Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jan E. Mutchler

Second Advisor

Ellen A. Bruce

Third Advisor

Sandra S. Butler


Researchers have identified myriad challenges to workers seeking to accumulate an adequate retirement nest egg, but a factor that has received insufficient attention is time spent in informal caregiving. This study examined the impact of care provision across the life course—such as raising children or caring for a disabled spouse or frail parents—on older workers' financial preparations for retirement. Hypotheses guiding the research were that persons reporting more lifetime experience with informal care would express reduced confidence about their retirement income security and would have lower levels of economic resources compared with other respondents.

Employed members ages 55–66 of the Maine State Employees Association, a large public-sector labor union, were surveyed about their experiences with unpaid caregiving and the economic consequences of that care. Respondents (n = 420) were also asked about assets and liabilities that could influence their financial security in retirement, and they rated their confidence in maintaining an acceptable standard of living in retirement.

Descriptive and bivariate statistics established clear differences in male and female respondents’ experience of caregiving. Substantially more women than men had provided significant levels of care for children or adults, and women caregivers reported more numerous impacts as the result of that care, such as working part-time or being unemployed.

Women respondents also expressed significantly less confidence in their financial well-being in retirement than did the men, although economic resources did not differ substantially by gender. However, these differences could be not linked to experience with caregiving.

Binary logistic regressions indicated that what was important in predicting confidence for women and men alike was income and health while economic resources were linked to education for women and men, with health for women, and with years of part-time employment for men.

Although no clear association between informal caregiving and preparation for retirement was observed, it is possible that public-sector union membership is a protective factor for older workers. Because informal caregiving is a pervasive experience, and can often bring employment- and earnings-related effects, it will be important to continue exploring this question among different sectors of the labor force.


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