Holding It Together Webinar (Twitter) (1)

Webinar: How Women Became America’s Safety Net (PRB Book Talk)

A conversation with author Jessica Calarco on her new book, Holding It Together

On June 27, our first PRB Book Talk focused on Holding It Together: How Women Became America’s Safety Net with author and sociologist Jessica Calarco.

In Holding It Together, Calarco (University of Wisconsin-Madison) draws on five years of research to show how U.S. society and policy disproportionately burden women with caregiving responsibilities. With an expert panel, we discussed Calarco’s key findings and their implications for reproductive health care policy and explore additional research on abortion, contraception, fertility, gender, and motherhood.

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Beth Jarosz, PRB: Welcome, everyone. I’m Beth Jarosz, Senior Program Director at the Population Reference Bureau, and I want to welcome you all to today’s discussion.

As we were preparing for this webinar, I started to write a really formal introduction to this talk. But as I was writing, I kept thinking about my grandmother, Alice. Her story began almost a century before the examples gathered in Dr. Calarco’s research but mirrors many of them so closely: pressure to get married, poverty, violence, and very few resources to teach out there.

It’s been generations. The same patterns still play out today. And it’s not like we don’t know these things. Researchers have been working for years to understand how policies can uplift people or leave them behind. We know that policies in the U.S. have a history of burdening women with caregiving responsibilities and offering them limited protections relative to peers and many other nations.

To be clear, we’re using the word women today in a gender-expansive way that encompasses cis women, trans women, people with a uterus, people who’ve had hysterectomies but identify as women, people who are parents, and those who are child-free. Under that umbrella, we find a group of people who tend to be marginalized by U.S. policy, with marginalization that cuts much deeper for Black women, Indigenous women, Hispanic and Latino women, disabled women, and trans women, to name just a few.

Today, we’re going to unpack some of the ways in which women are asked to hold it together. For the discussion, I’m joined by an all-star cast: Dr. Jessica Calarco of the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Dr. Tiffany Green, also of the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Dr. Karen Benjamin Guzzo of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Jocelyn Foye of the Womxn Project. We’ll hear from all four panelists and will round out the hour with Q&A.

If you have questions, please type them into the Q&A box. I’ll ask as many of your questions as we can during that Q&A portion. Without further ado, I’m going to invite Jess to begin.

Jessica Calarco, author of Holding It Together: Thank you so much to the PRB team for inviting me. Thank you all for being here today.

And thank you also to the, uh, you know, um, the panelists who are helping to flesh out this topic with more details and insights from their expertise of Karen and Tiffany and Jocelyn. It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you, and I’m so grateful for your work, um, engaging with this material and being part of this conversation.

Um, and thanks, a note of thanks also to the research team that contributed to the work that I’ll talk about today, which included, um, a very large number of graduate and undergraduate students and staff members who helped me produce the research that I’ll be sharing in my talk today.

So I’ll start off here by alluding to or kind of building on what Beth mentioned, this idea that other countries—other, especially high-income countries—have invested in social safety nets to help people manage risk. They use taxes and regulations, especially on wealthy people and corporations, to protect people from poverty, give them a leg up in reaching economic opportunities, and give them the time and energy and incentive to participate and contribute to a shared project of care.

In the U.S., we have instead tried to DIY society. We’ve kept taxes low, we’ve slashed huge holes in the social safety net that we do have, and we’ve told people that if they just make good choices, they won’t actually need government support at all.

Now, the problem with this model is that you can’t actually DIY society. Essentially forcing people to manage all that risk on their own has left many American families and communities teetering on the edge of collapse. And yet, as I’ll talk about today, we haven’t collapsed in part because we have disproportionately women being the ones who are holding it together, filling in the gaps in our economy and the gaps in our threadbare social safety net.

So to illustrate what I’m getting at here, let me tell you the story of a mom that I’ll call Brooke. Brooke was raised in a conservative, white, working-class family in rural Indiana, and her parents had a volatile relationship when she was growing up, and given that upbringing, Brooke never wanted to have kids of her own. But then, like many young women, she ended up accidentally getting pregnant in college.

Brooke and her boyfriend Brendon initially planned to get an abortion, and Brendon’s parents even offered to pay. But then Brooke’s parents found out, and Brooke’s mom persuaded Brooke to keep the baby, promising that she would help both with raising the baby and also with helping Brooke finish college.

Once Brooke’s son Carter was born, though, Brooke’s parents told her they couldn’t afford to pay or help her pay for both child care and for college, and in the wake of that decision, Brooke ended up dropping out of college, moving herself and Carter into a women’s shelter and enrolling in welfare. And because welfare came with work requirements, Brooke also took the first job that she could find, which was a part-time minimum wage job in retail that she hated. And she eventually found a full-time job at a child-care center, but that job also paid only around minimum wage. That said, it did come with free child care, and so this was appealing because at the time she was paying almost as much for child care as she was for rent.

And so at the same time, even when she got promoted to assistant director of the center a few years later, Brooke’s salary was still only $25,000 a year. And given the precarity of that situation, Brooke thought about trying to go back to college to, to get a nursing degree. But Brooke just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. She didn’t trust her parents to watch Carter, so night classes weren’t an option, and quitting her job, even with how little it paid, seemed too risky. So Brooke just kept working at the child-care center, and she was still working there five years later and still hadn’t finished her college degree.

So Brooke is one of the hundreds of mothers that my team and I interviewed for this book between 2019 and 2022. We conducted more than 400 hours of in-depth interviews with moms and their partners from across the socioeconomic and racial, ethnic, and political spectrum. Most of those families were initially recruited through prenatal clinics in Indiana, so I also conducted two national surveys, each with more than 2,000 parents of kids under 18 from across the U.S.

And what I find in the data, and what Brooke’s story illustrates, is that women’s unpaid and underpaid labor helps to maintain this illusion of a DIY society. It makes it seem as though we can get by without a sturdy social safety net. Brooke’s story also illustrates a second piece of the equation here, which is that to facilitate this kind of exploitation, the U.S. has tried to trap women in motherhood and leave them with nowhere to turn for support in holding it together for their children and nowhere to hide when others ask them to hold even more.

And I talk in the book about how this system of exploitation is, is particularly damaging for low-income and middle-income women and disproportionately for Black and Latino women and women from other racially marginalized groups. In the absence of a decent social safety net, women in these groups can be easily forced into having or raising children or more children than they planned. And once they’re caught in that kind of motherhood trap, they can be easily forced to fill in the other gaps in our economy and also in our social safety net.

