Mapping A Third-Wave Feminist Legal Agenda for Child-Care

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Child-care is expensive; American families with mothers make average monthly child-care payments of an estimated 6.9% of their average monthly family income.[1]   But this percentage can vary considerably depending on the geographic location of the family and the type of child-care.[2]   A third-wave feminist legal agenda would include child-care issues, given the interest of self-proclaimed third-wave feminists in “mak[ing] the workplace responsive to an individual’s wants, needs, and talents.”[3]   Based on third-wave theory as it currently exists, however, it is not clear what direction third-wave feminists would take.   They might advocate for subsidies or support from either employers or the government.   If efforts focus on governmental involvement, that may be in the form of government-run child-care centers, government-subsidized child-care centers[4] or tax-benefits.[5]   Ultimately, the success of any third-wave advocacy for private or public support for child-care depends on how the issue is framed.[6]   A sex-equality argument may be the most powerful, and full discussion and development of such a theory would be a worthwhile avenue of inquiry for future third-wave feminist scholarship.  

Citations below for the inquiring mind.

-Bridget Crawford


[1] See Julia Overturf Johnson, Who’s Minding the Kids?   Childcare Arrangements: Winter 2002, Table 6: Weekly Child Care Payments of Families With Mothers Present and Children Under 15 Years by Selected Characteristics: 1984 to 2002, available at

[2] Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Sept. 1995, What Does It Cost to Mind Our Preschoolers?, at 4 (expenditures range from 6% to 25% of monthly income).  

[3] Id.  

[4] For historic examples of government-subsidized workplace child-care, see Ruth Sidel, Women & Children Last: The Plight of Poor Women in Affluent America 119-120 (1986).  

[5] See, e.g, Nancy C. Staudt, Taxing Housework, 84 Geo. L.J. 1571 (1996); Edward J. McCaffery, Taxing Women (1997); Mary Louise Fellows, Rocking the Tax Code: A Case Study of Employment-Related Child-Care Expenditures, 10 Yale J.L. & Feminism 307 (1998).  

[6] The editors of one popular textbook pose this question: “Does it make a difference why the government adopts a particular child care policy – that is, whether it is seen as a question of sex equality, as in Sweden; of employment necessity, as in wartime Britain and the United States; or of child welfare?”   Feminist Jurisprudence: Taking Women Seriously 717 (Mary Becker et al. eds., 2001).
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0 Responses to Mapping A Third-Wave Feminist Legal Agenda for Child-Care

  1. bob coley jr says:

    although I am not sure if this is true in all states (or even if it is still true in NY.) family court, and therefore the judge, is the gardian of the constitutional rights of the minor children in any legal proceeding. The views of the parents or parent are used as informational. The system(s) of childcare we finaly decide to make legal and necessary must not be gender or financialy based, but entirely in the interest of the child. Do I think this is the focus of childcare discusions, probably not. So we must be very vigalent with regard to who we have as family court judges to insure that gender bias is mitigated as much as possable if it can not be gotten rid of completly. As a father that beat the odds that existed in 1984 and won custady after 2 full blown hearings and the investigations of 2 courts in different counties, while single, without a lawyer, I am glad the court was looking out for the children. I hope the discusion of todays childcare needs is similarly child oriented and not about gender or cost at all.