedings which attempt to enforce paternal responsibility for those children born outside of marriage frequently cause additional problems. politicians label it a problem which can be resolved only by tying the absent male to the family unit through paternity proceedings and establishing his financial responsibility through the imposition of child support orders. Today. regardless of whether they are married to the children's mothers.31 The legal rejection of the traditional model marriage in which the male was the head of household and the female was his help-mate — clearly subservient to his and the children’s needs — seems irreversible. even if awarded and collected.33 Both individuals are likely to think they are entitled to pursue careers outside the home. role differentiated institution in which the legal identities and abilities of husband and wife merged under notions of marital unity. the traditional marriage model fails to adequately take care of dependency in contemporary society. The middle class male victims of the global market and economic readjustment cannot reliably provide sufficient amounts of child support to lift children out of poverty. the law considers both partners to a marriage to be equals. This reality applies to the middle class and especially to the working poor. egalitarian. One dilemma resulting from women’s altered expectations in regard to market work is that maternal work may leave the family without a caretaker. whether divorced or never married. such as compromising women’s privacy. Increasingly. while failing to establish any type of bond between father and child. despite years of stiffening the collection process and federal assistance for state efforts. some proponents of welfare reform believe imposing a norm of a maternal market is appropriate social policy. who can afford it.

We should consider bearing the burden of dependency to be work that merits of public compensation. under the current arrangement. As important societal work. poor motherhood entails even more work. work-based welfare reform programs that try to address this reality can cost states more than do cash grant programs. As a second fundamental point. and society may justly restrict or eliminate their assistance as we heap upon them scorn and hatred. we should re-frame the current workfare discussion so that issues associated with work do not focus ! '! ! ! ! . many researchers indicate that a typical welfare recipient does not lack the will to work. these women and their children endure hardships and confront obstacles that the process and its personnel place in their way.48 Ironically. Someone still must perform the caretaking tasks. these mothers often must raise their children in horrendous conditions. Most industrial democracies accomplish this through a universal governmental transfer in the form of a child allowance or through a basic income guarantee. Workfare does not allow for the possibility that problems may be structural or produced by societal forces. people often find market work incompatible with caretaking work. It is important not to leave this reconciliation to the individual employers’ good will. What are the characteristics of real welfare reform? First. The universal nature of such programs underscores the inappropriateness of partitioning certain children and other dependents and their caretakers into stigmatized.Dependency discourse grows most pernicious in this context.e. then women who do not work must be lazy and shiftless. Poor women dependent on public assistance and/or charity must deal with bureaucrats and bureaucracies. Real Reform Clearly. essentially abandoned by police and increasingly deprived of social welfare programs.47 Instead. perform one of the most burdensome types of mothering imaginable.50 V.46 Significantly. then any individual who does not work is morally culpable and we can justify any punishment and deprivation the person receives. single-mother families live in poor neighborhoods. Disproportionately. Change must be mandated as significant public policy. the solutions for welfare and dependency — urging a traditional family model on the one hand or maternal work on the other — are insufficient and unrealistic methods of resolving the problems. it should be compensated. we have constructed a simple moral equation with which to judge the poor: if work solves the problem of poverty. This assumption underlies the logic of welfare reform proposals and much of the criticism of welfare recipients. we must insist that social policies be based on the realization that the needs of inevitable dependents do not disappear when the caretaker engages in market work.51 It is important that caretaking benefits be universal. In furtherance of this objective. Motherhood in these neighborhoods means daily encounters with potential violence. In addition. We need to think about significant structural changes in market institutions that would allow the reconciliation of motherhood with market work. it seems politically difficult for states to now allocate more money to those they have previously vilified. need-based programs where they become easy targets for criticism in political rhetoric. One should not wonder that some poor mothers “fail” in raising their children to become productive. individual incentive is sapped by the problems faced in finding a permanent job that pays enough both to provide for a family and to deal with child care responsibilities that remain even after finding a job. If motherhood in general entails work. This discourse fails to take empirical realities into account. If we assume job opportunities exist. Unfortunately. and individuals control that solution. and poor mothers. participants in the maternal work debate should reconsider the assumption that numerous well-paying jobs await current welfare recipients. taxpaying citizens — the real wonder is that so many succeed in mothering under such adverse conditions. Furthermore.44 In order