So to that end, to give you another story, I’ll talk about a mom I call Patricia. Before the pandemic, Patricia, who’s a Black mom, was still married to her husband, Rodney, and they had three kids, a toddler and two in elementary school. At that point, Patricia was working full time from home as a customer service rep, and Rodney was working full time in construction, and they were earning less than $30,000 a year combined.

Patricia, unlike Rodney, had some college education and she might have been able to find a higher-paying job, but she’d taken her customer service job, even though she found it repetitive and demoralizing, because it was the best remote work job that she could get before the pandemic. And being able to work remotely meant that Patricia didn’t have to pay for afterschool care or make alternate arrangements if the kids got sick.

When the pandemic hit, though, that arrangement ultimately meant that Patricia and Rodney never even talked about who would care for the kids when, you know, schools and child-care centers closed. That responsibility just fell to Patricia, and Rodney kept leaving the house every day for work.

Now, this kind of pandemic parenting took a huge toll on Patricia. The kids were constantly interrupting during her work time, leaving her frustrated and overwhelmed. She talked about the guilt that she felt, saying, “When it’s time to clock out, I need to not clock out mentally as a mother too.” And given that guilt, Patricia decided in the fall of 2020 to cut back to just four days a week of paid work. She figured it would give her more time and energy to focus on the kids, and she also hoped it would give her more time to rest because she had recently and unexpectedly become pregnant with twins.

What ended up happening, though, was that Patricia’s extended family saw her extra day off as an opening to ask for her help with car rides. Patricia was one of the only people in her extended family who had a reliable vehicle at the time, and she and her family were living in Indianapolis, which has been rated as the worst major city for public transit in the U.S. And so Patricia said yes, even when she explained that, she said, “your whole day that you had to yourself ends up being dedicated to running errands for someone else.” And she told me, she said yes because she had, you know, she knew her family had nowhere else to turn. The buck sort of stopped with her. And she also worried that she might need help herself someday.

And unfortunately, that someday came when Patricia and Rodney ended up divorcing just before the kids, the twins, were born in 2021. At that point, Patricia had to lean on those same people who leaned on her, and after her C-section, for example, she needed someone to drive her to doctor’s appointments, and she was grateful that she hadn’t pushed them away before.

And so Patricia’s story gets at this idea that, you know, our attempts to DIY society have, have decimated families, and particularly families that have been systematically marginalized in our society. And in that context, it’s often impossible for women not to get stuck filling in the gaps in our economy and in our social safety net, because we’ve really left them with nowhere to turn for support and nowhere to hide when others ask them to hold even more.

Now, within this system, it’s important to acknowledge that, that more privileged women have it easier because they can afford to offload some of their responsibility they’ve been handed by dumping it onto others who are more vulnerable than they are.

And in the book, I talk about a couple that I call Holly and Kathleen. They’re a white, same-sex married couple, and when their daughter Willa was born in 2019, they planned to split paid work and care work evenly. But the child-care crisis kept getting in the way. Without family nearby to help and with huge wait lists for care, their best option, child-care wise, was a part-time spot that wouldn’t be available until Willa was 9 months old.

And so to make it work in the meantime, Holly and Kathleen decided Holly would work for pay part time from home, while Kathleen worked for pay full time, in part because Holly’s job as a data analyst didn’t pay as much and was able to be done remotely, while Kathleen’s job in law enforcement, you know, had to be done outside the home and paid a whole lot more.

So that arrangement, though, got increasingly difficult as Willa got older, and Holly couldn’t wait for Willa to start child care. But then almost as soon as that spot opened, COVID closed the center, and they’re just right back where they were before.

And, you know, this caused deep frustration for Holly. And she actually went in and complained to her, tried to go in and complain to the center director. But what she learned in the process was that the center couldn’t afford to recruit and keep staff, as she learned, for example, that, you know, her child’s previous teacher didn’t have health care benefits and was still struggling to pay off medical debt that she had accrued, you know, years before the pandemic started.

And hearing those stories left Holly feeling guilty. She told me, “Kathleen and I just feel really guilty about being complicit in this thing where it’s like we have all these women of color watching our kids, and we’re not really taking good care of them.”

And, you know, that guilt of complicity weighed heavily on Holly, but she also recognized that, that she and Holly needed reliable, affordable care if they were going to be working full time and especially if they wanted to pay for IVF to have another kid. And so she talked about how, you know, “we have more than we need right now, but it could change at any moment without that social safety net. So you’re like, I guess I should just hoard it in a giant pile and sleep on top.”

And so as we see in Holly’s story, some women benefit from this kind of exploitation of women who are more vulnerable because that exploitation makes it possible for them to afford to outsource help with care. And yet, at the same time, and as we also see here, even relatively privileged women are drowning because our DIY model has left all but the wealthiest families with more responsibility than they can manage and because what’s left over disproportionately falls to women, even when men could do more to fill in the gaps.

And on that front, and I’ll quickly tell the story of a mom I’ll call Virginia, who’s a tenure-track professor at a research university who makes $75,000 a year, and her husband is a middle school math teacher who makes $45,000 a year. And despite being the primary breadwinner, Virginia is still the default parent for the kids. She’s also the default caregiver for her aging parents, even though her brother could be stepping up to do more, and it makes it tremendously difficult for Virginia to be able to feel as though she can concentrate enough to do her work, her research. She said, “I do actually have a brain. I love thinking, and I’d love to be able to do that again sometime.”

Um, at the same time, she also balked at the suggestion from her employer that she should just be taking more time for self-care. She said self-care is just a way that institutions have offloaded their responsibility of enacting humane work. Um, and she said that what she really needed was institutional support. She said, “I need the child tax credit back. I need a financial cushion. I need time and reliable care for my kids. I need consistency, I need institutions to step up and be humane.”

And essentially, I mean, Patricia, or Virginia’s lament here makes clear that we already know what the problem is, and we already know the solution. And so the solution is to build the kind of safety net that would actually protect us all.

But we haven’t built it, and I, and I argue in the book that we haven’t built it because, you know, billionaires and big corporations and their cronies, or who I talk about in the book as sort of the engineers and profiteers of our DIY society, have us right where they want us. And because they’ve promoted a series of myths that help to dissuade us, to help, to delude us into believing that we don’t need a social safety net, and to, to divide us by race and class and gender and politics and religion in ways that prevent us from coming together to demand the kind of social safety net that would better protect us all.

