November 8, 2021

“Why Haven’t U.S. Mothers Returned to Work? The Childcare Infrastructure They Need is Still Missing”

by Caitlyn Collins, Leah Ruppanner, and William Scarborough

Pundits have been debating the reasons behind what’s being called the Great Resignation, a trend showing workers quitting jobs at historically high rates. They’ve focused on employees’ desires for better wagesworking conditions and a fairer, more equitable work and family life. In addition, mothers with younger children have been especially challenged by the pandemic — and they are leaving their jobs at higher rates.


… For many mothers, the Great Resignation isn’t voluntary. They have been left with impossible choices between paid work and caring for their children that make this a Great Push instead.

February 11, 2021

“COVID Forced Australian Fathers To Do More at Home, But at the Same Cost Mothers Have Long Endured”

by Leah Ruppanner, Caitlyn Collins, Liana Christin Landivar, William Scarborough, and Xiao Tan

At the height of the first lockdown, the global economy closed and with it schools, childcare centres and employment shut. For many parents, the work associated with maintaining a job, homeschooling, round-the-clock caregiving and keeping a household afloat fell squarely on their shoulders. Some argued this would be a critical moment for men to step up as more egalitarian partners and help equalise gender norms in the home.

Our new study indicates Australian fathers took on more domestic work than their US counterparts but at the same cost women have suffered in trying to reconcile their work and family commitments: a rise in sleeplessness and anxiety.

November 11, 2020

“The Free Market Has Failed U.S. Working Parents”

by Caitlyn Collins

The U.S. government can and should do more to support working parents. In fact, the nation is an outlier among Western industrialized countries for its lack of adequate, federal family policies in four key areas: paid leave; affordable, quality childcare; fair work schedules; and living wages. The childcare crisis created by pandemic lockdowns has only highlighted these failures. Now is the time for workers and their employers to advocate for new laws.

August 7, 2020

“Productivity in a Pandemic”

by Caitlyn Collins

Almost overnight, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has upended daily life, including the work of scientific research. But scientists have not experienced these new disruptions equally. You may have heard that women scientists seem to be submitting fewer papers for publication (including preprints), whereas men are submitting more. If this imbalance is correct, then the effects could include fewer women being granted tenure and promotion, a larger gender pay gap, and even some women being pushed out of science.

Why might women scientists be publishing less than men during the pandemic? To answer this question, let’s examine what’s happening in the wider world of work—and, crucially, at home.

July 20, 2020

“COVID-19 is a Disaster for Mother’s Employment. And No, Working From Home is Not the Solution”

by Leah Ruppanner, Caitlyn Collins, and William Scarborough

When COVID-19 hit, some commentators hailed it as an opportunity to revolutionise gender roles in heterosexual couples. But as public life froze overnight and homes became schools, daycare centres and offices, mothers have been placed under more pressure, not less. Our new study on workers in the United States shows that in the first months of the pandemic, mothers noticeably reduced their employment, but fathers’ time at paid work was unchanged.

March 16, 2020

“Mothers Don’t Need Balance. They Need Justice”

by Caitlyn Collins

The United States has the most family-hostile public policy of any western industrialized country. Women’s work-family conflict is a national crisis. Drawing on years of in-depth interview research in Europe and the U.S., Collins shows that mothers’ struggles are not inevitable and they can’t be resolved by individual efforts at “balance.” Instead, she argues that parents everywhere need work-family justice: a system in which women and men have the opportunity and power to participate fully in paid work and family life. This shift calls for nothing less than a revolution in our public policy and cultural beliefs about employment and caregiving.

March 3, 2020

“Two New Moms Return to Work — One in Seattle, One in Stockholm”

by Caitlyn Collins

Nowhere on the planet is motherhood easy. Both Sarahs — and any parent — will attest to that fact. But it’s undeniably far easier to work for pay and raise kids in Sweden than in the United States. I witnessed this firsthand in watching my two capable, hardworking friends transition to working mom life with wildly different experiences. It was a bit of a fallacy to blame this disparity on geography. The real reason is social policy.

December 18, 2019

“HBR Quick Study: The High Cost of Being a Working Mom in the U.S.”

by Caitlyn Collins

Government intervention is needed, but managers can take these steps right now.

December 18, 2019

“We Need a Spouse Force, Not a Space Force”

by Caitlyn Collins

On December 11th, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill giving federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave—a progressive policy priority negotiated into a massive military spending package in exchange for authorizing the launch of “Space Force,” a sixth branch of the U.S. military. These initiatives are an odd couple. They also represent a major statement on American values.

May 12, 2019

“Why American Moms Can’t Get Enough Expert Parenting Advice”

by Caitlyn Collins

Small wonder, then, that so many American mothers look to professionals for a lifeboat: Read one more article, download one more app, buy one more book, take one more class, listen to one more news story, and you might just find the key to escaping the cascade of stress. Yet this crisis is going to require a societal response, not an individual one. No parenting book, class, or podcast can resolve this hardship—and neither can any individual woman who seeks one out. By its very nature, expert advice implies that the source of mothers’ anxiety is themselves, not the structure of the workplace, or a lack of government policies, or oppressive cultural norms, or gender inequality.

