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When Bad Things Happen to Good People: The Economic Consequences of Retiring to Caregive


  • P. Lynn McDonald
  • T. Sussman
  • Peter Donahue


Purpose - We present the economic consequences of retiring to caregive when the caregiving is over. Design and Methods - As part of a larger study of involuntary retirement and its impact on income, in-depth interviews were carried out with 24 caregivers who self-identified as retiring to caregive and who represented different points along the caregiving, retirement, post caregiving continuum. Results - The major findings that emerged from the analysis were organized into an analytical model according to caregiving-retirement-post caregiving trajectories and indicated: (1) the transition into early retirement took two routes: the first route was precipitated by a crisis and was viewed as temporary; the second route was planned and permanent and was related to deteriorating work conditions but justified by the need to caregive; (2) the caregiving process was wrought with financial distress for those catapulted into retirement by a crisis, while those who planned retirement were able to make ends meet; (3) at the conclusion of the caregiving, the "crisis" caregivers lived in abject poverty while the "planners" reported adequate income; (4) post caregiving survival strategies for those in poverty included attempts at work re-entry, juggling debts, bartering their services and pawning belongings; (5) the caregiving, retirement, post caregiving trajectories were influenced by irreconcilable social norms about women that fluctuated over time. Implications - Greater understanding of the intersection of caregiver and retirement trajectories over time is necessary for planning financial supports and services for caregivers who retire and for developing social policy that mirrors their lives. Although the caregiving may be over, the continued intervention of professionals is warranted to avoid the distressing economic consequences resulting from retiring to caregive.

Suggested Citation

  • P. Lynn McDonald & T. Sussman & Peter Donahue, 2007. "When Bad Things Happen to Good People: The Economic Consequences of Retiring to Caregive," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 202, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:202

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aslam H. Anis, 1992. "Pharmaceutical Prices with Insurance Coverage and Formularies," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 25(2), pages 420-437, May.
    2. Ying Kong & James R. Seldon, 2004. "Pseudo-Generic Products and Barriers to Entry in Pharmaceutical Markets," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 25(1), pages 71-86, August.
    3. Aidan Hollis, 2002. "The importance of being first: evidence from Canadian generic pharmaceuticals," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(8), pages 723-734.
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    More about this item


    caregiving; post caregiving retirement income; financial survival strategies;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies


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