Study: More than one-in-ten U.S. parents are also caring for an adult

Written on Dec 04, 2018

About three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) have a child younger than 18 at home, and 12% of these parents provide unpaid care for an adult as well. All told, these multigenerational caregivers provide more than two and a half hours of unpaid care a day, on average, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The amount of time parents spend on child care has been on the rise for decades in the United States. Mothers now spend 40% more time with their kids than they did in the mid-1960s, and the amount of time spent by fathers has tripled during that span. All told, parents – both those who are multigenerational caregivers and those who are not – now spend just over an hour and a half a day on child care. Parents who are multigenerational caregivers, meanwhile, spend just over an hour a day performing adult care in addition to the time spent caring for their children.

In this analysis, a multigenerational caregiver is any parent who is age 18 or older, lives with their own child younger than 18 and provided unpaid adult care on the prior day, according to the BLS American Time Use Survey data. Caregiving can include an array of activities: Adult care may include tasks such as providing hands-on assistance with dressing, eating or medical care; providing transportation to appointments; or helping to maintain the homes or finances of those who receive care. Child care also may include hands-on assistance, as well as reading or playing, attending children’s events or helping with homework. A multigenerational caregiver may be providing care to anyone who needs it, be it a relative, friend or neighbor.

On top of the time they spend caring for adults and children, multigenerational caregivers spend an average of 3 hours and 17 minutes a day on paid work. (Nearly three-quarters of these caregivers, or 72%, are employed.) That’s 86 minutes per day fewer than parents who are not also providing adult care. (Among these parents, 78% are employed.)

Multigenerational caregivers spend 21 fewer minutes per day sleeping than parents who are not also caring for an adult. But they spend 16 minutes more a day engaged in leisure and personal activities and 14 minutes more a day doing housework and errands.

There are few demographic differences in the share of parents who are multigenerational caregivers. Yet as is the case among parents in general, the amount of time engaged in care does vary somewhat across groups, driven mostly by differences in the amount of time spent caring for children.

Moms who are multigenerational caregivers spend 45 more minutes a day providing adult or child care than comparable dads. This difference is driven entirely by the fact that moms – whether caring for an adult or not – spend more time on child care daily than dads. There is no significant gender difference in the amount of time moms and dads who are multigenerational caregivers engage in adult care.

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