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Moms likely to lose on pay, less likely to have long careers

A new report shows how much moms and female caregivers likely lose throughout the course of their lives.
Tyesha Young holds her 7-month-old baby Jalayah Johnson outside their home.
Posted at 2:17 PM, May 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-12 14:17:58-04

Women lose an average of $237,000 in pay throughout the course of their lifetime in order to provide unpaid care to family members, a new report from the Department of Labor indicates. This results in a 15% decline in what these women would earn over their lifetime, the report finds. 

When adding lost benefits such as retirement income, women who provide care lose an average of $295,000 over the course of their lifetime. 

The report considers the care that women provide to their own children or stepchildren under age 18, as well as care for parents, parents-in-law, and spouses over age 51. The report indicates moms are more likely to lose out on pay and benefits than women who provide unpaid care for adults.

The report found that women are more likely to be the caregivers in the family than men. Among adults ages 19–54 who live with their own minor children, 91% of men are employed, compared to 67% of women. Among these adults who have no care responsibilities, about 74% of men and 71% of women are employed. 

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“Families often think first of immediate demands out of necessity. Children, aging loved ones and people with disabilities need care right now, and when that care is needed during working hours – or is too expensive or inaccessible — it is the mothers who usually scale back on paid work to provide care,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “This report shows that lacking the necessary care infrastructure and safety net affects more than those immediate moments. They continue throughout a woman’s life.”

The report also found that when women return to the workforce after providing care, they often receive lower wages. The report says that is likely due to missed promotions, lost tenure, or reduced job skills eroded during that time. 

It also indicates that the more children a woman has, the less likely they’ll work a long career. Nearly 69% of women over age 62 who did not have children have 35 or more years of work experience. About 59% of women over 62 who had one or two children carried 35 years of work experience. Roughly 42% of older women with three or more children had long careers. 

The report considers its estimates to be “conservative.” 

“Unpaid caregiving is work and should be recognized as such. This report is another reminder of the long-term cost women incur by providing unpaid care, and it cannot go ignored,” said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc. “I am working to ensure our federal policies support those providing unpaid care to loved ones, uplifting women and their families, so we can build an equitable, modern economy.”