How Does the Caregiving Experience Affect Asset Trajectories of Informal Caregivers?: Findings from the Health and Retirement Study

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by Jennifer C. Greenfield, Washington University in St. Louis

Long-term care (LTC) in the United States is a growing concern, and while public expenditures on formal care are increasing at an alarming rate, informal caregivers remain the backbone of the LTC system. Recent policy innovations, such as establishment of the Community Living Assistance Service and Supports (CLASS) program and the shifting of Medicaid funding toward home- and community-based services (HCBS), may help reduce overall LTC care costs to some extent, but they also shift much of the responsibility for LTC to families and informal care networks. Evidence suggests that caregiving can be expensive and may also impact caregivers’ ability to earn income and contribute to retirement savings, but much of this evidence to date is cross-sectional and not nationally representative. More information about the long-term financial consequences of caregiving is needed in order to understand how provision of informal care impacts families, in particular because public policies that reduce spending on formal care may be economical for states, but they may also leave caregivers less able to pay for their own retirement and long-term care needs.

This project seeks to address this gap in knowledge by using longitudinal, nationally representative data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to evaluate the degree to which provision of informal care impacts the accumulation of assets among informal caregivers over time. Changes in asset trajectories are hypothesized to differ between caregivers and noncaregivers, with caregivers showing less accumulation of assets over time. Further, the study hypothesizes that caregivers asset trajectories will differ by caregiver attributes, such as gender and SES, and by characteristics of the caregiving experience, such as duration and intensity of caregiving. Lastly, the study will analyze whether the presence of formal care services alters the asset trajectories when compared to those caregivers who do not use formal care to supplement their caregiving work.

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