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Doing the Dirty Work : Gender, Race, and Reproductive Labor in Historical Perspective
Mignon Duffy Gender & Society 2007 21: 313 DOI: 10.1177/0891243207300764 The online version of this article can be found at:

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DOING THE DIRTY WORK Gender, Race, and Reproductive Labor in Historical Perspective
MIGNON DUFFY University of Massachusetts Lowell

The concept of reproductive labor is central to an analysis of gender inequality, including understanding the devaluation of cleaning, cooking, child care, and other “women’s work” in the paid labor force. This article presents historical census data that detail transformations of paid reproductive labor during the twentieth century. Changes in the organization of cooking and cleaning tasks in the paid labor market have led to shifts in the demographics of workers engaged in these tasks. As the context for cleaning and cooking work shifted from the dominance of private household servants to include more institutional forms, the gender balance of this reproductive labor workforce has been transformed, while racial-ethnic hierarchies have remained entrenched. This article highlights the challenges to understanding occupational segregation and the devaluation of reproductive labor in a way that analyzes gender and race-ethnicity in an intersectional way and integrates cultural and structural explanations of occupational degradation.

Keywords: care work; reproductive labor; occupational segregation; domestic service; janitorial and food service work

ritiques by scholars of color of feminist theory and political practice emphasize the ways the impacts of race, class, and other aspects of inequality are obscured when gender is considered in isolation, universalizing


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank the many colleagues and friends who read various versions of this article along the way and gave me invaluable feedback and advice: Cynthia Cranford, Michael Duffy, Karen Hansen, Kim McMaken, Cheryl Najarian, Debi Osnowitz, and Diane Purvin. Also thank you to the anonymous Gender & Society reviewers and to Dr. Christine Williams and Dr. Dana Britton for their thoughtful comments and guidance. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Carework Conference in San Francisco in 2004 (thanks to Amy Armenia for presenting), and the Carework Network has provided an important intellectual home for me. And last but not least, I am grateful to my colleagues at UMass Lowell who daily provide me with inspiration and support.
GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 21 No. 3, June 2007 313-336 DOI: 10.1177/0891243207300764 © 2007 Sociologists for Women in Society 313
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Treatments that focused on women’s role as housewife in the 1950s or on the entrance of women into the labor force in the 1970s told important stories—but also obscured the empirical reality that Black women. Dorothy Roberts. 1995 for an excellent review of the development of critical race theory). I explore the implications of this empirical work for theoretical development. After defining the concept of reproductive labor as I use it here to discuss paid work. Catalyzed by a number of key works in the 1980s (Collins by guest on October 16. Legal scholars such as Kimberlé Crenshaw. and other systems of oppression as “interconnected. Moraga and Anzaldúa 1981). the movement toward intersectionality has become central to the project of understanding inequalities. and Patricia Williams have been particularly influential in further developing a theory of intersectionality (see Crenshaw et al. After presenting the findings. because their inclusion at the outset actually profoundly transforms the nature of those theoretical insights. This study contributes to the necessary empirical base for intersectional theory by documenting historical patterns of race and sex segregation1 among paid reproductive labor occupations. Intersectional analysis demands that theory be built on historically grounded. An intersectional approach treats race. and poor women had been engaged in paid market work in large numbers for many decades. Davis 1981. The data in this article show the changing contexts in which reproductive labor is performed in the paid labor market as well as the shifting demographics of the workers who perform these tasks. Downloaded from gas. 2012 . and it is now widely accepted that the misrepresentation of the experiences of white middle-class women as the universal experiences of women have led to significant theoretical and political shortcomings. I will show that studying paid reproductive labor through an intersectional lens is a critical element in advancing our understandings of gender and racial inequalities in the labor market as well as in society as a whole.314 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 the experiences of all women in the process (Collins 1991. The concept of intersectional analysis emerged as an alternative to these formulations of universal womanhood and has gained momentum in feminist scholarship across disciplines.sagepub. immigrant women. hooks 1984. Nakano Glenn 1992). gender. Critics have argued that the experiences of these marginalized groups of women cannot simply be added into existing theoretical models. Feminist understandings of reproductive labor have been at the center of this critique. class. sufficiently complex understandings of empirical phenomena. interdetermining historical processes” (Amott and Matthaei 1996). hooks 1984.

2012 . In turn. 9). socialist-feminists were able to bring all of the activities of a housewife—from cleaning bathrooms and preparing food to caring for children—into the discourse of Marxist economics (Hansen and Philipson 1990). this inequality at the macro level maintains material constraints and ideological norms that uphold the gendered division of labor in the home (Chafetz 1991). Wally Secombe explains that when “the housewife acts directly upon wage-purchased goods and necessarily alters their form. These labor market disadvantages restrict women to lower-paying. and Downloaded from gas. manual. From the beginning. who differentiated between the production of goods in the economy and the reproduction of the labor power necessary to the maintenance of that productive economy. and Race-Ethnicity The idea of reproductive labor comes originally from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Dalla Costa 1972. Feminist scholars have argued that women’s continued responsibility for unpaid work in the home disadvantages them in the labor market. The concept was further developed in the 1970s largely with the goal of naming and analyzing a category of work that had previously remained virtually invisible within sociology and economics: women’s unpaid work in the home. both through periodic or long-term absences and through the burden of the second shift that wage-earning women still bear in the home (Hochschild 1989). Hartmann 1976). the idea of reproductive labor was inextricably linked to an analysis of the gendered division of labor and its central role in perpetuating women’s subordination. Scholars argued that the work of reproductive labor was indispensable to the ongoing reproduction and maintenance of the productive labor force and society and should be recognized as such (Boydston 1990. reinforcing men’s greater access to both resources and power. 383) define social reproduction as including “various kinds of work—mental. For example. her labour becomes part of the congealed mass of past labour embodied in labour power” (Secombe 1974. Two concurrent trends have made the limitations of this view more clear in recent decades: the increasing numbers of women in the paid labor force and the heightened visibility of the role of paid workers in reproductive labor. Barbara Laslett and Johanna Brenner (1989. As a result. While originally conceptualized as a way to theoretically account for unpaid work. Gender. Using this concept. lower-status by guest on October 16. there has been growing recognition of the inadequacy of the equation of women with unpaid domestic work in the private sphere and men with paid work in the public sphere.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 315 Reproductive Labor. the concept has been expanded to bridge the unpaid and paid spheres.sagepub. In his classic article on the topic.

