The State of Women and Caregiving in 2021


The State of Women and Caregiving in 2021


Women have been the face of caregiving for generations, all while enduring many challenges like sexism, poverty, and inequality. We honor their sacred journey and the influence they’ve had on society through their sacrifices. Get to know the average woman's caregiving experience by reading the following facts and statistics.

Demographics of Women Caregivers

  1. The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman providing 20 hours of unpaid care a week to a parent. These “working daughters” are employed and in the sandwich generation. Twenty-six percent of them are parents of a minor, and more than 50 percent financially support an adult child.1
  2. The majority of family caregivers remain women, and they provide more hours of care than their male counterparts. An estimated 59 percent of women provide 20 hours or less of unpaid care per week compared to 41 percent of men. The difference between male and female caregivers providing more hours of unpaid care is much greater: 62 percent of women provide more than 20 hours of weekly care compared to 38 percent of men.2
  3. Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, family caregiving responsibilities have fallen mostly on women. One in 10 women report caring for a family member prior to the pandemic, and also one in 10 women shared they gained new caregiving responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.3
  4. BIPOC women providing care are twice as likely as white women caregivers to only have a high school education or less.4

Women’s Financial Health and Caregiving

  1. More women caregivers are reporting a lack of choice to provide care--55 percent in 2020 compared to 50 percent in 2015. They are also more likely than men to care for two or more adults, to be unemployed, and to be more stressed.5
  2. Since the start of the pandemic, three million American women have left the workforce. An inability to adequately balance caregiving responsibilities and work responsibilities may be to blame.6
  3. Dropping down to part-time employment or leaving the workforce altogether can put women caregivers in a precarious financial situation, especially as they reach retirement age.
    1. A study published in 2016 found that nearly one in three working women providing ongoing and intensive caregiving increased their odds of early retirement as a result of their caregiving responsibilities which had a significant impact on their income in retirement.7
    2. Fewer hours worked and lost wages due to caregiving earlier in life makes women caregivers two-and-a-half times more likely than non-caregivers to experience poverty later in life.8
  4. Studies show women age 50 and older who leave their employment to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $324,004 in wages and benefits over their lifetime.9

Women’s Physical & Mental Health and Caregiving

  1. Caregiving can contribute to declines in health. Fifty-four percent of women caregivers are managing one or more chronic health conditions compared to 41 percent of non-caregiving women. This same study also found that women caregivers spending nine or more hours a week caring for a spouse double their risk for coronary heart disease.10
  2. Women who identify as caregivers have higher rates of emotional distress than non-caregivers, often two to three times higher.11
  3. A study showed that women caring for a spouse or children were more likely to experience adverse effects to their mental health. For men in the same care situation, overall mental health was not adversely affected.12

Access to Caregiving Resources for Women Caregivers

  1. Minority women typically face greater challenges accessing paid sources for caregiving. Thirty percent of Black and 40 percent of Hispanic single women aged 65 years or older live in poverty.13
  2. According to a study on informal caregivers in New York City, the majority of participants in the study were women and shared one of the highest unmet needs was respite care. At least one in four caregivers needs it and does not receive it. In this same study, it was found that the top two most prevalent barriers to obtaining services are lack of knowledge about available services and having income/financial limitations.14

By making conscious efforts to ease the burden on women caregivers, their caregiving journey can improve. There are easy, free ways you can support a woman caregiver in your life. Check out our guide on ways to support a caregiver. To learn more about what makes the women’s caregiving experience unique, read 4 Essential Qualities of Women Caregivers.


  1. Which Type of Caregiver Are You?, Where You Live Matters (2021)
  2. Sons vs. Daughters: The Role of Gender in Caring for Aging Parents, (2019)
  3. Women, Work, and Family During COVID-19: Findings from the KFF Women's Health Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation (2021)
  4. Racial and Gender Disparities Within the Direct Care Workforce: Five Key Findings, PHI (2017)
  5. Caregiving in the U.S., AARP & The National Alliance for Caregiving (2020)
  6. Nearly 3 million U.S. Women have Dropped out of the Labor Force in the Past Year, CBS News (2021)
  7. The Impact of Informal Caregiving Intensity on Women’s Retirement in the United States, Journal of Population Ageing (2016)
  8. The Consequences of Caregiving: Effects on Women's Employment and Earnings, Population Research and Policy Review (2005)
  9. The MetLife Study of Caregiving: Costs to Work Caregivers, MetLife (2011)
  10. Caregiving and its Impact on Women, Michigan State University (2017)
  11. Comprehensive Women's Mental Health, Cambridge University Press (2016) 
  12. Caregiver Stress and Mental Health: Impact of Caregiving Relationship and Gender, The Gerontologist (2016)
  13. Caregiving and its Impact on Women, Michigan State University (2017)
  14. A Survey of Informal Caregivers in New York City, NYC Department for the Aging (2017)

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