University of California, Berkeley

To establish an interdisciplinary research program on the social science of caregiving and build empirical and theoretical foundations for the cognitive economics of care

  • Amount $681,864
  • City Berkeley, CA
  • Investigator Alison Gopnik
  • Year 2023
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Economics

The pandemic has only underscored how caregiving systems lack resilience, affordability, or even just staff, and how that lack holds people back from achieving their dreams. The result is renewed policymaker interest in the U.S. care economy, as evidenced by President Biden’s April 2023 executive order to improve access to care and support care workers and New Mexico’s landmark decision to offer free childcare to most families in 2022. Designing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based policies crucially depends upon rigorous empirical analysis coupled with theoretical models of care. Yet care relationships are well-represented by neither canonical economic models nor traditional economic indicators like GDP. A new research program on the “Social Science of Caregiving” at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) aims to help rethink the philosophical, biological, political, and economic foundations of care, and consider how to translate those insights for policymaking. The project’s two-pronged approach involves developing a research program on the cognitive economics of care, and coordinating and disseminating the findings of a broad, interdisciplinary research effort. Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, and Margaret Levi, Professor of Political Science at Stanford, are leading the project. So far, they have organized multiple workshops convening economists, psychologists, political scientists, neuroscientists, computer scientists, and policy experts, among others, to outline a preliminary research agenda and produce a general scientific understanding of care. Topics include studying how humans conceptualize care; the ways in which new AI technologies affect our understanding of care; and the economic consequences of cultural assumptions about gender roles in care. Sloan funding will support research led by Gopnik on the cognitive economics of care; virtual and in-person research meetings; the recruitment and convening of an interdisciplinary Advisory Board to ensure that the program’s basis research meets the needs of economists and applied social scientists; and the dissemination of the project’s research outputs to broad audiences through a variety of academic and non-academic channels.

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