” she says. While the links between reproductive labor and gender have been studied extensively. . 7) explains that examining the domestic service relationship offers “an extraordinary opportunity: the exploration of a situation in which the three structures of power in the United States today—that is. and reproductive labor is central to the project of intersectionality. and other inequalities has been relatively recent. the capitalist class structure. Although feminists have argued that reproductive labor produces value. citizenship. . Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2003.” the relegation of the “dirty work” to racial-ethnic2 women has remained remarkably consistent. large-scale movement away from a universalization of women’s experiences to a more intersectional approach that takes into account race. Evelyn Nakano Glenn (1992) has argued that understanding the relationships between race. domestic activities remain largely defined in contrast to work.” Unlinking the concept of reproductive labor from its exclusive association with the housewife allowed scholars to use the idea to analyze the parallel devaluation of paid reproductive labor such as domestic service. One area in which there has been an explosion of scholarship focused on unraveling the complex interactions among race. rather than additive. . defined care necessary to maintain existing life and to reproduce the next generation. Dill 1994. “is key to the distinct exploitation of women of color. 2012 . she shows that despite the large-scale historical transformation of paid reproductive labor from a model of “servitude” to one of “service by guest on October 16. and child care.sagepub. food preparation and service work.” Nakano Glenn (1992) argues that the racial-ethnic hierarchies identified in domestic service arrangements parallel hierarchies in institutional settings in which paid reproductive labor is also performed. gender. Using detailed historical analyses of several regions of the United States. “The racial division of reproductive labor. the patriarchal sex hierarchy. Romero 1992). Rollins 1985. And when those domestic activities are performed by paid workers. Parrenas 2001. cleaning. HondagneuSotelo 2001. gender. as well as biologically. Downloaded from gas. These scholars have again seen paid reproductive labor—here in the form of domestic service—as a uniquely important locus of study for developing integrated understandings of inequality. and reproductive labor is research on domestic service (Chang 2000. systems” (Nakano Glenn 1992. and the racial division of labor—interact. 116). It is thus essential to the development of an integrated model of race and gender. and that the sustainability of productive labor and of society itself depends on it. they seem to retain their invisibility as labor. Judith Rollins (1985. one that treats them as interlocking.316 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 emotional—aimed at providing the historically and socially.

This article therefore addresses an issue that is central to advancing an intersectional analysis of gender and race by focusing on the “dirty work” of reproductive labor—the tasks historically associated with racial-ethnic women. which is an initiative designed to facilitate historical analysis of the decennial census of the United States. while white women maintain more public and supervisory roles (nurses. The larger study from which this article is drawn uses U. I trace the evolution of cleaning and cooking tasks in the labor force and analyze the demographics of these workers. The IPUMS data Downloaded from gas.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 317 In previous centuries. Nakano Glenn argues that as reproductive tasks have been increasingly removed from the household and performed within publicly organized institutions. racial-ethnic women have continued to perform the “back-room” work (hospital cafeteria workers. Data and Method The data on which this article is based are part of a larger historical study of reproductive labor and care work. and immigrant composition of the reproductive labor workforce.umn. What these data show is that the shift from servitude to service work has resulted in a fairly dramatic increase in the proportion of the dirty work of reproductive labor being performed by racial-ethnic men as well as women. 2004). My goal is to add a broad historical quantitative dimension to a field that has been largely framed by intensive qualitative analysis. Using a large national sample. IPUMS provides access to a computerized sample drawn from the entire population of U.sagepub. The historical story in these data further complicates the hierarchy presented by Nakano Glenn (1992) and Roberts (1997). focusing on occupational shifts as well as the gender. for example) for more information). racial-ethnic women were disproportionately represented as domestic servants. The data come from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) project at the University of Minnesota (Ruggles et al. census respondents (see www. racial-ethnic. Roberts (1997) describes this racialized hierarchy within reproductive labor as the division between “spiritual” work—associated with white women—and “menial” work—associated with racial-ethnic women. performing the laborious tasks of maintaining the home while their white employers served as housewives and hostesses. For each year included in the series. census data to analyze the development of reproductive labor in the paid labor market from 1900 to 2000. These findings therefore raise interesting challenges for integrating gender and race in an understanding of reproductive labor and labor market by guest on October 16.S.ipums. 2012 . for example).