February 10, 2019

“The Real Mommy War is Against the State”

by Caitlyn Collins

Women — again, on this side of the Atlantic — routinely assume it’s their duty to stitch together time off after childbirth. Those fortunate to qualify for parental-leave benefits — even two months at full pay, or six weeks at partial pay — feel real gratitude for such slim provisions. And in a country where most women (too often the poor and racial-ethnic minorities) receive no paid leave at all, that gratitude makes sense. But being able to work and raise the next generation of taxpayers and employees should never be deemed a matter of mere “luck.” Everyone should feel entitled to more.

September 19, 2019

“Raising a Village: Identifying Social Supports for All Kinds of Families”

by Caitlyn Collins

The United States was founded on the belief that citizens have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that government is meant to protect these rights. If we truly believe this nation should be at the forefront of human rights—a country where residents can truly lead free and happy lives alongside those they care for and care about—then the path ahead is obvious. We don’t need to start from scratch in envisioning better policy supports. The benefits already available in other countries are models from which to choose.

February 27, 2019

“5 Ways European Moms Have it Better Than Us”

by Caitlyn Collins

It’s 2019. Regardless of where they live, the majority of moms today work for pay outside the home. Two incomes are necessary to keep most households afloat. Given this economic reality, you’d think most western countries would offer similarly robust family supports. But that’s far from the truth. The types and levels of work-family policies vary widely from country to country. And this affects how families arrange childrearing and employment—whether parents get one month or one year to be home with a newborn, or can afford to leave work when their child gets sick without fear of being fired, or if dads are actively involved in caregiving.

April 11, 2018

“Americans Love Seeing Swedish Dads Out With Their Kids. This is a Problem”

by Caitlyn Collins

Residents of Stockholm love to joke that tourists from the United States are easy to spot fresh off the airplane: As they look around the city’s cobblestone streets, they seem bewildered at the sight of so many men—alone in public, no female partners in sight—pushing children in strollers. They ask why nannying is such a popular job for men. Visitors are shocked to learn that these men aren’t paid babysitters but, in fact, fathers.

January 10, 2017

“In Germany, Parents Can Sue the Government for Failing to Provide Child Care”

by Caitlyn Collins

A judge has ruled that mothers and fathers can try to recover wages they lost from staying home to take care of their kids. [ . . . ] The court’s decision is part of a broader conversation taking place in Germany and around the world about who is responsible for the care of children in an age when two out of three mothers work outside the home in economically developed countries. In the case of Germany, the government’s decision to offer high-quality, low-cost, universal daycare helps to spread the expense of childrearing across society, suggesting that it is not parents’ job alone to either raise children themselves or contract it out and pay for that service themselves. (Germany’s public child-care system is state-subsidized and its operation is decentralized, so parents’ contributions are set by the regions and vary according to family size and income.) Germany’s approach is not merely some charitable effort to help families; it also comes with real economic gain, as child-care availability is known to have a positive impact on women’s employment decisions.

April 26, 2018

“Take Your Child to Work Day Happens a Lot More Than Once a Year”

by Caitlyn Collins

For my mom, Take Your Child to Work Day happened a lot more than once a year. And they weren’t planned as part of a national “holiday” sponsored by the likes of Goldman Sachs, MetLife, and Chevron. They usually weren’t planned at all, and they weren’t a celebration. Babysitters called in sick and daycare closed early. Schools had snow days, teacher planning days, holidays… We ran a fever or caught a cold and needed to be picked up early. So like mothers throughout the country, she hauled us to her office. This isn’t what the creators of Take Your Child to Work Day envisioned. … Rather than asking girls to set their sights higher or for workplaces to accommodate families one day a year, what changes can be made on a national level to make the lives of all families better and happier? And what role can organizations play in making this vision a reality?

June 24, 2015

“Exposing the Underbelly of Austin’s Economic Segregation”

by Caitlyn Collins, Katherine Jensen, and Javier Auyero

Austin conjures two parallel images in America’s popular imagination: Glowing descriptions of a “cool,” fast-growing city for the “young and creative” known for internationally famous musical events and Formula One racing compete with portrayals of increasing socioeconomic inequality and residential class, racial and ethnic segregation.

But like many U.S. cities and metropolitan areas, wealth and poverty are booming alongside each other — a thriving, highly unequal technopolis — magnifying the effects of social insecurity and reconfiguring the cityscape. Austin now enjoys the worrisome privilege of having the highest level of economic segregation of any large city in America.

March 2, 2015

“The Other Side of Austin, TX”

by Caitlyn Collins, Katherine Jensen, Kristine Kilanski, and Javier Auyero

The study of social suffering takes a particular relevance (and urgency) in the context of neoliberal governance in the United States under which most previous forms of protection are being swiftly dismantled (i.e. welfare benefits, employer-provided health-care coverage, traditionally defined retirement pensions, etc.) and where the penal state has expanded exponentially in order to manage the effects of growing inequality at the bottom of the social hierarchy. In neoliberal times (and especially in the context of “neoliberalism on steroids,” as we could call the particular climate in Texas at present), socially produced forms of suffering take on exceptionally alarming features. Our collective work seeks to bring these experiences to light so that they can be the subject of public debate.

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