Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2004


The ultimate goal of work/family policy has always seemed deceptively clear: to provide institutional and cultural support to permit a healthy balance between family and work. An implicit assumption of that goal is that it would be achieved without undermining principles of equality. Indeed, the assumed result of work/family balance is that it would help achieve equality: families would be treated equally, caregivers would be supported equally, and children and family members would receive necessary and important care equally. It has long been recognized that work/family balance is especially critical to gender equality. Equality principles require that work/family policy and strategies also pay close attention to race and class inequalities as well as the more common attention to gender inequality. It is our challenge to devise strategies and build coalitions to unite rather than divide along gender, race, and class lines. We need to pay attention to who is and who is not present, literally and figuratively. We need to bring the margin to the center.

In this Article, Professor Dowd hopes to suggest ways to cross race, class, and gender lines to develop work/family policies and strategies that insure equality by applying the principle of bringing the margin to the center. To see how this might operate, Professor Dowd focuses on several examples of those at the margin, and explores how bringing those at the margin to the center would dramatically affect the construction of public policy.

The Article proceeds in the following manner: first, it focuses on two groups of caregivers at the margins, fathers and single parents. Looking at single parents similarly crosses race and class lines in existing work/family policy. Next, the Article focuses on a group of children that rarely are the focus of work/family policy analysis: teenagers. Focusing on teenagers crosses race, class, and gender lines in the quest to achieve equal care and support. Finally, the Article looks at policies frequently marginalized in work/family discourse: affirmative family support policies. Family support policies frequently are relegated to the margin of policy options as idealistic or politically impracticable. Professor Dowd argues that it is inevitable and unavoidable that families must have significant, universal economic support in order to insure work/family balance for all families.