Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jill Suitor


Family caregiving to the elderly comprises a major part of familial obligations in later family life. The family, however, is not a caregiving unit; it is women in the family who directly provide that care. Theories of gender inequality suggest that women's unpaid work reflect women's politically and economically disadvantaged positions both in the family and the labor market. The present dissertation addresses one dimension of this inequality, the economic consequences of elderly care. The objective of this study is to estimate how much unpaid elderly care depresses women's incomes. The economic costs of elderly care include losses in earnings because of forgone job opportunities and intermittent employment. Losses in the current earnings are conceptualized as an accumulation of negative effects of work rearrangements due to caregiving. The data are drawn from the National Survey of Families and Households. Separate examinations for coresiding and non-coresiding caregiving are conducted. Results show limited evidence of the costs of elderly care to women; (1) Caregiving to non-coresiding elderly parents had no effect on women's work-reduction or on women's labor force participation status, which implies that caregiving may not be causally prior to women's employment situation, (2) The effects of caregiving to elderly husbands on wives' work arrangements and earnings were also weak. However, the supplemental analyses using the 1990 Public Use Microdata Sample revealed that caregivers to coresiding elderly parents with personal care limitations were, compared to non-caregivers, four percent more likely to be out of the labor force. The present research provides limited evidence of the costs of elderly care to women. Nevertheless, the conclusion that caregiving to the elderly could rarely affect women's paid work and earnings, would be misleading. Rather, the results may indicate the difficulties with detecting the costs of elderly care. In addition, although the present research can imply only small effects of elderly care on women's earnings, the small effect can be accumulated across the life course. Future research that defines "caregiving" more clearly and identifies the costs of caregiving on women's retirement incomes as well as costs on immediate earnings is suggested.