Racial and Ethnic Differences in Informal Caregiving: A Preview of IBI Research

By: IBI Research Team

In October 2019, when members of IBI’s Research Committee proposed a study of employees who provide informal care to an elderly or seriously ill family member, the intent was to draw attention to the health and productivity implications of caregiving.

The main findings of that study will be released soon. However, recent information about racial and ethnic disparities in hospitalization and mortality rates from COVID-19, in unemployment rates as a result of economic shutdowns, and in essential workers’ exposure to infection offers a reminder that national findings do not impact all workers in the same way.

Our data—taken from two nationally representative datasets —indicate that caregiving is equally common among white and Black employees (about one in five are caregivers) but affects their personal and professional lives in different ways. For example, Black employees were more likely than white employees to report that caregiving increased financial strain and that they turned down a promotion at work because of the demands of caregiving. In this light, caregiving responsibilities may exacerbate existing economic disparities. Among white employees, on the other hand, caregiving was linked to more emotional stress and worse overall health. Latino, Asian-American and Native American employees were less likely than white or Black employees to report caregiving. However, durations of leaves associated with caregiving among these groups tended to be longer.

Although these data were collected before COVID-19, the pandemic has likely intensified the burden of caregiving, particularly among employees who were caring for a family member in a nursing facility or who are also raising children while caregiving. These findings (which will be included in an appendix of IBI’s main report) drive home the point that employers need to assess the needs of their own workforce when designing caregiver benefits, rather than simply making leave or flexible scheduling available. To help employers consider a range of strategic approaches, our report will reflect on the potential benefits of assistance with needs such as transportation and financial management and will include expert guidance from benefits professionals in IBI’s member community.

Additional findings on caregiving and its impact on work will be featured in our upcoming report publication and following webinar in August. Please stay tuned!