to meet day-to-day needs. It is essential to remember when considering maternal work as a solution for poverty that the demands of mothering do not disappear when women enter the work market. We should insist our politicians recognize and address the fact that motherhood is work.. Additionally. The minimal amount of empirical study done on this question indicates that this myth does not match reality. regardless of other sources of caretaker wealth. given to all caretakers. the current political rhetoric necessitates the reassertion of the basic fact that mothering is work. while receiving public assistance. These market trends exacerbate existing historic unequal conditions suffered by many working-class and poor women that have already disadvantaged them in the economic realm. This realization naturally suggests an additional direction for reform. i.49 Given the rhetoric of budgetary austerity and taxpayer relief that initiated welfare reform. Therefore. These could be the product of governmental regulation or accomplished through a system of monetary incentives.45 The logic of workfare rests on the premise that the problems of the poor result from their own choices and individual weakness and failures. we should confront the misperceptions and myths that obscure the problem. We have experienced large scale economic dislocations over the past decade and are just beginning to feel the fallout effects from the transformation to a global economy.

Once we adopt a more inclusive perspective. thus isolating them from other women. Beyond Entitlement (1986). individual responsibility and individual accomplishment. CHI. encounter difficulties when they try to combine market work and parenthood. 1994. nor desirable to many on an ideological level. Challenging this idea must be the basis of real welfare reform. Columnist Joan Beck recently discussed affirmative action. The debate must recognize the mother who seeks to combine work and caretaking in a way that will not sacrifice the demands of either. but the same unreflective normative judgments influence other areas of contested social policy. Policies that rely on the traditional nuclear family as the means to escape poverty and provide for inevitable and derivative dependents foster the assumption that the maintenance of intimacy — everything from contraception to responsibility for the day-today care of children — is primarily a private task. On a structural as well as an ideological level.53 We can no longer refuse to confront the substantial injustice perpetuated when we formulate family policy in this country on myths and symbols that are no longer valid as an empirical matter. but whether social policy will protect and support a woman’s right to work. 1 See generally. classes who receive their subsidies through the tax system or social security — is the recipient of governmental support in some forms. 1997. at B1. this approach requires employers to pay family wages to working caretakers. dependency would be recognized for what it is — an inevitable result of the human condition. Wash. Post. free to participate in an inflexible nine-to-five schedule without concern for ill children. urging its abolition by arguing “[t]he sooner we get back to the fundamental American idea of individual merit. pension. squabbling over entitlement. Lawrence Mead. B2. Charles Murray. the better country we can create.52 The suggestions about the reorientation of the workplace to accommodate caretaking would mean that women could realistically be both economic actors and mothers. as well as men who act as caretakers. Conclusion Real welfare reform would not be mired in simplistic notions about dependency. for free. 3 I discuss the construction and application of the label of “deviance” and the assignment of pathology to single mother families in MARTHA ALBERTSON FINEMAN. Losing Ground:American Social Policy 1950-1980 (1984). claiming special group preferences based on race or ethnic origin. This caretakers’ perspective must be heard.exclusively on poor welfare mothers. Such an emphasis would mean not only making a serious attempt to create jobs and training programs for poor unemployed women and men but also regulating the wage structure as well as standardizing health. TRIB.. we will realize that the true issue is not a woman’s obligation to work. 4 Peter Baker. Only upon the articulation of a persuasive theory of collective responsibility we can begin to build humane welfare policies. Apr. 13. ! (! ! ! ! . whining about being victims. 22. Furthermore. at 21. we need reforms that counter the pervasive assumption that the American worker is an unencumbered individual. more fortunate. The anonymous perspective of the un-embodied taxpayer should not control the rhetoric of welfare debates. 2 The discussion that follows focuses on welfare recission. Society must recognize that all women. Real reform would embrace the notion that everyone in society — both those welfare recipients whom society currently labels dependent and the members of other. those people who care for dependents and thus perform the essential and indispensable societal task of nurture and care should not be dismissed as dependent. rather than being considered an unfortunate or disreputable state. We dare not become a balkanized nation. THE NEUTERED MOTHER. Virginia Jumps at Chance to Shake up Welfare. To this end. and other benefits. Feb. The view that a right to work exists also implies a need to make changes in the workplace. school vacations. A Giant Step Forward Toward Ending Affirmative Action. or other caretaking glitches because some woman is taking care of all of that at home. Employers or the government would provide for paid family leave and for services such as day care.” Joan Beck. but instead compensated and respected for the valuable labor they provide. THE SEXUAL FAMILY AND OTHER TWENTIETH CENTURY TRAGEDIES (1995). Furthermore. VI. stigmatizing dependent individuals as pathological.

