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The effect of informal care on work and wages


  • Van Houtven, Courtney Harold
  • Coe, Norma B.
  • Skira, Meghan M.


Cross-sectional evidence in the United States finds that informal caregivers have less attachment to the labor force. The causal mechanism is unclear: do children who work less become informal caregivers, or are children who become caregivers working less? Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, we identify the relationship between informal care and work in the United States, both on the intensive and extensive margins, and examine wage effects. We control for time-invariant individual heterogeneity; rule out or control for endogeneity; examine effects for men and women separately; and analyze heterogeneous effects by task and intensity. We find modest decreases—2.4 percentage points—in the likelihood of working for male caregivers providing personal care. Female chore caregivers, meanwhile, are more likely to be retired. For female care providers who remain working, we find evidence that they decrease work by 3–10hours per week and face a 3 percent lower wage than non-caregivers. We find little effect of caregiving on working men's hours or wages. These estimates suggest that the opportunity costs to informal care providers are important to consider when making policy recommendations about the design and funding of public long-term care programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Van Houtven, Courtney Harold & Coe, Norma B. & Skira, Meghan M., 2013. "The effect of informal care on work and wages," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 240-252.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:32:y:2013:i:1:p:240-252
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2012.10.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heitmueller, Axel, 2007. "The chicken or the egg?: Endogeneity in labour market participation of informal carers in England," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 536-559, May.
    2. Hassink, Wolter H.J. & Van den Berg, Bernard, 2011. "Time-bound opportunity costs of informal care: Consequences for access to professional care, caregiver support, and labour supply estimates," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(10), pages 1508-1516.
    3. Susan Ettner, 1995. "The impact of “parent care” on female labor supply decisions," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(1), pages 63-80, February.
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    5. Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Heitmueller, Axel & Nazarov, Zafar, 2010. "A dynamic analysis of informal care and employment in England," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 455-465, June.
    6. Hiedemann, Bridget & Stern, Steven, 1999. "Strategic play among family members when making long-term care decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 29-57, September.
    7. Bolin, K. & Lindgren, B. & Lundborg, P., 2008. "Your next of kin or your own career?: Caring and working among the 50+ of Europe," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 718-738, May.
    8. Carmichael, Fiona & Charles, Susan, 2003. "The opportunity costs of informal care: does gender matter?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 781-803, September.
    9. Michele Wilson & Courtney Houtven & Sally Stearns & Elizabeth Clipp, 2007. "Depression and Missed Work among Informal Caregivers of Older Individuals with Dementia," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 684-698, December.
    10. Van Houtven, Courtney Harold & Norton, Edward C., 2008. "Informal care and Medicare expenditures: Testing for heterogeneous treatment effects," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 134-156, January.
    11. Laura Crespo & Pedro Mira, 2010. "Caregiving to Elderly Parents and Employment Status of European Mature Women," Working Papers wp2010_1007, CEMFI.
    12. Heitmueller, Axel & Inglis, Kirsty, 2007. "The earnings of informal carers: Wage differentials and opportunity costs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 821-841, July.
    13. David Byrne & Michelle S. Goeree & Bridget Hiedemann & Steven Stern, 2009. "Formal Home Health Care, Informal Care, And Family Decision Making," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1205-1242, November.
    14. Carmichael, Fiona & Charles, Sue, 1998. "The labour market costs of community care1," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 747-765, December.
    15. Norma B. Coe & Courtney Harold Van Houtven, 2009. "Caring for mom and neglecting yourself? The health effects of caring for an elderly parent," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(9), pages 991-1010.
    16. Susan L. Ettner, 1996. "The Opportunity Costs of Elder Care," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 189-205.
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    More about this item


    Informal care; Labor force participation; Hours; Wages;

    JEL classification:

    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General


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