Who Cares the Most in Arkansas?

Reflect | Analyze | Plan

Who Cares?

Who cares?

That’s usually a casual line reserved for middle school lunch table conversation. But over the last 18 months, that question has taken on much more weight and relevance for me. I find myself asking the universe:

No really, who? Who’s going to care for my kids while I’m working? Who’s going to care for my aging grandmother? How are the critical care workers in my life holding up in the world of shutdowns and social distancing and what will care look like on the other side of this pandemic?

With these questions in mind, I was excited to read the recently released brief from Asset Funders Network (AFN) Why Care About Care? Our Economy Depends On It and sit down with Abby Hughes Holsclaw, AFN Senior Director and coordinator of the Arkansas Chapter of AFN, to talk more about why we should care more about care workers in Arkansas and why our economy depends on it.

The truth is, when we look at who cares the most in Arkansas - who carries a disproportionate weight of care work - it’s ALICE, Arkansans that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

In order to build a thriving and equitable economy, we must #SeeALICE and build a care economy that works for us all.

What is the Care Economy?

Sarah: Let's start by defining what the care economy is. How does Asset Funders Network define it?

Abby: The care economy is the 53 million unpaid family caregivers who work alongside nearly 5.7 million people who actually call caregiving their profession. Here in Arkansas there are 460,000 unpaid family caregivers alongside nearly 55,000 Arkansans who call caregiving their profession. Together they really are the heart of our economy.

How We Got Here

Sarah: The structure of the care economy underscores some major inequities. Unseen, unpaid, or underpaid caregiving often falls on women. I think especially as two white women, it's important for us to also acknowledge the disproportionate burden on women of color and the history of unpaid domestic work.

Abby: One of the most memorable statements in the brief is “Immigrant women, black, Latinx women and mothers, of all races, bear the weight of our nation's care economy on their proverbial hips.” If you listen to the webinar, the two speakers, Julie Kasen and Tiffany Younger, outline the under-valuation of caregiving and how it is rooted in discrimination and racial inequities.It is a call to action for us to do something to use our voice to use our influence for change.

Why We Care

Sarah: Why is this important to Asset Funders Network?

Abby: We see that care is both a family economic security and asset building issue first and foremost. Paying for care, providing care to family members, and working in the care sector all have detrimental impacts on one's family economic security and ability to build wealth, both for the caregiver and the individuals who need and are seeking care.

We also would say that care is an equity and justice issue. We strongly believe that the lack of public care infrastructure and undervaluing care work contributes to the gender and racial inequities that we have in this country.

That's why it matters to AFN. Why does it matter to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation?

Sarah: When you look at who cares the most in Arkansas, it's ALICE. ALICE is an acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. WRF and Entergy commissioned a report last year on ALICE in Arkansas and learned that 50% of Arkansans are working hard but not making ends meet. That tells us that when nearly half a million households in Arkansas can't make ends meet the system is broken.

When we ask ourselves why the system is broken, a major reason is because we're not seeing and valuing and properly compensating care work. We're not seeing and valuing and compensating ALICE. To create a thriving and equitable Arkansas, we have to see ALICE for his or her essential contribution to our economy and our communities, recognize the value of the care economy to which he or she contributes, and build an economic system that supports and works for him or her.

Where There Is Momentum for Change

Sarah: Where do you see existing momentum around supporting the care economy in Arkansas?

Abby: First and foremost would be taking action to support giving these average working Arkansans, ALICE families, tax relief. To do that, Arkansas AFN has been supporting a workers credit in the upcoming Arkansas Special Session. We're advocating for Governor Hutchinson to put a tax credit in his proposal for the special call this fall and give a tax break to hardworking Arkansans. There's no better way to value work than to give tax relief to the ones that are part of and supporting our care economy.

Sarah: The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and many of our philanthropic partners, including some of our fellow asset funders, and a coalition of parents, childcare providers, chambers of commerce, faith leaders, and others have been working for the last 12 to 18 months on some state-level policy recommendations specifically related to the early childhood education system. Many of those recommendations are about the need to better support our childcare workforce, so it relates directly to this issue of under-compensation and an under-supported care network.

What Philanthropy Can Do

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Asset Funders Network care about care.

To our philanthropic partners, below are our recommendations on how we can work together to fundamentally change the care economy in Arkansas to better meet the needs of ALICE families.


Fund Advocacy for ALICE

  • Support grassroots organizing of those most impacted by an inequitable care system in Arkansas to build power and fuel collective action.
  • Fund policy and advocacy campaigns like AR AFN’s efforts to promote tax relief for ALICE and Early Childhood Education coalition.

  • Go Beyond Grantmaking

    • Educate your staff, board, and partners about how foundations can engage in advocacy with free resources and advising from Bolder Advocacy.
    • Speak out on issues and policies that are important to ALICE through Op Eds, interviews, and open letters.
    • Join coalitions with other funders, nonprofits, and partners to advance policies that support ALICE families.

    Join Us

    To partner on current initiatives in Arkansas mentioned above, contact Sarah McBroom, WRF Equity Officer, at or Abby Hughes Holsclaw, AFN Senior Director and coordinator of Arkansas AFN, at