Connections, challenges, and opportunities across the American care economy

Keynote speaker Claudia Goldin with Brookings president Cecilia Rouse PHOTO: Paul Morigi for Brookings
Editor's note:

Editor’s note: This is an overview of a conference event held at Brookings on June 10-11, 2024. Video of selected speakers can be viewed below.

On Monday, June 10, and Tuesday, June 11, the Brookings Center for Economic Security and Opportunity hosted “The Care Economy: Connections, Challenges, and Opportunities.” The conference was focused on encouraging deeper conversations surrounding the care economy, which encapsulates everything from childcare to eldercare. Panelists and keynote speakers explored topics ranging from workforce and family caregiver challenges to the policy and research priorities for the care economy.

Claudia Goldin

Labor economist, economic historian, and recipient of the 2023 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel Claudia Goldin delivered her keynote lecture entitled “Federal support for childcare in four acts and 90 years.” In her lecture, she reminded us of an important fact: This is not the first time in history that we have faced difficult caregiving investment decisions when women must be a part of the workforce.

PHOTO: Paul Morigi for Brookings

Goldin traced shifting policy directives and attitudes about childcare over the past decades, describing the childcare initiatives from the Great Depression’s WPA Emergency Nursery Schools to the Lanham Nursery Schools of WWII. She discussed the lasting impacts of the Nixon administration’s anti-feminist, family-oriented viewpoints, as well as our changing relationship with childcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her lecture revealed past solutions to the still-unanswered question: What are we willing to invest in childcare to support parental workforce participation?

Ai-jen Poo

PHOTO: Paul Morigi for Brookings

Moderator Tara McGuinness, founder and executive director of the New Practice Lab, sat down with Ai-Jen Poo, president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, for a keynote fireside chat. They discussed the essential nature of care jobs, the influence of culture on the treatment of caregiving jobs in the economy, and highlighted the questions: What is the cost of inaction on the care economy? And what happens if we invest in care?

A Conversation with Senator Tammy Duckworth

PHOTO: Paul Morigi for Brookings

Moderator Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, held a keynote conversation with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The dialogue ranged from discussing the tension between salient short-term costs and unseen long-term benefits of investing in care to emphasizing that caregiving needs to be seen as essential infrastructure and an economic priority.


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

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