it seems the middle class family does get a raise. TIMES. 1997 at 18.g. 1997 (on file with author). 27. economic and psychological dependencies are NOT included in this category of inevitable dependency. Elderly parents look to daughters (or daughters-in-law) for expected accommodations. . was the lone dissenter in the Senate on some of the harsher welfare reforms. 15 To be useful in making a justice claim for social resources.”). Why is the Comfortable Class so Mean? L.supra note 14. Siegel.as an essential and inherent human characteristic. 1850-1880. 13 Stanley S. The Road to Reform:State works to Steer Recipients Clear of Rolls. REV. they are better understood separately. 27. The Canadian government has recognized this analysis of the tax system and incorporated it into its tax policy making process.. her benefits would not be increased — she got no raise from the government. it must be addressed through social response.Rev. at B1. . Robust Duties. 16 See Ann Lacquer Estin. Moynihan Stands Alone in Welfare Debate..5 Ironically. These characteristics of inevitable dependency are what support the assertion of collective responsibility -. See Estin. See Ian Fisher. however. Mar. 14 See Ann Laquer Estin. cultural or ideological phenomena. GA. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. . 103 YALE L. women who seek to escape the work.Y. TREND. 1992 UTAH L. 17 The social assignment of dependency is even more pronounced (and less challenged) when it comes to care for the elderly or ill. paper for the Feminism and Legal Theory Workshop. at 13. 14-15.g. not . because the law construes family care as a matter of love and obligation. Reva B.g. personal choice or arm's-length bargaining. If we look at this situation from the perspective of the subsidy through the tax system. 1994. Alimony. Hilde Lindemann Nelson & James Lindemann Nelson. As a result the debates about whether the tax system is the appropriate tool by which to deliver subsidies for social and economic activity has been vigorous. 1073. Enhanced Earning Capacity/Human Capital: The Reluctance to Call It Property 16-17 (unpublished manuscript on file with author). supra note 14. supra note 1. 9 10 11 See. Maintenance. Education: Women's Ticket to Pay Equality. at 776 (“[C]aregiving remains invisible .C. ! )! ! ! ! .Surrey PATHWAYS TO TAX REFORM 1973. May 1994. Internal Revenue Code Section 163(h)(3) (home mortgage interest deduction) and Section 12 (child care expense tax credits). . Internal Revenue Code Section151 (personal exemption) and Section63 (c) (2) (standard deduction). 18 19 Albert W. Sept. Public Taxes. See. 747. at 780 (stating that most care giving costs fall disproportionately on women). e.June22. Frail Parents. 71 N. Ruth Rosen. at B7. Therefore. as structural. 7 8 See e. 721. Home as Work: The First Women's Rights Claims Concerning Wives' Household Labor.A. e.”). and women who eke out a living performing the work — for other women. Dec. . Which of Us Isn’t Taking ‘Welfare’:Poor Children Rank Low in Government Largess. dependency must be rooted in inevitability and universality. 1214 (1994) (“Today . Privatizing Effects and Gender Inequality. Boston Herald. L. and the Regabilitation of Family Care. The new child is a deduction on the tax form and certain expenditures can provide tax credits. If a woman receiving public assistance had another child. 6 Tom Mashberg. Niemi Jr. N. 780 (1993). This reason was offered to justify “child caps” in the welfare system. Internal Revenue Code section105 &106 (medical care benfits) and section 129 (child care benefits). . See Claire Young. architect of the “cycles of dependency” rhetoric. 1995. it is women who perform the work of the family. 12 During the welfare reform debates it was often noted that a middle class family did not receive a raise when a new child was born. Although economic and psychological dependencies may accompany inevitable dependency. see also Joyce Davis. Times. J. Murray.