So I’ll leave things there for now, just to ensure that we have lots of time for other discussion. But I’m looking forward to the, to the questions and also to the, to the discussion with the whole group. So thank you.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you so much. Um, and I’m going to invite Tiffany now to speak a bit about her research.

Tiffany Green, University of Wisconsin–Madison: Thank you so much for having me here today. Congratulations, Jess, on your new book.

Um, I’m going to talk a little bit today about, um, some work that my team and I have been doing on a policy called birth cost recovery, or the birth tax, and just really thinking about its implications for caregiving. Um, a special thanks to the people that have funded this research, including the Wisconsin Partnership Program, uh, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and the Centennial Scholars Program. So many people on my team to thank, um, including, uh, Klaira Lerma, who’s not pictured here, my research director; Frank Lewis, Obi Anaya, and Mikaela Miller, who are RAs as well; and also the many community partners that have been involved in this work.

So, what is birth cost recovery and what does it have to do with what we’re talking about today? Um, birth cost recovery is a policy primarily practiced in Wisconsin, where states draw upon a certain interpretation of federal Medicaid law that allows them to pursue, um, the Medicaid birthing costs, um, that, that people pursue. So if I have a baby and I’m on Medicaid, uh, the father, um, the non-custodial father would be asked to pay part of that cost.

And, how does this work? Um, basically, a person discovers that they are pregnant. Uh, they may or may not decide to enroll in prenatal Badger Care or Medicaid is what we call it here in the Badger State. Um, a person gives birth. Now, the state cannot withhold, uh, birthing coverage if the father is not declared. However, there is an automatic referral system in the state where if someone has a Medicaid for part of their birth, labor, and delivery costs, it automatically gets referred to child support.

Um, after that, the courts determined, um, one within the context of that child support order, if birth cost recovery or the birth tax should be incurred. Um, and that can be, that can be used to garnish a person’s wages, etc. And this is very much separate from child support, and it does not go towards the maintenance of the child. Um, if the birthing parent refuses to declare who the father is, the state can take away Badger Care or Medicaid after the 60-day period is over and they are otherwise eligible.

And so why does this matter? Well, for someone like me who studies structural inequality, this matters a lot. Because of structural racism, Black people and Indigenous people are far more likely to have their births covered by Medicaid, both in Wisconsin and the rest of the United States.

Um, I first learned about this policy from Rachel Azanleko, who was a former MPH student here who really focused on thinking about the impacts of birth cost recovery on outcomes. And she told me that, and as an economist I got excited, that there was a huge policy change in Wisconsin, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

But this is something that’s also coming up in the context of discussions with communities. This idea, particularly among Black communities, that this is a policy that magnifies financial instability for families. It penalizes birthing parents with health care coverage loss if they don’t declare the father. And it deepens many men’s struggles to financially support their children and strains family dynamics. So, you know, if there are strained family dynamics that that caregiving work almost certainly is going to go towards the birthing parents or mothers.

So in January 2020, Dane County stopped collecting new birth cost recovery funds. And we did some work to think about what the impacts might be on families. We found that there was an increase in child support that went to the birthing parent, and this was particularly true among Black families.

But one thing we found is that we weren’t hearing a lot about the Black families that were actually affected. And so in this, in this work through the Wisconsin Partnership Program, we decided to really try to document the experiences of the team and eventually create a quantitative survey where we could kind of assess how people’s experiences with birth cost recovery were affecting their mental and physical health.

Um, we started with birthing parents, and I’ll talk just a little bit about what we found. Um, and we also will be interviewing fathers as well, or non-birthing parents. Um, how do these birthing parents think that birth cost recovery has affected their lives? It’s dads not having money for necessities or extras. Negative impacts on bonding and, and these inequitable effects, particularly among Black Wisconsinites.

And so what this boils down to, again, is that it makes sure it helps to ensure that fathers are not able to fully participate in their children’s lives because of this extra cost that’s incurred. Um, here’s one quote from some of the qualitative interviewing that we’ve been doing. We interviewed, uh, I think 24, uh, birthing parents at this point.

“Yeah. I mean, that could be challenging for the 5-year-old.” So, so they’re talking specifically about birth cost recovery.

“I can’t give you extra money for school clothing because I got to help pay the birth expenses. Hey, I don’t have—let’s say I was to run into a gym where I needed $25 for gas. The funds is so tight that they’re not even leaving room for the fathers to do anything extra or curriculum activities, because they’re getting this money, taking out of their checks every two weeks or every week for child support.”

A second quote from a respondent: “If men didn’t have this birthing fee right off top, that would make it a better relationship bonding for the mother, the father, the child. Men would be able to do more, provide more, and it’d just be a healthy family overall.” So again, these quotes really embody the fact that this, this particular policy, far from being sort of these individual-level choices, has the capacity to frame what can be offered, fathers are able to offer children, and the stability of family units.

Um, just so you know, there have been some more recent policy changes. I feel like it’s a moving target for us. Um, Milwaukee County has stopped taking fathers to court for birth cost recovery. And Dane County also is, is working on forgiving back pay, as is Milwaukee. So there’s been a lot of change just since we started studying this policy. And we’re working to try to understand how this shapes family dynamics and caregiving within families.

Um, now we are focused on interviewing Black fathers now to understand their perceptions of the policy and understanding how this affects how they see fatherhood and their ability to support, uh, child, child experiences in their growth, and really trying to understand the short- and learn long-term effects of these policy changes on all Wisconsinites, but specifically Black Wisconsinites.

And I’ll end there and kick it over to the next person. Thank you so much.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. And Karen, I will invite you to share about your research next.

Karen Benjamin Guzzo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  Great, great. Thank you so much, and I’m really pleased to be here. And thank you to PRB for putting this together. Uh, and thank you Jess for writing this book.

And so I’m a demographer, and so I study population-level changes in behavior. And my particular area of research, uh, is childbearing, uh, looking at birth rates and trends over time, differences across different groups, um, the factors that predict whether people have children.

And so what’s important to me and some of my takeaways from this book or that related it back to a larger issue some of you may have heard of, which is that the U.S. is at record low fertility rates. Uh, this has caused considerable alarm and for all sorts of reasons, and maybe we can get into this later. Um, but different groups are alarmed for different reasons.

