Do Women Still Care? Cohort Changes in US Women’s Care for the Ill or Disabled

Source: Eliza K. Pavalko, Joseph D. Wolfe, Social Forces, Vol. 94 no. 3), March 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Increases in women’s labor-force participation and the time families spend at work have reduced the time families have available to care for one another. Recent evidence suggests that responses to these challenges vary for different types of care. While time spent on housework has declined, time devoted to care of children has increased. This paper examines cohort changes in another form of unpaid work, care for ill or disabled friends or family members, and assesses the influence of employment, attitudes, and need for care on age and cohort trends in carework. Using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys, we estimate age and cohort differences in carework among women born between 1922 and 1952. We find a decline in overall levels of carework among more recent birth cohorts of women. However, we do not find cohort changes in the probability that women will provide more intense levels of care, defined as nine or more hours of care per week. The amount of illness and disability among family members partially reduces differences between cohorts, but women’s employment and attitudes about work and family do little to clarify changing patterns of care. Overall, our findings suggest that, even after the large-scale social changes of the twentieth century, women will continue to provide carework when necessary. Thus, the real concern for families is not whether ill or disabled members will have care, but rather, whether their careworkers receive the institutional support required to successfully balance paid and unpaid work.