Labors of Love

Nursing Homes and the Structures of Care Work

256 pages

2 tables

October, 2014

ISBN: 9781479864300



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Jason Rodriquez is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and was an NIMH Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Rutgers University Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research. He is originally from Staten Island, NY.

All books by Jason Rodriquez

Every day for the next twenty years, more than 10,000 people in the United States will turn 65. With life expectancies increasing as well, many of these Americans will eventually require round-the-clock attention—and we have only begun to prepare for the challenge of caring for them. In Labors of Love, Jason Rodriquez examines the world of the fast-growing elder care industry, providing a nuanced and balanced portrait of the day-to-day lives of the people and organizations that devote their time to supporting America’s aging population. 
Through extensive ethnographic research, interviews with staff and management, and analysis of internal documents, Rodriquez explores the inner workings of two different nursing homes—one for-profit and one non-profit—to understand the connections among the administrative regulations, the professional requirements, and the type of care provided in both types of facilities. He reveals a variety of challenges that nursing home care workers face day to day: battles over the budget; the administrative hurdles of Medicaid and Medicare; the employees’ struggle to balance financial stability and compassionate care for residents. Yet, Rodriquez argues, nursing home workers give meaning and dignity to their work by building emotional attachments to residents and their care. An unprecedented study, Labors of Love brings new insight into the underlying structures of a crucial and expanding sector of the American health care system.


  • "Full of rich and absorbing material, this well-written and sensitively drawn ethnographic study provides important insights into the conflicts, contradictions, and constraints involved in the operation of nursing homes and the care work that takes place in them. A valuable and welcome addition to the literature on emotional labor, workplace organization, and long-term care."

    —Nancy Foner, author of The Caregiving Dilemma: Work in an American Nursing Home

  • "Labors of Love is without parallel in the nursing home literature. No other ethnographer has written in such a finely detailed way about the worlds of nursing home managers. In this book, Jason Rodriquez spells out in riveting detail how nursing home managers respond to a system that incentivizes dependence and incapacity rather than independence and restorative care, how they must "put on a show" for state inspectors that does not and cannot reflect the reality of normal day-to-day operations, and how the current regulatory framework actively discourages authentic emotional relationships between caregivers and recipients. Labors of Love will change the terms of the national debate about nursing homes."

    —Steven Lopez, author of Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement

  • "[Rodriquez] describes the conflicts, constraints, and competition between nursing home caregivers and administration, as well as the reality of a government bureaucracy (Medicare/Medicaid) that defines client care, encourages fraud, and creates a scenario in which cost outweighs client care...[A] well-written, interesting book."


  • Labors of Love is a compelling indictment of the contemporary nursing home industry.  Might morals and markets ever be aligned more humanely in the nursing home industry?  Perhaps it would be easier to search for a fountain of youth.” 

    American Journal of Sociology

  • Labors of Love is accessible and appropriate for a range of student and scholarly audiences. Rodriquez is a reflexive ethnographer who is relatable and human in his narrative.”

    Contemporary Sociology