First. For any project involving a period of 100 years.sagepub. cleaning. The size of the labor force samples ranges from about 135. allowing for accurate historical comparison without the loss of detailed information provided by contemporary codes. For most of the historical analysis. Since the goal of the IPUMS project is to facilitate historical analysis. and immigration status at an individual level.S. census includes many detailed labor force variables as well as information about gender. teaching. and Nancy Folbre (2002) to identify nurturant occupations that include a significant relational and caregiving dimension (such as child care. census. and many health care Downloaded from gas.000 cases to more than 2. representative subsets of the full census data sets. personal care) or • Work that reproduces the next generation (care of children and youth). Michelle Budig. the coding scheme for the variable recording an individual’s occupation has changed significantly through the history of the U. I used a set of criteria developed by Paula England. for many variables.8 million cases. the IPUMS data were a perfect fit for the goals of this project. For example. range in size from 366. nationally representative samples of the U. IPUMS has assigned uniform codes across by guest on October 16. I then assigned a separate code subdividing the reproductive labor occupations into “nurturant” and “nonnurturant” jobs (see Duffy 2005 for more details on this conceptual distinction). In addition. race-ethnicity. For the majority of the analyses in the study. Since the U.318 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 sets are very large. the comparability of the data is a major concern. The analysis uses ten different IPUMS data sets. food preparation and service. population. In all cases. one for each decade except 1930 (the 1930 data set was not available at the time of the study). Every IPUMS sample contains a new variable recoding an individual’s occupation according to the 1950 categorization.S. I determined the following criteria for inclusion of an occupation in the study as reproductive labor: • Work that maintains daily life (physical or mental health. IPUMS provides extensive documentation of potential comparability problems with particular variables. in general. the creators of the data sets have addressed comparability in a number of ways. high-precision.3 million. Using the work of Nakano Glenn (1992) as a guide. the universe of interest is the labor force.000 to more than 1. I used the 1950 occupational categorization to allow for consistent comparison across decades. While specific comparability issues remain.S. The samples. 2012 . the original variable is preserved. IPUMS has created a system that allows for unprecedented levels of consistency in historical analysis with such a wealth of data.

as I will discuss later in the article. It is this latter category of nonnurturant reproductive labor that will be the primary focus of this article. non-Hispanic. it should be noted that as with most categorical divisions.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 319 positions). My primary goal in this article is to follow the occupational and demographic path of the particular tasks identified as associated with racial-ethnic hierarchies in reproductive labor. American Indian. I will describe the transformation of nonnurturant reproductive labor from a Downloaded from gas. and the enumeration of racial categories has changed many times over the decades. many domestic workers have been expected to perform both child care and cleaning tasks. I used SPSS to calculate a series of composite statistics that measure the size and scope of the reproductive labor workforce as well as the distribution of these workers by sex and race. Each of the historical charts generated from this study is therefore the result of an analysis of ten different data sets totaling almost 16. I will use contemporary occupational and industry variables to provide detail and context to the categorical analysis. I did not find them to be the most useful categories for understanding the racial-ethnic breakdown of the reproductive labor force. I compiled all of the statistics described above for each decade into a single Excel file to facilitate historical comparison.” For example. and graphs created from the data present patterns over time. and other race. particularly in recent decades. First. For each data set. non-Hispanic. Asian and Pacific Islander.sagepub. These categories are common across years and therefore allow for historical comparison of the data sets. Black. The categorical choice is a strategic one based on the particular social construction of racial-ethnic categories in the United States rather than on the inherent conceptual validity of the categories. non-Hispanic. there is certainly some ambiguity in labeling this group of workers “nonnurturant” in contrast to “nurturant. The measurement of race in the census has been the subject of much controversy and debate. other Asian/Pacific. I decided to create a new race variable (RACENEW) combining this variable with a separate measure of Hispanic origin3 into the following mutually exclusive categories: white.5 million individual cases. Japanese. and laundry. A wide range of tables. by guest on October 16. These broad racial-ethnic characterizations allow me to examine general historical trends at a national level. However. However. charts. 2012 . I will present the findings of the study in two sections. Therefore. Black. food preparation and service. and Hispanic. In the second phase of the analysis. Those jobs coded as nonnurturant correspond to Nakano Glenn’s (1992) identification of “dirty work”: cleaning. Each IPUMS data set contains a variable for race (RACEG) that collapses detailed codes into the following categories: white. Chinese. other race.

