Edited by Deborah M. Figart and Tonia L. Warnecke
Chapter 19: The role of the government in work–family conflict in the US
The United States stands apart as particularly weak on policies to address work–family conflict (see Heymann, 2000; Waldfogel, 2001; Gornick and Meyers, 2003; Ray et al., 2008). A key challenge is that, unlike in the European Union and OECD countries more generally, US policies that address working-time regulation and social insurance remain stuck in an early twentieth-century mindset about who works and who cares, one that no longer reflects the ways that American families work and live. Because policy-makers have not updated their concept of what the American family looks like, they have not prioritized policies to help families who are at work also be good caregivers. While employers have made some progress addressing these issues voluntarily, they have not filled in the gaps left by an outdated policy structure. It was in the 1930s that President Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins put in place the federal policies in the United States that continue to provide the framework for policies addressing the intersection of work and family in the United States. During that era, most families had a stay-at-home caregiver, usually a mother, who could provide full-time care for children, the aged, and the sick. Relative to today, few women worked outside the home, although some, disproportionately women of color and recent immigrants, always have had relatively high labor force participation.
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