Virtual Library Research Hub detail page

Back to search results

Colen, Shellee. “‘Like a Mother to Them’: Stratified Reproduction and West Indian Childcare Workers and Employers in New York”.” In Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, 78–102. University of California Press., 1995.


In this chapter exploring motherhood and childrearing in the context of globalization and increasing wealth disparities, the author puts forth the concept of ‘stratified reproduction.’ Stratified reproduction refers to the division of social and physical reproduction, based on hierarchies of race, gender, and class, in a way that effectively reinforces and replicates the underlying inequities on which stratified reproduction is based. Relying on in-depth interviews, life histories, and participant observation with black West Indian childcare providers and their white American employers, the author delves into the transnational context of the work, meaning of motherhood for migrant workers who left behind children, perspectives on reproductive labor, and communication between employer and employee. In doing so, she highlights the larger social, economic, and legal factors that fuel stratified reproduction, a system of care that exploits inequities and simultaneously intensifies them. This chapter engages a multifaceted critical analysis of motherhood and childrearing, presenting the white American and black West Indian women in the U.S. as both workers and mothers, facing similar choices in very different circumstances. This article reveals the increasing devaluation of childcare, a process driven by society and the state. While written from an anthropological perspective, this author roots her chapter in contemporary history.


Download file

About the Author

Related Topics

Intersectionality   History