Gender, Migration, & The Work of Care

Journal Articles

Confronting Servitude: Asian Immigrant Women Workers in State-Funded Homecare

Article co-authored by Jennifer Chun, Cynthia Cranford and others published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Cynthia Cranford and her co-authors have published an article in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society based on research conducted as part of the Gender, Migration and the Work of Care. This article reflects work conducted by the Immigrant Labour Markets for Personal Care Work team.


Chun, Jennifer, Cynthia Cranford, Yangsook Kim and Jennifer Nazareno. 2023.  “Confronting Servitude: Asian Immigrant Women Workers in State-Funded Homecare.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 49 (1) Autumn. 


This article utilizes a multilevel intersectional framework to analyze how Asian immigrant women workers in state-funded care provisioning make sense of and contest the relations of servitude that have long plagued low-paid domestic work. Our research, which draws on in-depth interviews with Chinese, Korean, and Filipina/o/x women in California’s In-Home Supportive Services program, shows that workers across all three groups face coercive labor conditions in private homes that severely constrain their ability to refuse excessive demands on their time and tasks, including when care is publicly funded and means tested, provided by paid relatives, managed by the state, and regulated under union collective-bargaining agreements. Yet, our comparative analysis also shows that workers from different groups have varying understandings of what constitutes servitude and how it can be challenged, especially when care receiver–employers are similarly marginalized and are part of workers’ families and ethnic communities. Meso-level institutions such as labor markets, immigrant networks, community organizations, and labor unions play a significant role in mediating workers’ subjective understandings and group-level responses to ongoing conditions of de facto servitude.

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