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Forced to Care

Forced to Care

Coercion and Caregiving in America

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

ISBN 9780674064157

Publication date: 03/05/2012

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The United States faces a growing crisis in care. The number of people needing care is growing while the ranks of traditional caregivers have shrunk. The status of care workers is a critical concern.

Evelyn Nakano Glenn offers an innovative interpretation of care labor in the United States by tracing the roots of inequity along two interconnected strands: unpaid caring within the family; and slavery, indenture, and other forms of coerced labor. By bringing both into the same analytic framework, she provides a convincing explanation of the devaluation of care work and the exclusion of both unpaid and paid care workers from critical rights such as minimum wage, retirement benefits, and workers' compensation. Glenn reveals how assumptions about gender, family, home, civilization, and citizenship have shaped the development of care labor and been incorporated into law and social policies. She exposes the underlying systems of control that have resulted in women—especially immigrants and women of color—performing a disproportionate share of caring labor. Finally, she examines strategies for improving the situation of unpaid family caregivers and paid home healthcare workers.

This important and timely book illuminates the source of contradictions between American beliefs about the value and importance of caring in a good society and the exploitation and devalued status of those who actually do the caring.


  • A powerful and persuasive critique, Forced to Care weaves together an insightful historical narrative about caregiving. Why is care of the ill and infirm a private, family responsibility and not a public entitlement? This important and timely book should be part of the national discussion about America's health care system.

    —Karen Brodkin, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Evelyn Nakano Glenn is Professor of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 5-13/16 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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