Digital and Computational Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Intergenerational Transfers of Informal Care Time across Contexts and Sociodemographic Characteristics

Daniela Veronica Negraia, Emilio Zagheni; in Collaboration with Denys Dukhovnov (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Detailed Description

This project seeks to document the direction and volume of non-monetary resource flows between generations, genders, and population subgroups. Informal care time is a prevalent form of non-market transactions that impacts macroeconomic development, the financial potential of families and households, and individual well-being.

Transfers of informal care time are an understudied component of national and subnational resource flows, with repercussions for the functioning of economic support systems, such as enabling the funding of old-age public pensions and childcare public support programs. These transfers are mostly associated with the unpaid time spent by caregivers with their household members to provide physical help or other unpaid assistance to coresiding family members. Yet, some non-monetary care transfers extend to more distant or atypical relationship transactions or they are simultaneous/multi-directional in nature. Occasionally, distant relatives, neighbors, or friends are called upon to provide direct care or to aid with household tasks. The first aim of this project is to factor in all kinds of informal care and to produce accurate population-level estimates and projections of dependency and potential support. The second aim is to evaluate the social and individual impact of the production and consumption of non-monetary resources, ranging from the individual-level implications for emotional and financial well-being to non-monetary support surplus and deficit on the macro level.

In one study, we have documented substantial differences among unpaid caregivers by gender (women versus men), both within and outside caregivers’ households. Our results have shown that, on average, women contribute substantially more time than men with informal care activities within a household and beyond. As societal norms change on women’s involvement in the labor force and men’s involvement in child care and household production, we expect that this gender gap will continue to shrink in the near future. Many common proximal determinants of culture, such as the ethno-racial and the national background, have demonstrated a weak predictive effect on both the propensity and intensity of care transfers. Further research is needed to identify the principal explanatory factors in caregiving arrangements.

In another study we tested whether the gap in time spent in childcare between mothers and fathers narrows or closes during weekends, when fathers – who, on average, work more hours for pay than mothers do – would have substantially more time available to spend with their children than during the work week. To test this question, we used time-diary data from the American Time Use Survey (2003–2018). Preliminary results have shown that the gender gap in time spent with children persists during weekends: Fathers spend less time with their children during weekends than mothers, and this applies across the eight key activities we tested.

Research Keywords:

Economics, Employment, Retirement, Intergenerational Relationships

Region keywords:

USA, World


Dukhovnov, D.; Ryan, J.; Zagheni, E.:
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-022. (2020)    
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.