Uh, and so the question has become, geez, why aren’t women having births? And this is, I get this question a lot from journalists. And really, it’s tightly tied to how we think about women and birthing people. And you know, what we expect from them, how we judge them, and what we do or do not owe them and provide them as a society. And so when we’re talking about birth rates declining, um, to me, this is very much a story of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So for years the U.S. has had higher fertility rates than other countries, many of its pure nations. We, so we kind of aim for what’s called replacement level, which is about two births per woman. This allows women basically to replace themselves and their partners, and, uh, absent immigration, this keeps the population stable. And so with the U.S. was above this rate for, for quite a while when many of its pure nations were not.

And, as such, the U.S. was kind of able to ignore the social safety net, the kind of things Jessica talks about in her book: things like affordable care, affordable and accessible child care, lack of paid parental and family leave, um, having a functional health care system that everyone could access regardless of income or employment status.

And so low fertility, low birth rates, was really not on our national radar. Um, any woman can probably tell you it’s certainly on the individual people’s radar. So lots of women were, “So when are we going to start having kids? When are you going to start having kids?” Um, but this wasn’t a national conversation because what we are, the conversation we’re actually having as a country was who shouldn’t be having children.

And so the U.S. has generally had very high teen birth rates and high unintended pregnancy rates relative to our peer nations. Uh, and as it turns out, those teen birth rates and unintended pregnancy rates were actually propping up our overall fertility rate.

And so, since the 1990s, under the Clinton administration, um, we had the emergence of, um, different efforts to reduce teen and unintended pregnancy. Uh, so in 1996, we saw the emergence of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, um, come out. And then later expanded to include, um, teenage and unintended or unplanned pregnancy. Uh, it since changed its name again.

Um, and so in the 1990s, teen pregnancy rates were at, um, sort of record highs, but only in terms of recent memory. Because if you go back to the 1950s, during the baby boom, teenage birth rates were much, much higher. But they were the right kind of birth. They were births to people who were married, and we weren’t worried about those.

So what happened in the 80s and 90s is that birth rates were increasingly teen birth rates were to low-income women who were unmarried, women from racially minoritized populations. And these were the wrong kinds of births. And so we were very worried about those.

Um, and so, um, we had all sorts of campaign ads to reduce teen and unintended childbearing. So you might remember from just a decade ago, New York City ran these fairly horrific ads, um, targeting teen moms and trying to shame them into not having, um, children.

Um, and then even at the federal government level, we have official policies. Uh, every 10 years, the federal government publishes something called the Healthy People objectives or Healthy People initiatives. And, and these are kind of health, public health goals they’d like to reach over the next decade. And for a long time, those have included, uh, reducing teen and unintended pregnancy rates.

And so I say all this to say, over the past 10 years, basically since the Great Recession, it actually happened. We’ve seen this long-term decline in teen pregnancy rates, but now we’re also seeing a pretty sizable decline in births to unintended births that would be characterized by people themselves as happening maybe later in earlier than they would have wanted. So now that people aren’t having those births, this is essentially good news.

So when reporters ask me, you know, “What’s happening with birth rates? Why aren’t people having kids?” I’m like, this is a success story. This is a story in which young people, those are, those are the people who typically, if they had a birth, would consider it sort of earlier than they would have wanted. This is a good news story that people are able to better control their reproductive lives so that they can have children when they want them, under the context in which they want them, and to have as many children as they feel personally able to have.

Um, and so this is a good news story, but part of this good news story, the background to this is that we have been preaching for years that it is irresponsible for people, but really for women, for young women, to have a child when you’re not ready: you don’t have a good job, you haven’t finished school, you don’t have a good partnership, you know, you can’t afford to live on your own, you live in an unsafe neighborhood.

So we’ve been preaching this for years that you shouldn’t have a child if it’s, if you’re not in the right circumstances. And so the decline in unintended fertility in some way it’s very good. And the decline in birth rate is because of sort of declining teen and unintended birth rates. But we need to think about the other side of the story.

Um, since the Great Recession, our society, and that of other societies, I’ll be honest too, who also have more of a social safety net, um, a lot of these societies are not providing people, young people, a sense of security and optimism for the future. I mean, all for all intents and purposes, having a child is a future-oriented decision. And so people need to look to the future and think, “Okay, I can do this, and I’m going to have a good life, and I can provide my children with things.”

And so to me, it’s, it’s baffling that people are baffled that we’re not having, young people aren’t having kids today, that they are waiting. And because they’re holding up their end of the bargain, the bargain that we’ve been preaching for, you know, 15, 20, 30, 40 years really: don’t have kids, don’t have kids if you do not have, you know, essentially all your proverbial ducks in a row.

But the other half of the bargain is that society needs to create a set of conditions in which you can reasonably predict for the future that you’ll have enough money, you’ll have a good job, you can afford health care, you can afford to find a safe place to live. You can have a good partnership. And so people aren’t having kids because those things don’t look like they’re happening for them in the future. Um, and, of course, without an adequate social safety net otherwise, it’s just simply too risky to have children in some ways.

So most of my research really shows that it’s not that people are saying, “I don’t want kids.” They’re saying “I want kids, but not now. I want kids if—.” And they really are thinking quite rationally about what they want in the future, what they think childbearing for them should look like.

Um, and so if you’re a woman, childbearing is incredibly risky. So it starts in pregnancy. We monitor what you eat, what you drink, how little or how much weight you gain. If you have a substance use disorder, uh, and you’re pregnant, you could go to jail or risk losing your child rather than getting help. Um, if you’re sick during pregnancy, you know, God bless you. Um, because we don’t know what meds might work for you because we actually don’t study, um, women, pregnant women have typically been excluded from medical trials.

If you have a condition that threatens your pregnancy, um, or threatens your life and you live in certain states, uh, again, you might literally be risking death because health care professionals cannot or don’t feel as if they’re allowed to treat you. Um, even before some of these recent changes we’ve seen in abortion law, uh, your chance of dying during pregnancy, during childbirth, or thereafter was much higher in the United States than elsewhere.

And then, of course, if you make it all through that, and you have a child, and you’re on your own to figure out if you can take time off. We do not have paid family leave in the United States. So people go back to work much sooner than they would like. Um, but if you’d like to stay home and recover from childbirth, you know, bond with your baby, you’re going to have to figure out how to do that on your own. You’re going to have to fund that on your own.

If you do go back to work, um, you’re going to have to find someone to care for your child. Um, and we have such a huge problem with child care affordability and accessibility, and this has really been accelerated and magnified during the, um, the pandemic and post-pandemic years, uh, where we’ve seen a real decline in child-care slots.