” 1 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE. Rev. U. Modern Mothes Have to Walk a Thin Line.S.” 79 Va. Baltimore Sun. 1995 at 9 (stating that the era of male breadwinners has been replaced by an era of working mother and fathers). Feenstra. 58 ALBANY L.3%. Id. Wives provide services to the husband. REV.Times.” TERRY LUGAILA. Buffalo News. In response to the high incidences of domestic violence in the United States.3796gg-5 (West 1994). Great Expectations. 1993 Utah L. 1995. Id. 20.1% to 8. 32 Traditionally.20 Isabel Wilkerson. Mar. The Bureau of the Census estimates “that half of all marriages entered into since 1970 could end in divorce. at A5. See AMARA BACHU. and that of all spousal violence crimes. including child care and homemaking. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS. N. Oct. 268 (1979) ! *! ! ! ! . P20-470. Aug. 1535 (1993) 30 See Dorothy Q. 387. Gone from our formal official discourse is the hierarchical organization of the common law marriage described so graphically by Blackstone under the doctrines of “unity” and “merger. 27 In recent years.C. as part of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. 17. at Lifestyles 9. Married women can now contract and own property. for battered women's shelters. Newsday. 42 USC sec. A survey of unmarried women aged 18 to 44 showed an increase in never-married motherhood from 15% in 1982 to 24% in 1992. Weinberger v. U.S. 440 U. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. 420 U. 450 U.. 33 See Kirchberg v.S. p. DEP'T OF COMMERCE. Nancy Polikoff. U. 268 (1979) (duty to support one’s spouse must apply to both spouses).A. COMMENTARIES 459-70 (1799). P23-181. 11. U. Choosing to be Childless. The Act provides funds for prevention and education. An Intimate Look at Welfare:Women Who’ve been there. HOUSEHOLDS. Arizona Republic. Orr 440 U. Feb. Clinton to Debunk Stigma of Welfare. FERTILITY OF AMERICAN WOMEN: JUNE 1992 xix (1993). L. 1128 (1995) (noting that “in the United States a 1984 National Crime Survey found that women were victims of family violence at a rate three times that of men. 28 Anne Raver. 34 See Orr v. 1989 At Pt. it rose from 3. AND CHILDREN: A 30-YEAR PERSPECTIVE 8 (1992). as wife would on death of husband). Orr. DEP'T OF COMMERCE. with the majority of the parties remarrying. 607 Jodi Enda. Paula Voel. 608 (a)(1)(B) Ellen Goodman. removing the disabilities she had at common law. Romanticizing the Family. March 4.1. Our Sacred Institution.S. 42 U. 636 (1975) ( husband must receive same survivor’s benefits after death of wife. 21 22 23 24 42 USC Sec. Never-married motherhood is becoming a viable option for women of all races and social classes.S. Wiesenfeld.S. Thomas & Michele E. Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue. Orr v.5% to 11. ninety-one percent were victimizations of women by their husbands or ex-husbands”).S. Id. Martha Albertson Fineman. 29 See e. 1119. 1993. For women in professional or managerial positions. husbands fulfill their role by meeting their economic obligations and providing discipline and control over their wives and children. 31 We have expanded our conception of the legal individual to include the married woman. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS. Tampa Tribune. Id. 1997. 28. We Will Get What We Ask For:Why Legalizing Gay and Lesbian Marriages Will Not “Dismantle the Legal Structure of Gender in Every Marriage. The rate of births by unmarried women with at least one year of college education increased from 5. II. 3796gg . 1995 at 19A. May 26.3%.Rev. 455 (1981) (wivs must be allowed to equally participate in managing community property). the increase in white never-married mothers has caused alarm in some circles.g.S.Y.S. FAMILIES. Beasley. at A1. Recent Census figures show an increase in never-married motherhood. A18. and for the support of police and prosecutors. 25 26 Diana Hochstedt Butler.

