The New American Servitude
Political Belonging among African Immigrant Home Care Workers
Published by: NYU Press
Examines why African care workers feel politically excluded from the United States
Care for America’s growing elderly population is increasingly provided by migrants, and the demand for health care labor is only expected to grow. Because of this health care crunch and the low barriers to entry, new African immigrants have adopted elder care as a niche employment sector, funneling their friends and relatives into this occupation. However, elder care puts care workers into racialized, gendered, and age hierarchies, making it difficult for them to achieve social and economic mobility.
In The New American Servitude, Coe demonstrates how these workers often struggle to find a sense of political and social belonging. They are regularly subjected to racial insults and demonstrations of power—and effectively turned into servants—at the hands of other members of the care worker network, including clients and their relatives, agency staff, and even other care workers. Low pay, a lack of benefits, and a lack of stable employment, combined with a lack of appreciation for their efforts, often alienate them, so that many come to believe that they cannot lead valuable lives in the United States. While jobs are a means of acculturating new immigrants, African care workers don’t tend to become involved or politically active. Many plan to leave rather than putting down roots in the US.
Offering revealing insights into the dark side of a burgeoning economy, The New American Servitude carries serious implications for the future of labor and justice in the care work industry.