The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Care, Work and Family Policy

Child care, elder care, foster care and health care comprise important components of state budgets and require increasing attention from policymakers. However, policymakers often lack vital information to develop and implement effective care and family policy. SPP faculty provide needed research in this critical policy area, and SPP graduates have become leaders in research, advocacy and governmental efforts to improve care for individuals and families across the United States.


SPP students interested in care and family policy have a wide range of courses from which to choose. Most SPP core courses address issues that are crucial for advancing the formulation and analysis of care and family policy, and SPP electives such as "Gender, Care and Public Policy" and "Gender and Social Policy" offer in-depth examinations of key concepts. In addition, students can choose from relevant electives in a wide range of UMass departments. Examples of possible electives include:

  • State and Local Health Politics (public health)
  • Social Policy and Disability (education)
  • Women and Work (labor studies, sociology)
  • The Family (sociology)
  • Research and Theory in Early Childhood and Family Studies (human development)
  • Social Gerontology (sociology)
  • Nutritional Problems in the United States (nutrition)


Examples of SPP faculty research in the area of care and family policy include:

  • Michael Ash's work in the area of care policy has focused on the role of nursing conditions and unionization in health care outcomes. His research has also addressed the crucial issue of nursing shortages, as well as disparities in care for children battling chronic disease.
  • M.V. Lee Badgett's scholarship has focused on care issues within families headed by same-sex couples, particularly the effects of wage gaps and unequal access to employment-based health insurance.
  • Brenda Bushouse has recently focused her research on policies to improve the care and education of infants and toddlers. She is an expert on the universal preschool movement in the U.S.
  • Joya Misra's research examines how family and care policies in different countries affect employment levels, wages, and poverty rates for mothers.     
  • Maureen Perry-Jenkins conducts research on the factors shaping the mental health and family relationships of parents and their children.

Additional Care, Work and Family Policy Initiatives

  • The Center for Research on Families is based at UMass Amherst and is nationally recognized for its support of scholarship related to family development and processes, including research on social and economic policies affecting family life.
  • The Work and Families Transition Project, directed by Maureen Perry-Jenkins and funded by the National Institutes of Health, is a longitudinal study that follows outcomes for working-class households as they make the transition to parenthood while balancing paid employment.