Penn Sociology Colloquium Series: Jessica Calarco, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Holding It Together: How Women Became America's Safety Net"
Apr 10, 2024 at - | PSC Commons, 403

Holding It Together reveals how the engineers and profiteers of the American economy use women’s unpaid and underpaid labor to maintain the illusion of a “DIY society” and to persuade us that we can get by without a net. Drawing on data from over 400 hours of interviews with families across the socioeconomic, racial, and political spectrum, along with original surveys and historical and media analyses, the book makes clear that, without women, the US social safety net would simply collapse. Going a step further, the book shows how we trap women in this system of exploitation—leaving them either with no choice but to do the work of the social safety net or with the morally fraught choice of pushing that work onto others more vulnerable than them. And it highlights the myths that the engineers and profiteers use to divide us and prevent us from fighting together to build the kind of net that would better support us all.

Jessica Calarco is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An expert on families, schools, and inequalities, and a mom of two, she is the author of multiple award-winning books and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post.