That’s the question asked in a recent NBER working paper Nicole Maestas, Matt Messer and Yulia Truskinovsky (2023) Aim to answer. The authors used data from the Income and Program Participation Survey (chypre) in individual reports of providing unpaid care to family and friends. The SIPP data are then linked to Social Security Administration income data. Individuals providing care are matched with similar individuals based on demographic data and income/employment history. Using this approach, the authors found the following results by gender:
Before women begin providing care, their employment or earnings trajectories do not differ from those of non-caregivers or future caregivers. However, within three years after women began providing care, employment among caregivers fell by 2.7 percentage points (4%) relative to future caregiver employment, or by 2.1 percentage points relative to non-care workers. The employment gap between caregivers and controls narrowed three to five years after the start of care. Relative to future caregivers’ earnings, female caregivers’ average annual earnings fall by nearly $1,000 (4 percent) in the first three years after starting caregiving and remain about $600 lower in years three to five, although the long-term difference is not Statistical significance.
For men, it’s a completely different story. Relative to the trajectories of male non-caregivers and future caregivers, male caregivers’ employment and earnings begin to decline five or more years before men begin providing unpaid care. After starting to provide care, the employment rate of male caregivers dropped a further 3.7 percentage points (5%) relative to the control group of future caregivers. Male caregivers remained out of the workforce longer than female caregivers because the employment gap between male caregivers and their comparison group persisted over three to five years rather than closing as it did for female caregivers.