William & Mary

He and McHenry Publish Research on the Impact of Formal Employment on Informal Caregiving

Daifeng He and Peter McHenry recently published an article in Health Economics entitled "Does Formal Employment Reduce Informal Caregiving?" Both He and McHenry are faculty members of William & Mary's Department of Economics and faculty affiliates of the W&M Public Policy Program.

In the United States, the elderly frequently rely on informal care providers, such as family members and friends, to assist them as they age, but many of these providers – most of whom are women – face competing demands for their limited time as a result of formal employment arrangements.  Using the large nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) dataset, He and McHenry quantify the causal effect of women’s formal employment on their ability to provide informal care.  They note that about 8% of women ages 40-64 years provide informal care, and the average time devoted to caregiving is 2.3 hours weekly.  Among those actually providing care, average weekly caregiving is 28 hours.  He and McHenry find that formal employment reduces the probability of caregiving.  Among women of prime caregiving age, for example, working 10% more hours per week reduces the probability of providing informal care by about 2 percentage points.  If the care recipient is a household member or the care itself is more time-intensive, the effect of formal employment on caregiving is even stronger.  These results suggest that there will be continuing strains on the long-term care infrastructure in the United States, with work-promoting policies having the unintended consequence of reducing informal caregiving in an aging society.