Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work and Social Research


The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without some form of paid leave to compensate caregivers following the birth or adoption of a child. In 1999,President Bill Clinton attempted to rectify the situation by providing the United States Department of Labor with the executive authority to allow states to utilize funds from unemployment insurance coffers. “Baby UI” was born. Yet, in 2003, President George W. Bush used his executive authority to repeal the Clinton-era regulation before a single state had even decided to use it. This research focuses on the way Baby UI was framed in public discourse by examining public testimony and press accounts. The research reveals that, regardless of support or opposition to Baby UI, a gendered discourse of deservingness that privileged work over care was consistently invoked in a fashion that ensured the Baby UI initiative was doomed not be implemented and ultimately repealed. In conclusion, I argue future efforts to compensate caregiving must be grounded in a discourse founded on citizens’ shared vulnerabilities. Only then can we begin to dismantle the institutionalized practices associated with the prevailing liberal discourse of citizen rights that predicates compensation on the basis of having worked so as to have earned benefits. Only when we move away from liberal discourse centered on the citizen-worker can the U.S. begin to promote equality among men and women for the both the work or care they provide.


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