In 1870.and upper-class families employed at least one domestic servant. at least 50 percent of employed women in the United States were servants. child care centers. clean. When domestic service was at its most widespread. both to women workers and to reproductive labor. The Occupational Transformation of Reproductive Labor If one defines reproductive labor as a set of tasks “necessary to maintain existing life and to reproduce the next generation” (Laslett and Brenner 1989). 2012 . It is difficult to overestimate the importance of domestic service in the United States after the Civil War. right before the number of servants in the United States reached its peak in the 1880s. the ratio was as high as one to four (Sutherland 1981). In the second section. or reproductive labor can be performed in institutions such as hospitals. Throughout the last half of the nineteenth century. and until 1870. there was one servant for every eight American families. I use the term “private household work” to refer to work done by paid workers within private homes (I will also refer to these as domestic servants/workers). and some wealthier families employed an entire staff to carry out the daily functions of their households. Nakano Glenn (1992) refers to the two models that involve paid workers as “servitude” and “service work. and nursing homes. not to superimpose an ideological dichotomy of any kind. restaurants. and a head housekeeper Downloaded from gas.320 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 private domestic service model to institutionally based cleaning.sagepub. The work can be done by family members or volunteers for no pay. and in some cities. food preparation and service. and laundry occupations.” Following the terminology used in the census. a nursemaid to attend to children. laundresses to do the washing and ironing. and care for children or ill family members. I use the terms “public” and “institutional” to refer to the workers whose reproductive labor takes place within institutions as opposed to private households. workers can come into employers’ homes to cook. one can immediately see that there are various ways of organizing the accomplishment of those tasks within a society. personal care staff for the adults in the household. a fully staffed household might have included numerous maids to clean and maintain the rooms of the house. “nearly everybody” in middle. Ninety percent of these servants were by guest on October 16. a cooking staff to prepare and serve meals. These terms are meant to efficiently capture the location of the work and the occupational transformation of nonnurturant reproductive labor in the twentieth century. I will examine the shifts in the sex and race makeup of nonnurturant reproductive labor that accompanied this transformation.

4 Almost 1. and care for the ill and elderly. These were workers who usually lived in the homes of their employers and were engaged in every aspect of reproductive labor—cleaning. The majority (69 percent) of these workers are identified as private household cleaners and servants or housekeepers and butlers. Downloaded from gas. who live with and work for a particular family. who work for a particular family five or six days a week but return to their own homes at night.sagepub. Other researchers have identified similar trends in domestic work (Dill 1994. often called a “maid-of-all-work” (Sutherland 1981). housekeepers. live-out nanny/housekeepers. laundry. However. the number of private household workers decreased between 1900 and 1990. As shown in Figure 1. private household cooks and laundresses are found in much smaller numbers. Again supporting Hondagneu-Sotelo’s findings. about 1. food preparation and service.000. with only a few assigned more specific titles such as laundresses. And although those hired by a single family on a live-in or live-out basis are most often expected to do both cleaning and child care work. or cooks. housecleaners who work for multiple clients usually do not take care of children. and an additional 29 percent as child care workers within a private household. Romero 1992). who work for multiple employers on a contractual basis.5 million workers were employed in private households.3 million workers5 were employed in private household work in 1900. Contemporary studies of domestic service show that despite some important continuities. all of these functions were combined into the job of a single domestic servant. there have been some significant shifts in the job. the absolute number of domestic workers had decreased to 570. child care. In 1950. representing a rate of growth far slower than the dramatic growth in the size of the labor force during this same time period (from 27 million to 61 million workers). Contemporary domestic workers are also less likely than their nineteenth-century counterparts to be asked by employers to prepare meals for the whole family. Rollins 1985. She found that the live-in model was often considered the most onerous by workers and that the trend in contemporary domestic service is away from live-in positions. in the majority of households in the United States. again in the context of enormous overall labor market growth (up to 124 million workers). The majority of these workers were identified generically as domestic servants. and housecleaners.6 These are the nanny/housekeepers identified by Hondagneu-Sotelo (2001) and others.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 321 and butler to manage and oversee the rest of the domestic staff. And by by guest on October 16. Hondagneu-Sotelo (2001) describes three different models of domestic work in the latter half of the twentieth century: live-in nanny/housekeepers. 2012 .

000. fewer than 80.g. compared to for more information). Also shown is the much less precipitous increase in laundry and dry cleaning operatives. and 1990 NOTE: National population estimates calculated from Integrated Public Use Microdata Series samples (see Duffy 2004 or www. the tasks of reproduction became increasingly located outside of private households during the twentieth century.000 workers were employed in public cleaning work in 1900.000 2.000 1.000.5 million in 1990.000.sagepub. 1900.5 million by 1990.ipums. 2012 . Nakano Glenn (1992) has argued that just as production was removed from the household in the nineteenth century. Likewise. Downloaded from gas.000 0 Private household workers Public cleaning occupations Food preparation and service Laundry and dry cleaning operatives 1900 1950 1990 Figure 1: Occupational Distribution of Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Workers.322 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 6. The growth of the service sector during the last half of the twentieth century has been widely studied in recent decades (e. these two occupational groups grew by an astounding 1. the third major public incarnation of nonnurturant reproductive labor.. 1950.000.000 in 1900 to almost 5. The expansion of institutionally based reproductive labor is part of that trend.umn. Taken together. a relatively small number of workers were performing the cleaning and maintenance work of social reproduction outside of private household settings.000.000 3. The dramatic increases seen in Figure 1 in the broad occupational categories of public cleaning and food preparation and service reflect this transformation. These public cleaning workers were largely by guest on October 16. MacDonald and Sirianni 1996).000 Number of workers 4.000. In 1900. As shown in Figure 1. the number of food preparation and service workers grew from 426.700 percent during the century. which peaked before the end of the century.000 5.

