Getting to Yes, And

Holding It Together


Jessica Calarco

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Kelly connects with Jessica Calarco, a Sociologist and Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. to discuss her latest book "Holding it Together: How Women Became America’s Social Safety Net."

I didn’t not know that the US once offered universal childcare. This happened during World War 2.

"It took a long time. Congress sort of dragged its feet in actually putting this program in place but once it did, they were wildly successful. These kind of centers offered in some cases 10 or 12 hours a day of high-quality childcare that was usually less than $10 per day - in today's dollars - for families. Many places also offered after school care and summer care for kids who were older. And this sort of high-quality system existed across the US. And that helped to raise the employment rate among mothers of young children from one in 30 to one in 6 by the end of the war. And certainly, you know, we have to ask, ‘Well, where did this go? Why don't we still have this today?’ And essentially, we dismantled it almost as soon as it began. Unlike many of our European allies who used this as a chance to build out an even more robust and permanent childcare center; We shuttered those childcare centers because we wanted to make sure that the jobs that were available in the US could be given back to the men who were returning from war.”

The line that drew me to your work was something like, “The rest of the world has a social safety net, in the United States, we have women.”

"Yes, fortunately, other countries have invested in social safety nets to help people manage risk. They use things like taxes and regulations, especially on wealthy people and corporations, to protect people from falling into poverty, and to give people a leg up in reaching economic opportunities, and just to help people live with dignity, regardless of how much money they earn. In the United State, we've taken a different path.”

You use the term DIY society. What do you mean by a Do-It-Yourself society?

“What I talk about is our DIY society, which means: keeping taxes low, slashing huge holes in the safety net that we do have, and telling people if you just make good choices, everything will turn out okay, and you won't actually need government support at all. But the problem is, you can't actually DIY society. Forcing people to manage that much risk on their own has left many American families and communities teetering on the edge of collapse. And yet, we haven't collapsed, because what we figured out is that that we can get women to hold it together. We can get women to fill in those gaps in our economy, and gaps in the kind of threadbare safety net that we do have. Which means women being the default caregivers for children, for the sick and for the elderly, and also the ones who fill the lowest paid jobs in our economy. Women hold roughly 70% of America's lowest paid jobs, and those jobs are often too labor intensive to be profitable or highly paid.”


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