So you have to go back and try to figure out who’s going to watch your kid for you, and can you afford it? Um, if you do have a financial setback of some sort, you know, you’ll have to navigate our patchwork safety net programs. Um, and those, there’s a lot of sort of administrative burden there, and it often seems like they’re designed to turn you down and humiliate you in the process of getting them.

Um, even for advantaged women, you have these sort of do-it-all norms, uh, and you’re going to be struggling to find child care during summers if your kids are school age or before and after school. Um, you are worried about social mobility, so parents feel like they have to do everything right and get their kids into all the right programs. Um, if you can afford not to work as a mom and you choose to work, you’ll be judged for that, and you’ll face this constant feeling of neither being good enough at work or at home. And these are all just really gendered things.

And so when, when people ask me, “Why aren’t people having kids?” I’m like, well, they’re making really rational choices about what’s available to them. What’s the safety net look like? What does my own future look like? Does it look safe? Secure? And mostly they’re saying no, it doesn’t. It doesn’t look like that right now. And so people are waiting longer and longer to have kids. And sometimes that might mean they end up with fewer kids or not having kids at all.

And so this is not a story of individual women saying, “Oh, I just don’t like kids.” I mean, of course, some people probably say that, but really it’s a story about young people as a whole looking around and saying, “There’s— the conditions in which you’ve told me I’m supposed to have kids don’t exist for me, and I’m not sure they will.” And so this is very much a story about what is our social safety net look like for people and families, but particularly for women who are making these decisions.

So I think I’ll stop there, so we have chances for someone else to weigh in.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you so much, Karen. And last but certainly not least, um, we want to, we’re talking about all of these challenges, the social safety net and sort of policy changes that could be helpful. So we’re going to wrap up with a little bit of discussion about, uh, how policy can change. So Jocelyn, turn it over to you.

Jocelyn Foye, Womxn Project: Thanks. Hi, everyone. How do you do? My name is Jocelyn Foye, she/her.

I am located in, um, Providence, Rhode Island, um, which I relocated from Southern California. But to give any of you a sense who aren’t from these parts, um, Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation with only 1.1 million people living within our borders at this time. Our census says that we are a 77% white-identifying population, which if anyone studies census work, they’d understand that that’s not the right number for minority spaces. But, um, it’s an important one to name. And then also, we’re the third most Catholic state in the nation, which means we have an incredibly powerful, um, bully pulpit for the, for the bishops here.

And so when I moved here from Southern California, um, what I found really quickly was how restrictive the policy was for a state that people often say is a blue state when you see it on the map. And when we’re looking at presidential elections, it always goes blue. Well, we’re very purple, and it’s important to name that as I talk about this work, because, um, my organization came out of a place of recognizing that with Trump coming in as his first presidency, we had concerns.

A number of us who were doing policy, and I come from a background of being an artist, a spectacle-based artist and a design professor, and we wondered if we could put together policy strategies and inclusive installations that were spectacle based and activating of community to be welcomed into the process of how to do art and activism with us. So these are some images of ways we did the work. Um, and it’s, there’s a lot of pictures on our website. So we, we welcome you to take a look at it.

But the reason I think I was invited here was because the Womxn Project. Um, and I want to say to woman with an X when we originally named ourselves, was to be an inclusive organization to include all folks, of all folks who wanted to get active with us, to join it. Language has recently changed, and so we constantly are in a mutative form of how do we rebrand to be in alignment with inclusive, inclusive work?

Um, so, um, we came on the scene after 24 years of essentially what was the Roe bill in Rhode Island. It was, um, fought for, for 24 years and had no success. And so with our style of activism, what we did is we created this community quilt. And we wondered if by going into different areas across the state, and we had conversations with people about, were they aware of their rights? Were they aware that after, um, if Roe should be overturned—and mind you, we started this in 2017—um, that based on the constitution of our state, we would see that, um, providers would be tried as murderers.

And I went to an event in Washington, D.C., where I sat with some women from Alabama, and they said, you know, “Rhode Island and Alabama aren’t very different, are they?” And I was like, oh, tell me more like, what are you thinking? And what they said was, is that we both are run by the mob, which is true, and we both are, um, are going to have abortion providers tried as murderers based on our states’ constitutions.

So our group was like, okay, how do we bring more people to the table? Let’s look at the way marriage equality was done nationally. And we started doing one-on-one conversations, house parties. We started going into spaces where women were collecting, book clubs, sewing groups, you name it, and we started asking people if they wanted to make a quilt square with us. And the quilt square became essentially their own signature of a petition.

And as a lot of us may know, the history of quilts says a lot about, um, memor—  like memorandums or histories of passage of people’s lives. But it also is a, is a, um, history or a path of understanding of where to go.

So what we did is we ended up building this giant quilt, and we had master quilters across the state helping us build these sections that we carabinered onto one another, and we moved around and we would display in our state house. And for anyone who’s a visual interests learner, installation art, this thing kept getting bigger and bigger, and we had security guards really angry that we had this mass thing.

But what happened was a ton of people across the state felt really this was their thing. They all were working on it. It was a very collaborative effort. And what really happened was, is we got to have 2,500 small conversations with people who made those squares with us that were part of those quilts, and that had the networking effect that women do do so well, or small communities that are unique and tight with one another.

So it became an intersectional project in a lot of different ways because of where we were invited. And we intentionally designed it so that different spaces made it their own. People built different methods of this, this style of work together.

And we were able, after three years, to pass the bill, which was turned into, they named it the Reproductive Privacy Act. Um, and we did it because we built community momentum, and we got people to a point where they not only understood what was at risk through conversations and networking, but also they learned about the education of how a bill becomes a law. And they learned that they wanted to get involved and they wanted to see this bill through.

People felt a level of ownership. And so when I talk about us as an organization, the part that’s hard for people to wrap their heads around it is, is that we stemmed from grassroots organizing. We still are. Um, but we also shift policy. And we do that by way of, of basically the people power.

And often when you talk to organizational leaders who say, well, what is your piece? What makes you different here? Um, unfortunately or fortunately, it is the fact that I’ll walk into a room with legislators or the governor, often not comfortably, they’ll see me and they’ll be like, oh no, she’s here, because I bring sort of this level of question of what is the action or the behavior that I’m representing, but also how many people are, are coming with me.

And so what it’s done is, is in this movement, this intersectional movement of  “women’s work” or organizational, um, like, uh, patriarchally like suppressed spaces. What we’re doing is, is we’ve pivoted from not just working in the abortion space, but we’ve also been invited and have board members who are identifying in the space of the LGBTQIA space.