2012 .0 percent. the makeup of the workers within these occupations has changed quite dramatically. Overall. In 1900. the overwhelming majority were private household workers. Downloaded from gas.sagepub. a large number still work in public buildings and apartment complexes. and hospitals and nursing homes. the provision of food through restaurants and in other institutions grew at a phenomenal rate.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 323 responsible for cleaning and maintaining public buildings and apartment houses. as can be seen by the shaded areas. and the remainder are again concentrated in hotels and motels. By 1990. more and more of those workers are men. While these workers are employed in industries across the economy. schools. However. the gender shifts cannot be understood without simultaneously analyzing the racial-ethnic makeup of the men who are doing the work of institutional reproductive labor. However. and hospitals and nursing homes. to name a few.7 If one looks across the economy at how nonnurturant reproductive labor tasks are organized within in the paid labor market. As more workers perform the tasks of nonnurturant reproductive labor outside of private homes. It is this shifting picture of sex and racial-ethnic segregation that will be the focus of the next section. by guest on October 16. Figure 2 provides a vivid illustration of the combined impact of these occupational shifts on the organization of the dirty work of reproductive labor in the economy. and sextons. responsible for cleaning and maintenance of churches. domestic workers were a small minority compared to those in public cleaning occupations and food preparation and service. More than two thirds work in restaurant settings. waiters and waitresses. and food counter workers. the number of food preparation and service workers outnumbered private household workers 10 to 1. the rise of what Nakano Glenn (1992) calls “institutional service work” has dramatically expanded the numbers of workers performing the cleaning and maintenance tasks of reproductive labor in institutional settings. The other institutions in which these workers are concentrated are hotels and motels.8 percent to 8. the workers engaged in food preparation and service were categorized generically as employees of hotels and restaurants and numbered far fewer than the number of domestic servants at the time. kitchen workers. schools. the percentage of the labor force engaged in nonnurturant reproductive labor has increased modestly from 6. these workers fulfill much more specialized roles: cooks. one sees a transformation from the dominance of domestic service to the preponderance of institutional forms of cooking and cleaning. In 1900. In modern institutions. By 1990. By 1990. At the same time as the practice of having private household workers responsible for meal preparation and service became less common.

the occupational transformation of nonnurturant reproductive labor has led to a significant change in overall sex composition. and 1990 Who’s Doing the Dirty Work? While private household work is and has always been almost exclusively the domain of women. but the disproportionate presence of racialethnic and immigrant workers in this group of jobs has remained.324 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 10% Percentage of labor force 9% 8% 7% 6% 5% 4% 3% 2% 1% 0% 1900 1950 1990 Food preparation and service Private household workers Laundry and dry cleaning Public cleaning occupations Figure 2: Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Workers as a Percentage of Labor Force. public cleaning and food preparation and service jobs have historically been much less dramatically segregated by sex. There have been some shifts in the balance of Black and Hispanic workers represented in nonnurturant reproductive labor. The percentage of women in food preparation and service was about 65 percent Downloaded from gas. By contrast.sagepub. 1900. the proportion who were women also rose. more than 95 percent of private household workers were women. By contrast. 1950. in 1900. 2012 . women made up only 43 percent of these workers overall. Because of the contrasting makeup of these groups of by guest on October 16. But even in 1990. Both at the beginning and at the end of the century. As the size of the occupation grew. three-quarters of the small number of public cleaning workers were men. Figure 3 illustrates the significantly different sex compositions of private and public versions of nonnurturant reproductive labor. general patterns of racial-ethnic subordination have shown remarkable continuity in the face of such sweeping occupational change.

shows a steady increase over time. The relative concentration is the ratio of a group’s representation in a particular sector relative to that group’s representation in the labor market as a whole (Amott and Matthaei 1996). Figure 4 shows the changes in the overall sex makeup of nonnurturant reproductive labor over time from 1900 to 2000. The solid line. if women make up 20 percent of the labor force in a particular year. but 40 percent of the reproductive labor sector. I will borrow a measure from Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei (1996) called relative concentration. And the much smaller number of laundry and dry cleaning operatives was 36 percent women in 1900 and 65 percent in 1990. 1900. To contextualize this decrease in light of the overall growth in women’s labor force participation. 2012 . that share had increased to 47 percent in 2000. 1950. particularly in the post-1950 decades. While women made up only 18 percent of the labor force in by guest on October 16. the percentage of nonnurturant reproductive labor workers who were women declined from 83 percent in 1900 to 56 percent in 2000.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 325 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Private household workers Public cleaning occupations 1900 Food preparation and service 1950 1990 Laundry and dry cleaning operatives Figure 3: Percentage women Women as a Percentage of Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Occupations. At the same time as the presence of women in the labor force was undergoing a significant increase. representing the percentage of the labor force that is female. the relative concentration of women in the Downloaded from gas. For example. and 1990 in 1900 and had dropped slightly to 60 percent in 1990.sagepub.

racial-ethnic groups. and a ratio of less than 1 would indicate an underrepresentation of that group. the relative concentration was 1. This means that women were overrepresented in nonnurturant reproductive labor at more than four times their representation in the labor market. By 2000. the relative concentration of women in nonnurturant reproductive labor in 1900 was 4. a figure approaching parity.326 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 100% 90% 80% Percentage women 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 Labor force Nonnurturant reproductive labor Figure 4: Women as a Percentage of Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Workers (All).sagepub. Downloaded from gas.61 (83/18). and immigrants in the labor force overall. This measure allows for the comparison of occupational distributions over time in the context of the changing representation of women. the drop in relative concentration is visually represented by the narrowing of the gap between the solid line (women’s representation in the labor force) and the dotted line (women’s representation in nonnurturant reproductive labor) through the century. A relative concentration of exactly 1 would indicate perfectly proportional representation. 2012 . 1900 through 2000 NOTE: Sample for 1930 not available at time of the study. at double the rate of their representation in the labor force as a whole. by guest on October 16. This ratio would indicate that women are overrepresented in the reproductive labor sector—in fact. Figure 5 shows a very different picture of the evolution of the racialethnic makeup of nonnurturant reproductive labor over the century. Going back to the data presented in Figure 4.19 (56/47). reproductive labor sector would be 2. In Figure 4.0 (40/20).

