Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Using Vulnerability Theory to Address Family and Elder Caregiving and the State's Resistance to Support
Jessica Dixon Weaver, The Perfect Storm: Coronavirus and The Elder Catch,
96 Tul. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2021)
The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already growing phenomenon: the Elder Catch. This term defines the caregiving dilemma faced by adults who are simultaneously working, caring for elder parents or relatives, and in some cases, raising children at the same time. Few scholars have explored how the state uses the traditional family framework to resist providing comprehensive government support for elder care. Women typically bear the brunt of caregiving costs within the family and become physically and mentally vulnerable in the process. COVID-19 has pushed women caught in the Elder Catch to the brink while sheltering at home, and has illuminated the disparities between genders regarding the high level of expectation society places on the availability of unpaid family caregiving. Coronavirus has also highlighted racial inequities for African American and Latino families, where female caregivers are more likely to be essential workers forced to work outside the home, and therefore more likely to contract and spread the virus within their family and surrounding communities. This article uses vulnerability theory to address the caregiving void that American women are facing. By introducing a new term, resistant assets, within the taxonomy of vulnerability theory, this article introduces a diagnostic tool for scholars and policy makers to analyze why it is so difficult to change state and market dependence on unpaid family caregiving and challenge government opposition to expanding social support of the family. Resistant assets are frameworks used by the state to reinforce the status quo and maintain a posture of legal and social non-intervention. The normative and extended family are resistant assets that prevent a revision of the American Social Contract. This article fills a gap in family law scholarship by exploring how analysis of resistant assets within vulnerability theory can contribute to the development of a theoretical foundation for legal change to support family caregivers.