Annual Report 2002 - Cornell University
003 Selected Faculty Research

03 Retiring to care for sick spouses

Marin E. Clarkberg, Sociology, and graduate student Emma Detinger conducted a study to determine how gender and informal caregiving affect the timing of retirement among late midlife workers. They found that working wives are five times more likely to retire early in order to care for ill or disabled husbands than wives who are not caregivers. In contrast to women, husbands who are caregivers are slower to retire to care for wives than husbands who are not caregivers. Clarkberg and research staff found that the closer the relationship between the caregiver and the person being cared for, the greater the influence on retirement decisions. Caring for a spouse has far more significance for a woman's decision to retire than caring for anyone else, including parents. The decisions of men who are caregivers are closely tied to financial reasons. Families provide as much as 80 percent of care to elderly and disabled Americans. In a rapidly aging society, new struggles emerge as families negotiate informal caregiving roles in relation to retirement decisions.

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