Comparable race-ethnicity data not available for 1910 and 1960. As seen in Figure 6. 2012 .Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 327 100% 90% 80% Percentage white 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 Labor force Nonnurturant reproductive labor Figure 5: Whites as a Percentage of Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Workers (All).37—the scale of the change is considerably less extreme than the shifts in gender balance. Whites remain underrepresented among nonnurturant reproductive labor throughout the century. making up 66 percent of these workers in 1900 and 60 percent in 2000.62 to 1. the other piece of the story that emerges from examining the shifting sex configuration along with the racial-ethnic makeup is the increasing presence of racial-ethnic men in nonnurturant reproductive labor. the solid line shows the percentage of the overall labor force identified as non-Hispanic white. Her argument that these “back room” jobs have long been and continue to be the province of women of color is supported by these data. The relative consistency of overrepresentation of racial-ethnic workers among nonnurturant reproductive labor supports Nakano Glenn’s (1992) argument that there are important historical continuities in the division of reproductive labor between women along racial-ethnic lines. 1900 through 2000 NOTE: Sample for 1930 not available at the time of the study. the increasing presence of men in nonnurturant reproductive labor has been fueled largely by the significant increases in Downloaded from gas. However.sagepub. a percentage that decreased from 87 percent in 1900 to 71 percent in by guest on October 16. Although there is some change in the racial-ethnic distribution of nonnurturant reproductive labor during this time period—the relative concentration of racial-ethnic workers decreases from 2.

2012 . only 35 percent of nonnurturant reproductive labor workers were white women. and then increasing again in recent decades. As a result.328 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 100% Percentage of non-nurturant reproductive labor workers 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 Other men Asian/Pacific men Hispanic men Black men White men Other women Asian/Pacific women Hispanic women Black women White women Figure 6: Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor Workers. The proportion of nonnurturant reproductive labor workers who are Black men has remained relatively consistent over the century at around 7 percent. By 2000. This pattern is largely due to the overrepresentation of Asian/Pacific men among laundry workers early in the century. but their pattern of representation shows a more significant presence at the beginning of the century. Comparable race-ethnicity data not available for 1910 and 1960. decreasing for the first 50 by guest on October 16. As opportunities outside domestic service opened up for these two groups. and increases in the representation of white men. Men of Asian/Pacific origin represent a much smaller segment of the overall labor force. by Gender and RaceEthnicity. who made up 9 percent of nonnurturant reproductive labor workers in 1900 and 25 percent in 2000. while 8 percent were Black women. the largest proportional increases in representation among nonnurturant reproductive labor were among Hispanic women and Asian/Pacific Downloaded from gas. who made up 9 percent of these workers in 2000 compared to less than 1 percent in 1900. 1900 through 2000 NOTE: Sample for 1930 not available at the time of the study. Domestic servants at the beginning of the century were largely white women (often immigrants) and Black women. and Black women represented 26 percent of these workers. representation of Hispanic men. white women made up 56 percent of nonnurturant reproductive labor in 1900. Figure 6 illustrates that the racial-ethnic makeup of women in nonnurturant reproductive labor has also changed substantially over the century. large numbers fled not only domestic service but also other similar occupational categories.8 Like the pattern for men.

2012 As ia n/ Pa c te ac k c hi W ifi ni Bl .00 6.00 4. with the exception of Asian/Pacific men. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific women were also heavily overrepresented. Black women’s enormously disproportionate representation among domestic workers is reflected in a relative concentration of 6. A value of 1 indicates perfectly proportional representation. And white women were overrepresented at a relative concentration of 4.00 3. In 1900. who were small in number and concentrated among laundry jobs.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 329 8.00 2. and values less than 1 indicate underrepresentation. Among men. made up 9 percent of these workers by 2000. Downloaded from gas. And the percentage of Asian/Pacific women increased from less than 1 percent to slightly more than 2 percent. women. all were underrepresented in this group of jobs. values more than 1 indicate overrepresentation.66 in nonnurturant reproductive labor.16.00 0.00 1. Hispanic women. by Gender.00 Relative concentration 7. all groups of women were heavily overrepresented among nonnurturant labor. Figure 7 better contextualizes these shifts in the racial-ethnic makeup of nonnurturant reproductive labor in terms of the changes in the labor market as a whole by comparing the relative concentrations of each group in 1900 and 2000.sagepub. who were barely represented in 1900.00 en en en en en en en w om w om w om w om m m m te ac k c ifi hi ni H is pa c m en c Pa c W Bl pa is n/ H As ia 1900 2000 Figure 7: Relative Concentrations of Racial-Ethnic Groups within Nonnurturant Reproductive Labor. although it must be remembered their numbers in the labor force were quite small at that by guest on October 16. 1900 and 2000 NOTE: The relative concentration is the ratio of a group’s representation in a particular sector relative to that group’s representation in the labor market as a whole (Amott and Matthaei 1996).00 5.