Moreover. Finding Work in the Inner City: How Hard is it Now? How Hard will it be for AFDC Recipients? (unpublished manuscript. WASH. No. on file with the author).35 This solution may come with its own set of problems as the Zoe Baird and Kimba Woods incidents indicated for professional moms. it is the labor of women that is uncompensated or under compensated.R.Y. July 3. and have a greater chance at success. Bureau of Census. U. See Thomas L. Special Studies Series. St.) Id.S. 42 43 44 U. Further.. 40 41 110 Stat. with approximately 14 people applying for every one job that opens up. Diane Dodson. Earning Less. Child Support and Alimony: 1985.). Id. N. Friedman. Cincinnati Enquirer. U. Women's Legal Def.S. it appears that the oversupply of job-seekers is pushing up the credentials which applicants must have to secure a job. 46 This argument applies to poor men's employment prospects as well. POST. Dep’t of Com. Sept. Poor men are the most likely partners for ! "+! ! ! ! . 1st Sess.. 134-43 (1987) (statement of Robert C. Harris. 38 39 Bureau of the Census. Dep’t. 92 YALE L. 1995. This fact further diminishes the possibility that marriage is a viable solution for the poverty of women and children. 2 (1989 Supp. L.Y. 2198-2260 Federal reforms to enforce child support obligations are hindered by the failure of many states to enforce child support obligations. 1997 at A23. Special Counsel for Fam. U. Dep't of Health and Hum. P-23-154. Newman. Assistance and Unemployment Compensation of the House Comm. Equality for middle-class and professional women may hang on their ability to treat other women as less than equals and exploit their labor in much the same way that men have traditionally exploited women's domestic labor. 5. 184.. 1993. Assoc. of Commerce. Americans Are Working Harder. The Truth About Wages. Jan.S. Furthermore.S. Off. and Pol’y.Times. Fund). who are more likely to be high school graduates. Ruth Marcus. for fast-food work had not found work of any kind a year later. Krueger. (Feb. The preference for applicants with recent job experience also works to the disadvantage of many single parents. Petersburg Times. Family Welfare Reform Act: Hearing on H. Legality. and Class in the Welfare System. The Newman study found that these low paying jobs are in “extremely short supply” in the inner city. TIMES. Serv. 1198 (1983) (arguing that the mechanism used to provide aid to the poor is impersonal and formalized). This shift in qualifications in the job pool may explain why 73% of those who applied. it seems that single parenthood is an independent negative indicator for employability partly because employers seem to prefer applicants who are commuting from distant neighborhoods. In addition. Bureaucracy. 1720 Before the Subcomm. Newman also points out that the change in the demographics of low paid workers means that it is now older workers. of Child Support Enforcement. Kim Norris. N. Clinton Concedes He Erred on Baird Nomination. 36 37 See Ursula Miller. 1993) at 36. delays in institution of wage withholding and approval of federal funding have contributed to a low rate of payment collection under the reforms. Alan B. 1994 at 1A. 13. In either case. at A1. Feb. Simon. Baby-Sitter Problems Sink Second Clinton Prospect: Wood Withdraws from Consideration as Attorney General. on Ways and Means. Feb. P-23. those in their twenties. at D1. there is an important debate about whether this is a “feminist” solution given that these domestic workers are often underpaid and do not receive benefits. Two Incomes More the Norm. 45 Katherine S. 23. on Pub. The average AFDC recipient is “far less qualified” in terms of education and recent job experience than those who were successful in the study. J. Deputy Director. 162-72 (statement of G. How We’re Changing:Demographic State of the Nation:1993. and were rejected. 1993. at A1. 6. 100th Cong. Family Support Admin. See generally William H. a situation that makes child care arrangements and costs associated with commuting more burdensome.