So after two years of passing the Reproductive Privacy Act through, excuse me, because of COVID, we passed essentially the Hyde Amendment in Rhode Island to be overturned. And so that meant that Medicaid recipients and state workers then had that included in their insurance policy, which, when we think about it, if you pull back on a lens, um, a lot of people will say abortion is been taken over by white women, second-generation feminists. And I can’t argue against that. But we looked for ways to make it everyone’s work. And with the second bill, it was an equity piece. It was like every, if one person has access to this, then everyone should.

And so now we’ve gone into the same sort of work in a similar way. But we’re not talking about abortion because it’s never really been about abortion. Roe was not about abortion being overturned. It was about taking away our rights. And so, in a medical way, and so we’re now looking at we just passed a bill this year, which is incredible because there’s really no good news in this horizon, but a provider shield bill.

And so we now have we just today, I just came from the signing of our governor where providers who are giving, doing abortions or who are doing gender-affirming care will be protected from any out-of-state attacks that they may receive from states so that those providers can be taken care of, as can the patients, which is not something we always get to talk about. So our work is this like modeling of policy mixed with community action.

And I think that, um, there’s a lot to say further, but I’ll stop. Um, we are, I will say this too, in, in just full disclosure, we’re an organization that started as a C4, not-for-profit, which is unusual. It’s not a C3. A C3 is tax exempt, so it’s not allowed to talk about policy as a lobbying thing. Well, we started as the opposite, which is a lot harder in America. People don’t like to fund this type of work.

But what it allowed us to do was it was tool, we had tools in our toolboxes that were different, so we were able to drive billboard trucks around our state with faces of General Assembly members on it that said, this person doesn’t believe in the right to abortion in your district. Here’s their phone number. Call and ask them why. Because it became an accountability process.

And, um, and we built massive coalitions around this work because people saw the value in it and for their communities as well. And so we’re growing while trying to figure out how to, you know, keep pushing the envelope. So I’ll stop there.

Beth Jarosz: I feel like I, we could continue this conversation for two more hours. Um, but we’ve got, we’ve got about 20 minutes now for questions, and we’ve had a lot of really fantastic questions, um, come in through the chat. So, um, I think I, I had prepared some questions, but I think the one theme that sort of has come across several of the questions that have come in is, what would an improved social safety net look like? And I’m thinking each one of you probably has a perspective on that. And we’ll go kind of in the same order we did. So Jess, Tiffany, Karen, and Jocelyn for that one.

Jessica Calarco: So I mean, I think that’s a great question. And I think the kind of social safety net that we need, in my view, is one that helps to essentially take care out of the for-profit market. That’s one piece of it, in the sense that so much of the unpaid, underpaid labor that women end up doing, women hold almost 70% of the lowest wage jobs in our economy. And often those are jobs where women, especially women of color, especially women from more marginalized groups in our society, are pushed into doing these kinds of low-wage jobs because someone, they’re not, they don’t work within our profit-driven model.

And so ensuring that that taking that work out of the market, whether that’s child care, home health care, the, you know, health care in general, that removing that from the profit pressures can help to then pave the way for the second step, which is about ensuring that the care, the care work is equitable and funded to the level where it can be both equitable and sustainable, essentially taking care of the people who care. And that includes both paid work and unpaid care work in the sense of things like unpaid, or things like paid family leave, things like paid vacation time, things like limits on paid work hours like they have in places like France, to ensure that everyone has the time and energy to contribute to this shared project of care.

So those are sort of, you know, two key components, um, kind of ways to think about the social safety net as opposed to, you know, specific programs. Um, so it’s about sort of, you know, giving people a backstop and also making sure that people have the time and energy to, uh, you know, take care of each other and take care of themselves because we can’t outsource everything, even with a sturdy social safety net.

Beth Jarosz: Tiffany, do you want to add to that? What’s, what would the safety net look for you?

Tiffany Green: I don’t have much else to add. I think high-quality child care is, is a key thing where, where child-care workers are paid well. We know that child-care workers were at the front lines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and many quit, um, during, during that time. So making sure we have high-quality child care where the people taking care of our kids can actually afford, um, that high-quality child care is really key. Having, um, paid parental leave is really important.

But I would say even within the context of our institutions, many of us are at universities—I’m tenured now, so I will say this—um, a lot of the care work is put on, um, you know, faculty assigned female at birth. Let’s, let’s be really clear. So we have a pervasive, um, um, the thing where we put care work upon women and other people assigned female at birth within all of our institutions. So I think we need a full-sale overhaul, uh, a wholesale overhaul of what that looks like.

And the other thing I would say, I always think about the non-sexy things, and so one of those things is our tax system. I’m not an expert in that. But I’ve, I’ve been very convinced by my colleagues who are experts in the tax system in thinking about how we can use that to, to reduce poverty, because, again, many of the most impoverished households are headed by women. So things like the Child Tax Credit were very effective at, uh, at improving things, making sure we have, um, an equitable system so that people, people that, households that are headed by women, um, will not be as poor, I think is really important, other than, you know, burning down the patriarchy.

Beth Jarosz: Yeah. How about you, Karen? Anything to add?

Karen Benjamin Guzzo: Yeah, so I want to comment on something that I think I showed up in the Q&A a bit, which is that people sometimes say, oh, well, other countries have some of the social safety net things you’re talking about. You know, some of the Scandinavian countries have great leave or great child care, and their birth rates are also falling, or what’s happening, um, in East Asia, where the birth rates are extremely low and they have some generous policies.

Part of the problem, though, is that you need all the things, but you also need social change. Um, and it’s not enough to, especially for some of the East Asian societies, to say they have a generous maternity leave policy, um, if women are actually still expected to come home and do all the work, uh, and their husbands are not doing anything, or you still have a culture in where, um, working all the hours is how you actually get ahead in your job. So it’s not enough to have just any one of these things.

Um, but I would also say even if birth rates don’t go up, they are the right thing to do to have, you know, a strong maternity and parental leave policy, to have adequate child care. Um, it is, I think it’s important to have these things because it does improve the well-being of, of our families. And I think that is really where we all want to end up, where people feel like they can live the kind of meaningful lives without this level of stress.

