The Failed Welfare State and Its Gendered Effects in Urban America

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Jenny LENDRUM, Wayne State University, USA
This ethnographic research explores gendered mechanisms operating in the context of urban America, specifically in one neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. As state cuts and the retrenchment of the welfare state continue in the United States, availability of resources is abysmal. As a result, women, especially mothers and those in primary carework roles are disproportionately affected. Two decades ago, more resources including healthcare and cash support for child care and elderly care assistance were more often funded and more easily garnered. Today, the time and responsibilities required in both paid and unpaid carework hinders opportunities for additional or better paid work. In some cases, women are leaving full-time jobs or education paths to conduct carework, largely done in the home. The burden and precarity of carework upholds intergenerational poverty and reproduces intersectional inequalities, including long-term negative health outcomes related to stressors stemming from care duties and lack of resources. Findings reveal gendered processes in examples including: 1. men in male-headed households often find themselves relieved of care work which is then handed over to women outside of the household. 2. the brunt of the care work of grandchildren falling on grandmothers 3. women volunteering at community organizations to help secure supplies such as diapers, pads, and over-the-counter medications for the household. 4. less time to earn money in formal or informal economies. Informal care activities and gendered strategies include self-provisioning and cultivating support from communities and, when available, kin. These strategies put a strain on economic, social, and emotional resources of households and communities; thus depleting their ability to mitigate the effects of poverty.