Jessica Calarco publishes book Holding It Together

The cover of the book, "Holding It Together: How Women Became America's Safety Net" by Jessica Calarco.Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.

Holding It Together: How Women Became America’s Safety Net, a new book from Jessica Calarco, chronicles the causes and dire consequences. America runs on women—women who are tasked with holding society together at the seams and fixing it when things fall apart. In this tour de force, acclaimed Sociologist Jessica Calarco lays bare the devastating consequences of our status quo.

Holding It Together draws on five years of research in which Calarco surveyed over 4000 parents and conducted more than 400 hours of interviews with women who bear the brunt of our broken system. A widowed single mother struggles to patch together meager public benefits while working three jobs; an aunt is pushed into caring for her niece and nephew at age fifteen once their family is shattered by the opioid epidemic; a daughter becomes the backstop caregiver for her mother, her husband, and her child because of the perceived flexibility of her job; a well-to-do couple grapples with the moral dilemma of leaning on overworked, underpaid childcare providers to achieve their egalitarian ideals. Stories of grief and guilt abound. Yet, they are more than individual tragedies.

Tracing present-day policies back to their roots, Calarco reveals a systematic agreement to dismantle our country’s social safety net and persuade citizens to accept precarity while women bear the brunt. She leads us to see women’s labor as the reason we’ve gone so long without the support systems that our peer nations take for granted, and how women’s work maintains the illusion that we don’t need a net.

Weaving eye-opening original research with revelatory sociological narrative, Holding It Together is a bold call to demand the institutional change that each of us deserves, and a warning about the perils of living without it.

Jessica Calarco has discussed Holding It Together on The Hill, Wisconsin Public Radio, and a book talk with Population Reference Bureau. The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) will host a book talk on July 18 with Alia Wong and Jessica Calarco.