Category: measurement and valuation of unpaid care work

Work for Profit (or Not)

Most introductory economics texts assume that most of the work performed in the U.S. takes place in profit-maximizing firms. One important exception is¬†Understanding Capitalism, by Samuel Bowles, Richard Edwards, and Frank Roosevelt, which has long observed that “commodified” work represents less than half of all work performed. Asked to help update this text, I came up with the pie chart… Read more →

In Defense of Valuation

I think that estimates of the market value of non-market work are a worthwhile exercise (as my last two posts suggest) as long as they are done carefully and presented as an approximate lower-bound. But conceptual resistance to valuation remains remarkably fierce–which is a big reason we don’t see more of it. One common objection is that estimation is just… Read more →

The Temporal Constraints of Child Care

Time-use surveys measure the number of hours devoted to care of family and friends, making it possible to estimate what it would cost to purchase an approximate substitute for them. Such a “replacement cost” estimate of adult care services in the U.S. featured in my last post. However, most time-use surveys continue to emphasize time in specific activities–like feeding or… Read more →

The Dollar Value of Grown-Up Care

I love the title of the regular–and recently updated–¬†AARP Public Policy Institute report estimating the value of family care for adults with limitations in daily activities: “Valuing the Invaluable.” It calls attention to the estimated replacement cost without fetishizing the dollars. If those family members were not on the case, money expenditures on health and long term services would be… Read more →

What is She Worth? How to Value (Or Not to Value) a Woman’s Life

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund dispensed death benefits for female victims that averaged only 63% of those for male victims. Why? Special Master Kenneth Feinberg was instructed to use a formula similar to that used in U.S. courts, taking victims’ estimated future earnings into account. For more details, see his fascinating book, What is Life Worth? (Public Affairs, 1995). Women… Read more →

Is it Work?

This ad from (a job-search site) caught my eye, a reminder that most people hope for a job that will be intrinsically satisfying. Neoclassical economists generally define work as an activity that is only a means to an end–people presumably work only until the utility of the additional income (or home-produced services) is no greater than the disutility of… Read more →