since the revisioning of gender equality challenges the dominant roles men have historically occupied in the traditional family. 9. 1996 at 3B. Perhaps such a reevaluation is too painful or even threatening. at A21. 47 Christopher Jencks & Kathryn Edin. after implementing a work-based program. 1992 (presenting results of a global survey on the distribution of housework and family responsibilities between men and women that reveals that women still do the vast majority of the work despite the existence in some countries of shared responsibility laws). 69. Abhors a Vacuum.. a 62% increase. 34. St Louis Post-Dispatch. fathers today are actually participating in child care only slightly more than they did in 1967). that is neither hierarchical nor patriarchal has yet to occur. TIMES. 8. 50 Wisconsin is confronting this dilemma. 24. N. 8. see Janice Drakich. N. 6. at 13A.Y. what will be the role for men? But a true re-evaluation of fatherhood. and demonstrating that contrary to popular anecdotal information. Sept. ‘All Work and No Pay’ World. The Poor Won’t Be Helped By Welfare on theCheap. Wisconsin State Journal. women work more for less pay than men). 48 49 See text and sources cited in JOEL HANDLER. Smeeding. Thompson Gives Best Performance For Editorial Writers. Mimi Abramovitz. 31. Getting Opal Caples to Work. But see U. HOW WE'RE CHANGING: DEMOGRAPHIC STATE OF THE NATION: 1994.S. In 1996 the state spent about $9700 for each family on welfare. 3 CAN. Sept. worldwide. In Search of the Better Parent: The Social Construction of Ideologies of Fatherhood. Aug.S. See also David Briscoe. See Report of the International Labor Organization. it is easier to resort to myth than to substantive change. This year. 1992. 19. J. The economic factors that negatively affect female work opportunities also affect their potential partners as a group. Aug. available in LEXIS. The Real Welfare Problem. Sept. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS.700. 127. Nexis Library. Thomas Eagleton. For further discussion of the unequal distribution of household responsibilities between men and women. Thus. Sept. Spet. WOMEN & L. it will spend about $15. Thomas B. Y. ! ""! ! ! ! .26. XINHAU file. THE POVERTY OF WELFARE REFORM 85 (1995). Women Work Harder but Paid Less. 246. at 2 (1994) (reporting that more fathers are becoming primary care givers as more women return to work). 83-87 (1989) (reviewing a 1988 study showing that employed women still spend twice as much time with child care and housework as do their husbands. 1 Am. 51 See Lee Rainwater & Timothy M. Doing Poorly: The Real Income of American Children in a Comparative Perspective 14-22 (Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper No. The Nation. at 221. at 33. 1992. U. of masculinity. 1995) (discussing the impact of market income and income transfers on child poverty rates). 52 Studies indicate that across cultures mothers still perform the vast bulk of child care and housework. Prospect.poor women. Anna Quindlen. 1992 (discussing a report prepared by the International Labor Organization finding that. Why Welfare Reform is a Sham. 1997. P23-187. See Jason DeParle. DEP'T OF COMMERCE. XINHAU NEWS AGENCY. Still. 6. 1997. TIMES (London). 53 The question arises as women perform in both spheres. 43-44 (1990). Sept. 1988. TIMES MAG.

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