November 29, 2018

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

Tanisha Vinson, right, of Washington, D.C., cares for her mother, Angelina, while also raising her daughter Khloe Edwards. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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.

Multigenerational caregivers spend more than two and a half hours a day on unpaid careThe 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 may also 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. (See additional tables for a detailed list of caregiving activities included in this analysis.)

Among parents, less paid work and less sleep for multigenerational caregiversOn 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.

Demographic differences in time spent providing care by multigenerational caregivers

For multigenerational caregiver moms, about three hours of unpaid care a dayThere 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.

Multigenerational caregivers younger than age 30 spend more than three hours a day engaged in this kind of work, compared with just over two hours a day among those ages 45 to 59. As with gender, the age differences in caregiving are driven by differences in time spent caring for children. The youngest parents – who are more likely to have younger children requiring more hands-on care – spend more than two hours a day on child care, compared with an hour among those ages 45 to 59. Younger and older parents who provide multigenerational care spend about the same amount of time providing adult care (about an hour a day each).

Multigenerational caregivers who are stay-at-home parents – the majority of whom are moms – spend about an hour and a half more a day providing unpaid care than their employed counterparts. While much of this difference is driven by the fact that the non-employed spend far more time on child care, they also spend slightly more time on adult care than the employed. It’s worth noting, though, that employed multigenerational caregivers still spend more than two hours a day on unpaid care, in addition to their paid work.

Note: Detailed tables of category classifications and demographic data can be found here (PDF).

See also: Adult caregiving often seen as very meaningful by those who do it

Topics: Family Roles, Family and Relationships, Household and Family Structure

  1. Photo of Gretchen Livingston

    is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.