Caregiving Moms Lose Nearly $300,000 In Earnings Over A Lifetime, Report Says

By: Christine Michel Carter - Forbes

The U.S. Department of Labor and elected federal officials held a media briefing on Thursday to discuss the “Lifetime Employment-Related Costs to Women of Providing Family Care” report.

Released by the department’s Women’s Bureau, it illustrates how caring for family has long-term impacts on a mother’s lifetime earnings. The Women’s Bureau director Wendy Chun-Hoon, a senior advisor, Sarah Jane Glynn, and U.S. Representatives Gwen Moore, Susan Wild, and Shontel Brown shared findings from the briefing.

The report finds the amount of time women spend providing essential care to children and adults has a substantial personal economic cost that continues long after the caregiving ends. The estimated employment-related costs for mothers providing unpaid care averages $295,000 over a lifetime, based on the 2021 U.S. dollar value, adjusted for inflation. Unpaid family caregiving reduces a mother’s lifetime earnings by 15%, which also creates a reduction in retirement income.

“Families often think first of immediate demands out of necessity. Children, aging loved ones and people with disabilities need care right now, and when that care is needed during working hours – or is too expensive or inaccessible — it is the mothers who usually scale back on paid work to provide care,” explained Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “This report shows that lacking the necessary care infrastructure and safety net affects more than those immediate moments. The impacts They carry throughout a woman’s life.”

“Unpaid caregiving is work and should be recognized as such. This report is another reminder of the long-term cost women incur by providing unpaid care, and it cannot go ignored,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore. “I am working to ensure our federal policies support those providing unpaid care to loved ones, uplifting women and their families, so we can build an equitable, modern economy.”

“This report is a call to action. All families should have access to affordable childcare if we want to have an inclusive economy,” said Congresswoman Shontel Brown. “Families across the nation and from all demographics are struggling with high childcare costs. This financial burden is especially high in historically marginalized communities, including Black mothers, as they are the least likely to scale back employment after having children due to challenging economic conditions. A lack of affordable care puts so much pressure on families, Black women deserve the ability to build wealth and build a family. Our children, mothers and families in Northeast Ohio deserve better.”

Although its findings relies on sophisticated modeling to focus on the costs associated with caregiving activities for mothers, the report – prepared for the Women’s Bureau by the Urban Institute – acknowledges that the costs are likely conservative estimates that do not include the total economic costs borne by all caregivers.

Related, a recent national poll from AARP found that Americans of all political backgrounds agree that caregivers need more support. In the absence of viable childcare options, mothers especially are often forced to modify their work schedules, settle for lower-quality care, or leave the workforce altogether—a decision that can jeopardize their family’s financial security. Nearly three in four Americans across the political spectrum believe the difficulty providing care for the older adults, children, and/or disabled people has become a serious societal problem in this country today.

“Americans of all backgrounds are deeply concerned about caregiving, whether it is caring for children or aging parents,” said Nicole Jorwic, chief of advocacy and campaigns for Caring Across Generations. “Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all want leaders to act and prioritize real solutions for caregivers – no matter their age, income or zip code.”

Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.