But going back to the culture thing, and one of the things I find is a sticking point sometimes in conversations I’ve had in research I’ve done, which is that women feel as if they’re doing everything and their husbands are like, “But I’m doing so much more than my dad. I’m doing so much more than the earlier generations did.” And the women that they’re partnered with are saying, “But you’re not doing as much as me.” And so people are sort of talking across each other within relationships, but we don’t recognize this sort of care work and value this.

So there’s been this movement. Um, I think Richard Reeves is sort of the kind of most proponent, biggest proponent of this is, how do we get men, how do we help men out? But one argument he’s making is we’ve got to get men to understand that care work is important and meaningful. Um, and help them make, you know, firm relationships with their children, with their friends so that they can engage in this care work that makes everybody better.

And so we need a social safety net, but we need the cultural change that supports using a social safety net and that a social safety net is an investment and not some sort of extra expense that we’re doing because women aren’t doing their jobs.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. And I actually think that answers one of the other questions that have come in. So the person who asked the question about how are men being called in, if that’s, if you want to continue on, repost that question in the chat. And then Jocelyn, do you have anything you want to add about the safety net?

Jocelyn Foye: The only, yeah, I mean from my lens as it would make sense then is, is that from a social safety net too, we need to be supporting not-for-profit organizations that are doing a lot of this work. Um, it’s the second largest industry in the United States, which is not-for-profit work, but how, um, those organizations struggle and actually exist within spaces where they’re in competition with each other is really difficult.

Um, and so I would just say for those with the means, it’s not always about money. It’s also sometimes, which we often talk a lot about, what it’s about, um, finding your superpower and what can you contribute to the work. Um, often for people who have the means, yes, money is a really helpful tool. But for people who time is of the essence, you have children, you, there are organizations that invite you to do some of the work with, um, them with your children, and more and more not-for-profits are making that a part of the process. Um, but also organizations are looking for people who can do work in ways that are very creative.

And so I’m just putting out there I think that, again, I come back to I’m not thinking of the folks who were trying to just get by, but I’m thinking of the spaces that are places where people can add a little something. Um, I think it’s important to name, and I, I don’t have a stat that’s as, as recent as I’d like, but Ms. magazine has been putting out research about what kind of not-for-profit funding exists in the United States. And in 2020, it was only 1.6% of not-for-profits were being funded that supported women and girls, specific not-for-profits. And so when we look at how support is existing out there, I think we could all do better. Um, and I think we make assumptions about that.

But I go back to I’m a designer. I always offer my resources as a designer. I can’t offer my resources as a, as someone who makes money. And so I try to fit it in when my kids go to bed before I go to bed, if I can. And I think that that’s a way to think about certain models. Again, a privileged model nonetheless. But if you had the time, what could you offer?

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. Um, and taking it in a slightly different direction and sort of a question that I had prepared, um, but then Tiffany sort of spoke to in the chat just now is that, you know, the underpinning this assumption is the idea that, um, that people should be having more children. Um, and is that really even a, is that really even the right assumption?

I know, um, Karen and I have been chatting about this a little bit too, that, and Karen, maybe you want to kick that off, that, that just that underlying assumption of is that even the right question, like is, is the question how to, how do we increase birth rates? Or is the question about making sure we have a safety net because that’s the right thing whether the birth rates get there or not? But also how do we push back against this idea that like people having kids is the way to solve our economic problems?

Karen Benjamin Guzzo: Sure, sure. So, um, I’ll just sort of lay my, my, my position clear, which is I’m not worried about our fertility rates. Uh, I worry about fertility in the sense of we have people who say they’d like to have kids and feel like they can’t have the kids that they’d like to have under the conditions they would like to have them. That is a societal failure to me that we have people who want to have children and feel like they can’t. That is a problem we need to fix. Um, but birth rates in themselves don’t concern me.

Uh, you know, if we’re worried about, you know, we talk about Social Security or, um, the labor force or something like that, or even worse, you know, nation-states. I can tell you how little I care about nation-states. Um, but, you know, things like Social Security, we have other means. We could, we could, we have other policy-level levers, um, but expecting people to say, oh, I should have children so that, um, future generations can, so that my kids 20 years from now can pay into Social Security to help fund retirees at that point is sort of nonsensical to me when we have levers like, we could raise the Social Security cap, um, you know, we can change our policies in terms of immigration. We, uh, we can, there are things we can do. And as automation changes and jobs change, do we need as many workers?

Um, and so we need to we need a wholesale sort of reimagining. And do I think it’s going to happen? I don’t know about that, but, um, but this idea that birth rates are going to be the thing that save us as a future just does not resonate with me, because it’s not just about birth rates. Let’s be really honest. It’s about the right people having births. Um, it’s not just we don’t want more immigrant births, so we don’t want births from poor people. We want a very specific group of people to have births. Um, and ideally, they should stay at home with their kids and get out of the labor force.

And I mean, it’s, there’s a whole level of things that, you know, probably aren’t worth getting into right now.

Beth Jarosz: And, Tiffany, since you were the one who put that comment in the chat, is there anything you want to add to how we think about the sort of social structures about who’s the right person, or, you know, that it should be going up?

Tiffany Green: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s very much grounded in the eugenics of, of, of earlier and I guess present times that the people that need to be having births are white cisgender women and other people should not be giving birth. Um, so I teach a lot about that in my classes, and I think it’s really important to sort of question our underpinning ideas of why we, we think people should be giving birth.

Like Karen, I don’t care about birth rates. I care about people that, you know, from a reproductive justice standpoint, the right to get pregnant and stay pregnant is really critical. And we know that social structures, uh, are very much against, for example, Black people, uh, getting pregnant, whereas during enslavement, um, the idea was for Black women to get pregnant and to, to perpetuate the institution of slavery. So there is no neutral way of thinking about birth rates, uh, in, in that context.

So in total agreement with Karen and just adding that extra historical context.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. Um, and then there are, there are so many good questions. Um, and I have to pick, we probably have time for one, maybe two more. So I am going to go with one, um, that, uh, Jess, throughout the book, there’s this theme that good choices aren’t enough to save people, um, that, that there is this sort of social belief that, oh, well, you know, if that person had just done x differently, then y wouldn’t have happened. And you lay out a really clear case that that is not really how things work. Could you expand on that just a little bit?

Jessica Calarco: Sure. I mean, this is basically the idea that correlation is not causation in the sense that certainly there are, um, choices that people can make in our society or some people can make in our society, things like getting married, you know, delaying childbirth, uh, going to college, finishing a college degree. You know, these kinds of choices correlate with better outcomes. You know, more economic stability, lower risks of poverty, better health outcomes.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s those choices themselves that lead to those better outcomes. And it ignores the role of privilege in facilitating people making those kinds of choices. As Karen was talking about before, we’ve set people up to understand that you should really only be bringing a child into the world, or you won’t be, the only real way to not be judged for doing so is if you’re doing so in the right kind of context.

