Productivity and Affinity in the Age of Dignity
Stephen Lee, Productivity and Affinity in the Age of Dignity, 114 Mich. L. Rev. 1137 (2016).
Americans are living longer than ever before. Meanwhile, labor studies project a shortage of caregivers in future labor markets. This forces an urgent question: Who will take care of us once we are too old to take care of ourselves? Ai-jen Poo, a nationally recognized activist takes up this question in The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Recognizing that a sizable portion of the caregiving workforce is foreign-born and unauthorized, one answer that Poo offers is expanding employment-based visas to manage future migration flows. While embracing Poo’s larger vision of reform, this Review does two things. First, it shows that immigration admission rules are governed by what I call the productivity/affinity binary in which rules reflect a preference for either workers or family members. In this sense, Poo’s vision for reform privileges caregivers for their economic productivity. This leads to this Review’s second goal: to show that gaps in the caregiving labor market might also be filled by expanding family-based migration opportunities. Relying on family-based migration to fill labor gaps both makes intuitive sense given the kind of affinity bonds that often transpire between family members and caregivers and creates a pool of workers that is flexible and responsive to the shifting needs of the caregiving industry.