2012 . there have been some shifts in the racial-ethnic makeup of nonnurturant reproductive labor. to the extent that cultural “typing” of jobs by gender.64. And Black women and Asian/Pacific women remain overrepresented at relative concentrations of 1.34 and 1. and other characteristics is linked to the creation and maintenance of occupational segregation and devaluation. then. For example. now a much larger presence. First. at relative concentrations of by guest on October 16. In fact. Hispanics are the group of men most heavily overrepresented among this group of workers. whose relative concentration remains 0. These nonnurturant reproductive labor occupations have very similar content (cooking and cleaning) but are performed in different locations (private homes versus institutional settings). As with women. the distinction between the institutional (public) context and the household (private) context becomes the gendered boundary despite the similar nature of the tasks. the patterns described in this article challenge us to think about that process in an intersectional way.04.28. the picture looks significantly different. caring for young children has remained strongly associated with women. whether in Downloaded from gas. what is gained from this empirical analysis of the intersections of sex and race in the history of nonnurturant reproductive labor? First. respectively. In particular. It is important to note that these levels are now higher than levels of overrepresentation for white women. is the highest of any group at 2. Among men. It is worth noting that this does not necessarily hold true for other gender-typed tasks. Black men and Hispanic men have shifted from being underrepresented to being overrepresented among nonnurturant labor. DISCUSSION So.330 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 By 2000. So. and child care occupations. Among women. the relative concentration of white women in nonnurturant reproductive labor has decreased to 1. we see not only shifts in degree but dramatic reversals from underrepresentation to disproportionate concentrations of men of color among nonnurturant reproductive labor. race.sagepub.41 and 1. respectively.00.43. the only group of men not overrepresented among nonnurturant reproductive labor in 2000 is white men. almost exactly proportional to their representation in the overall labor force. The relative concentration for Hispanic women. Hispanic women are now the group that is most heavily concentrated in this group of jobs. One way to interpret the results is that the deeply gendered ideological division of public and private becomes so central to the process of occupational segregation in this case that the content of the work and its similarity becomes overshadowed.

racial-ethnic men are disproportionately concentrated in institutional cleaning and food preparation and service occupations. the nurturing content of the work itself is connected to a gendertyping process that appears to supersede the public-private boundary in location. the racial-ethnic hierarchy in reproductive labor also manifests itself along a somewhat differently formulated version of the public-private divide. And these largescale patterns of demographic clustering within certain occupations are important data for those scholars interested in further unraveling the process of job typing through an intersectional lens. Interestingly. While white women are much more likely to be associated with the private forms of nonnurturant reproductive labor. while racial-ethnic workers are disproportionately represented among those workers who remain more invisible. and class to understanding how certain jobs become occupational ghettos for disenfranchised members of society. In this case. cultural norms are only part of the picture of labor market inequalities. The work that is more visible—more public—tends to be more dominated by whites. Preston 1993). remain dominated by women.9 These data add a broad dimension to detailed historical analyses of the gender typing of particular occupations (Cohn 1985. and the patterns described in these data also highlight the Downloaded from gas. The data in this article also emphasize that however this gender-typing process works. as opposed to the more relational and more public work performed by whites. immigration. Of course. while institutional forms of cleaning and food preparation (in which workers are not asked to also perform child care) are more balanced. racial-ethnic women are significantly overrepresented in both the private household and institutional incarnations of cooking and cleaning work. it is not race neutral. This strong association of child care with women may be part of the explanation for why private household work (which can include some expectation of child care) remains dominated by women. they do show the complexity of the patterns in the labor market that both create and are the result of these cultural attributions. The emphasis in this analysis is on visibility rather than location. Those patterns highlight the importance of an analysis of the typing of jobs that integrates gender with other factors such as by guest on October 16. So race and gender have an interlocking impact on segregation by content as well as by location of work. While the data in this article cannot provide information about the cultural meanings of reproductive labor. And although men are barely represented among private household workers. while white men are underrepresented across the board.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 331 private households or in centers.sagepub. All of the jobs included in this study as nonnurturant reproductive labor would fall into Nakano Glenn’s (1992) definition of “back room” work. 2012 .

and geographic isolation (Wilson 1996) have tended to address either gender or race. and Winkler 1998. Thus. There have been a number of recent books that have taken on the challenge of understanding labor market configurations through a historical and intersectional lens (Amott and Matthaei 1996. discrimination (Acker 1989. An example will illustrate the potential of developing theories of intersectionality based on combining broad quantitative data with detailed qualitative analysis. Hondagneu-Sotelo (2001) found that many of the women she interviewed had obtained their positions through a word-of-mouth referral from a friend or relative. The present study builds on this project by documenting the specific configurations of race and sex within a particular occupational group over time. 2012 . Blau. Cynthia Cranford (2005) has also analyzed the role of social networks in recruitment of Mexican and Central American immigrant workers in Los Angeles. Ferber. this empirical work provides the basis for the further development of new intersectional theoretical models. there has been much less scholarship that considers how these and other factors work simultaneously to concentrate particular groups of workers in particular jobs. the institutional Downloaded from gas. but not both simultaneously. One of the trends that emerges from this study is the very heavy presence of Hispanic women among the remaining private household workforce as well as the high concentration of Hispanic women and men in the institutional cleaning and food preparation and service positions. Theoretical models that have focused on human capital (Becker 1994). England 1992). residential segregation (Massey and Denton 1993). The quantitative analysis in the present study shows that as new waves of immigrants from Mexico and Central America have entered the labor force in the United States.332 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 need to take an intersectional approach to understanding the structural processes that create and maintain occupational segregation and the devaluation of reproductive by guest on October 16. Cranford found that word-of-mouth referrals through immigrant communities are also a critical factor in the concentration of Hispanic men and women in the janitorial industry. While sex segregation and racial-ethnic segregation in the labor market have both been the subject of extensive empirical and theoretical work. labor market segmentation (Doeringer and Piore 1985). In her detailed qualitative study of domestic workers in Los Angeles. the social networks within communities of immigrants and their children seemed to be a central feature to the process of concentration of Hispanic women in domestic worker positions in the Los Angeles context. Nakano Glenn 2002). nonnurturant reproductive labor is one of the sectors of the economy in which they have become disproportionately represented. Taken together with more detailed studies of processes of segregation in local contexts.

