Exploring the Cross-Lagged Relationship Between Women's Parental Care and Financial Status
Given the increasing numbers of older people in the U.S., the number of family caregivers is likely to increase. Evidence suggests that caregiving responsibilities for parents may put female caregivers at risk of living in poverty, requiring public assistance in later life, and may have devastating consequences overall, particularly for individuals already living in poverty. Much of the previous literature on caregiving focused on the effects of caregiving on caregivers’ psychological and physical well-being. There are few published studies pertaining to caregivers’ financial well-being. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between eldercare and financial status by investigating whether or not women’s poor financial status is both a result and a cause of assuming care for elderly parents, which results in a vicious circle that is hard to break. Particularly, we address the following research questions:
RQ1: Is caregiving in the preceding year associated with reduced household income in the current year?
RQ2: Is lower household income in the preceding year associated with the likelihood of providing caregiving in the current year?
Data for women aged 51 or older with at least one living parent or parent-in-law were drawn from the Health and Retirement Survey 2006, 2008, and 2010 (N= 2,093). Caregiving was measured if respondents provided help with activities of daily living (1= yes; 0= no). Household income was used for measuring the financial status. The following variables were adjusted in the model: baseline age, race, education level, marital status, health status, the number of siblings, and parents’ health. A cross-lagged panel model of caregiving and financial status was tested using structural equation modeling. The cross-lagged panel model can be used with multiple dependent variables measured repeatedly and thus, this design allows for the examination of both directions of potential “causality” between variables due to multiple time points.
Female caregivers at earlier observation points were more likely than non-caregivers to be in poor financial status at later observation points. Women providing care to elderly parents in 2006 and 2008 had significantly lower household income than non-caregivers by .29 and .45 standard deviation in 2008 and 2010, respectively. On the other hand, women in poor financial status at earlier observations were more likely than women in better financial status to assume caregiving at later observation points. For one standard deviation increased in household income in 2006 and 2008, the odds of assuming care for elderly parents decreased by 23% and 12% in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
Conclusions and Implication:
Our findings suggest that there exists a vicious circle of eldercare and poor financial status among women. What appears particularly important is to watch for female caregivers’ financial status when eldercare is assumed, and to reduce care burden when women’s financial status becomes worse. These findings emphasize the importance of supporting the caregivers through compensating for the financial loss including Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, providing direct cash transfer and tax credits for purchasing long-term care.