And the same is very much true for marriage. The same is very much true, I mean, for college. I talk in the book about how just going to college, especially for women given gender pay gaps and given the way that we, you know, differentially value gendered work, it doesn’t necessarily pay off in those kinds of ways.

And so we have to be very careful about that kind of messaging that just tells people to make good choices. And that’s really the whole, um, the basis of this DIY myth that I talk about.

Beth Jarosz: Does anyone else want to speak to that question?

Karen Benjamin Guzzo: I would just chime in to say some of the stuff that was in the book that I’ve seen in other places, which is you make the right choices and something catastrophic goes wrong and there’s no safety net for you. You have a sudden illness, uh, your spouse dies. All your good choices don’t mean anything, you know, because you’re on your own again, because there’s no safety net.

So, again, making these right choices, it’s no guarantee that things will work out. And so the amount of luck people have, um, in their lives is sort of underplayed because the people who’ve done well don’t like to think of themselves as being lucky or fortunate, but they are just one sort of bad mistake or bad, you know, car accident away from something catastrophic happening. But we don’t think about it that way. And we tend to say, oh, you must you must have made bad choices to have ended up this way.

Beth Jarosz: Um, I don’t think we have time to address this one, but I just want to note that a couple of people have mentioned in the Q&A that there’s also, we’ve talked a lot about child care, but similar patterns play out with elder care and with other family caregiving responsibilities. So I think it’s sort of just a resounding acknowledgment that that is true, and that when we talk about these roles that society plays on women, we’re talking about all of those, um, even if we’re focused on the child care piece today.

So the last question I want to leave with, um, is we’ve talked about a lot of what’s wrong. Um, we’ve talked about a lot of the challenges and the holes in the safety net. I want to just ask, is there anything that makes you optimistic about the future? And we’ll, we’ll go in reverse order this time. So we’ll do Jocelyn and wrap up. Jocelyn, what makes you optimistic?

Jocelyn Foye: Sure. Um. So, uh, the Womxn Project lately has been doing a lot of organizing at school board and town council levels, because that is a space where a majority of women are taking in, taking on the roles of those leadership positions, at least in school committees. But typically they get kicked. They decide not to continue in government because, frankly, it beats them down.

Um, what I will tell you is, is, well, we’re fighting against a lot of the hate group organizing ourselves in terms of how it’s impacting bodily autonomy and freedoms. Um, I will tell you that when people in their communities find out, so in Rhode Island, people don’t think it’s as present here. And so I would say that representation of the different states that is here in this panel, that’s a very different type of thing. But for this particular state, when people find out that there is things, there are certain things happening in certain areas close to them, people aren’t shying away from it as much as we expected. They’re actually asking, how can I help?

And so my talks have been very much around maybe it’s not direct because that puts you in direct conflict with people or vulnerable with people who are in your community directly, maybe at the supermarket. But there are different ways to engage. And I’m seeing a lot of innovative thinking and a lot of, of hopeful thinking, and that gives me hope that whatever happens on the other side of this, um, presidential election, that the network we’re building within our state, within these different communities to defend, um, their school boards and town councils that we’ll have a network of people that are working together to do something as simple as, how do you support people if Medicaid goes away?

And so there are different methods of behaviors that people are analyzing and turning to for their community health centers to do that. So again, I think hope is coming in like, who are the heroes? And it’s everyday heroes that we’re seeing, and it is moms, and it’s birthing people who are just like, you know, not, not on my watch. And so I think that that’s an important place to be and to hold on to is hope.

Beth Jarosz: All right. How about you, Karen? What gives you hope?

Karen Benjamin Guzzo: Young people. Um, they are very, they, they’re very clear that they, like, they think about parenthood a lot and what we owe kids. And they’re not willing to, to take it for granted that things will work out okay. They’re like, well, what do I need to do? And so they’re very conscious about, about having kids and about what their futures look like and how what they need to do to make it to, to, to make a better future for themselves and the, and the kids they’d like to have.

And so I’m always impressed by the young people I talk to. And I say, I sound so old when I say that. But, you know, my students in college, like they are really deliberate about thinking about their futures and what they want, and they want to make sure that they have those. So, so it’s not people aren’t taking childbearing too seriously, it’s that they’re taking it very seriously and they’re not willing to do things under, you know, less unsuitable conditions. And I think they’re going to work for those.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. How about you, Tiffany? What, what gives you hope?

Tiffany Green: You know, um, so prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba always talks about hope being a discipline. And I think that is what I try to do.

You know, I work in reproductive health and equity and justice, and there’s a lot to be depressed about. But I think for me, it’s staying in the work and seeing that no matter how, how, you know, we despair, there have been people that have been working in reproductive justice for a long time. There have been people that have been working to, to expand access to child care for a long time. There have been people that have been fighting for all of the things that we’re talking about, and that progress is never, was never going to be linear.

So I think really for me, it’s staying in the work and working to uplift those people who are doing that work that keeps me hopeful.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. And last but certainly not least, Jess, what gives you hope?

Jessica Calarco: Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that gives me hope, in addition to what’s already been mentioned, is that we got really close with Build Back Better, and we actually learned some really important lessons from the policies that we put in place during the pandemic: things like the Child Tax Credit, things like universal free lunch, you know, from the Medicaid expansion. We learned from these policies that we can do large-scale social programs in the U.S. despite our size, despite our political variations and all of the other challenges that we’re up against.

And the other thing that gives me hope is that, at least for now, we still live in a democracy, which means that we have the chance to, that we don’t actually need to persuade everyone, that we, if we can convince enough people to reject the kinds of myths that are designed to delude and divide us, then we actually have a shot at electing the kinds of policymakers who have the potential, at least, to fight for a stronger social safety net.

And so I think it’s those are the kinds of pieces that give me hope that we got very close and that this is possible if we just have enough people who are willing to reject some of these ideas that help us stay stuck in the status quo. Thank you.

Beth Jarosz: And thank you all so much. This has been—I don’t know if you can tell from the reactions that are coming in through the chat here with the hearts and the clapping—this has been an absolutely fantastic conversation. And thank you all for your time today. I truly, truly appreciate it, and we will post the recording soon.