41). The large-scale patterns identified by the quantitative data and the processes identified by the qualitative studies are like pieces of a puzzle that together create a better picture of the whole. Dana Britton for pointing me to her very useful clarification of the distinction between the “gendering” of an occupation and the concept of sex segregation (Britton 2000). The census began to collect information about Hispanic origin in 1970. the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series created a proxy variable for Hispanic origin using lists of Spanish-language surnames. 2. The data in the present study provide a broad empirical view of an area that also has marshaled considerable qualitative investigation. understanding occupational segregation and the devaluation of reproductive labor in the paid labor market requires theoretical models that build links between structural and cultural explanations and integrate gender with race-ethnicity and other important factors such as citizenship. While some analyses have pointed to the re-emergence of domestic service as a growth occupation in Europe (Andall 2000. Separate identification of domestic workers in the 2000 data is impossible. Thank you to Dr. I will use the term racialethnic “to refer collectively to groups that have been socially constructed and constituted as racially as well as culturally distinct from European Americans” (Nakano Glenn 1992. In the combination of these empirical analyses lies fertile ground for theory development.sagepub. and other disenfranchised groups in these and other low-wage jobs. 3. No measure of Hispanic origin is available for the 1910 and 1960 data sets. and ultimately better policy. so these years are excluded from analyses involving the RACENEW variable. the census data analyzed in this study show no growth in the occupation at a national level at any time in the century through 1990. In previous data sets. 2012 . racial-ethnic workers. The challenge now is how to use this knowledge to build better theory. These theoretical models will only emerge from careful empirical research that documents at the most broad as well as at the most detailed level the historical processes through which current labor market configurations have arisen. and so it is not included in this part of the analysis. Downloaded from gas.Duffy / DOING THE DIRTY WORK 333 incarnation of nonnurturant reproductive by guest on October 16. It is important to note that Cranford argues that the use of these informal networks facilitated the exploitation of immigrant workers by companies during a time of economic restructuring and changing political context. 4. Following the example of Evelyn Nakano Glenn. to address the persistent concentration of women. Anderson 2000) and in particular cities in Southern California (Milkman 1998). Ultimately. NOTES 1.

Becker. Joan. and Anne E.334 GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2007 5. Amott. Ferber. it would be interesting to track the growth of this occupation and its relationship to more traditional domestic service arrangements. Francine D. New York: Zed Books. with special reference to education. information about the specific distribution of workers within occupational categories was calculated by the author using the contemporary occupation and industry codes in the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series data sets. these figures are undoubtedly underestimations of the actual number of domestic workers. Andall. 2000. many home health care workers are also involved in cleaning tasks in private homes. The economics of women. Jacqueline. perhaps by as much as 200 percent (Milkman 1998). and pay equity. 1989. 2000. since more immigrants are included in census figures now than at previous times in history (WoodrowLafield 1998). Doing the dirty work? The global politics of domestic labour. and work: A multicultural economic history of women in the United States. Downloaded from gas. their representation increased significantly among nursing and teaching. I calculated these population estimates by applying a weight variable included in every Integrated Public Use Microdata Series data set (PERWT) to each analytic procedure. Race. census undercounts domestic workers (especially those who are immigrants). both of which had been dominated by white women through the 1950s. and domestic service: The politics of Black women in Italy. Boston: South End. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 7. men. Unless otherwise cited. REFERENCES Acker. Anderson. and Julie Matthaei. Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis. it is unlikely that contemporary underrepresentation significantly distorts the overall downward trend. Doing comparable worth: Gender. Although their job is set up as personal care. It is also important to note Black women’s heavy representation among the fast-growing occupation of home health care. 2012 . 1996. 9. Given this fact. Scholars generally agree that the U. The population estimates involving race for the 1970 sample may contain minor inaccuracies due to a necessary imputation of missing data in about 10 percent of the cases. class. Gender. Burlington. and work.sagepub. 1998. While these data do not allow for the separation of these workers from nursing aides in hospitals and nursing homes. two of the largest occupations among nurturant reproductive labor. 6. Gary. gender. Throughout the presentation of findings. Winkler. 8. Blau. migration. as Black women left domestic service. VT: Ashgate.S. Marianne by guest on October 16. Bridget. Upper Saddle River. I use national population estimates when discussing numbers of workers. NJ: Prentice Hall. the job of home health care workers is primarily defined in terms of a more nurturant role. This would be an interesting question to explore related to home health care workers because in contrast to traditional domestic service. Teresa. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1994. However.. Interestingly.

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