Revaluing Care in the Global Economy (2021-2022)


The world is facing a crisis of care. The number of people requiring care is growing, and the failure to provide essential sustaining care to our ecosystem as much as our body politics now poses an existential threat. And yet, care remains orphaned by the logics of commodification and markets, the only tools we currently use to ascribe value. 

As societies, organizations and businesses, we do what we measure. If we don’t measure it, we don’t do it – in fact, we don’t even see it. And, for the most part, we don’t measure care. Most human care work is performed by women – overwhelmingly women of color – in either unpaid or severely underpaid positions. The essential benefits of this care work to society, meanwhile, are not counted at all. Likewise, other essential components of care – the vital contributions of nature, of the commons and of public institutions – are for the most part not counted.

Addressing this crisis demands a fundamental transformation in how we ascribe value to care, as well as new tools and methods to measure that value. 

Project Description 

This project will address the crisis of care by developing a public-facing tool that recognizes, measures and values care in the economy. Findings will be used to build a broadly accessible resource hub for CARE (Community Access for Research and Education) with the purpose of informing and empowering policy making and further research on care. 

Team members will focus on three main objectives:

  1. Developing an interpretive framework for revaluing care. This will include developing a working definition of what will be included under the rubric of care and how best to assess efforts to value it. This framework will also include more familiar approaches that rely on market valuations, time use, costs imposed and indirect valuations. Students will develop tools for evaluating the ways that different indices highlight or obscure different aspects of care and its value. 
  2. Applying the interpretive framework to research and analyze alternative performance indicators, and especially their quality in evaluating the quality of care. There currently are dozens of indicators designed to measure factors such as wellbeing, happiness and progress – all aspects of care. Students will work in two subteams – one on indices and the other on policies – to systematically analyze the most influential (i.e., widely cited) of these with regard to their capacities to value care.  (Students may also participate in both aspects of the research.).
  3. Developing a public-facing CARE resource hub intended to facilitate dialogue, encourage research, build networks and inform on best available knowledge on care in the global economy. This phase will require the team to turn from critique to policy vision, considering how instruments used to value care might be used in practical contexts.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

Care toolkit – a digital resource hub for educators, journalists, civil-society advocates and other researchers; conceptual guide for CARE centered on three research fields (metrics, governance and social practice) and attending to three principal areas of concern (social, cultural and ecological care)

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will be comprised of 4 graduate students and 10 undergraduate students interested in international comparative studies, gender studies, environmental studies, global health, public policy, history, economics, sociology, statistics or cultural anthropology. We particularly welcome students with skills in close readings of texts, coding of textual materials (policies, laws, etc.), writing and non-English language abilities.

This project will provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to be involved in the development of a collaborative research project from its early stages. Through sessions with scholars from other regions and other universities, students will encounter a range of methodological approaches and epistemological orientations. Depending on students’ language abilities, they may have the opportunity to work in other languages. Both undergraduate and graduate students would potentially have the opportunity to coauthor research papers and white papers to be published on the network’s website. The opportunities to work with prominent researchers from abroad will be particularly valuable for graduate students seeking avenues to enter international scholarly networks.

In Fall 2021, the team will meet as a 500-level Seminar on Wednesdays from 5:15-7:45 p.m. Graduate students may also petition to participate through a 700-900-level Independent Study with the permission of their Director of Graduate Studies.


Summer 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Fall 2021: Establish shared framework for assessing indices and policies; form research subteams
  • Spring 2022: Develop online visualization tool and crowdsourcing platform; cross-reference case studies and delegate policy report responsibilities; discuss ideas for project website

This Team in the News

Making the Most of Duke, Summer 2021


Academic credit (500-level Seminar or 700-900-level Independent Study) available for fall and spring semesters

See earlier related team, The Value of Love: Global Perspectives on the Economy of Care (2019-2020).

Image courtesy of Global Care Policy Index (GCPI)

Team Leaders

  • Jocelyn Olcott, Arts & Sciences-History
  • Dirk Philipsen, Sanford School of Public Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Meyra Coban, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM
  • Tahlia Harrison, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM
  • Natalie Meltzer, Masters of Public Policy
  • Samantha Smith, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Grace Endrud
  • Emily Gustafsson
  • Sebin Jeon, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Joseph Kochansky, Economics (BS), Environmental Sci/Policy (AB2)
  • Zoe Macomber
  • Gurnoor Majhail
  • Kyle Newman, Economics (BS)