Every day in America, family caregivers provide an extraordinary amount of support to adults with chronic or disabling health conditions. The average American caretaker is currently a 49-year old woman caring for a 69-year old woman. But a new AARP report shows that may soon be changing, because an increasing number of millennials are taking over caregiving roles for the adults in their lives. And their experiences are very different in a number of important areas.
Millennial Caregivers are More Diverse
The millennial generation is the country’s most diverse generation yet, and the caregiving data mirrors this demographic trend. According to the report, 38% of millennial caregivers are Hispanic, 34% are African American, 30% are Asian American or Pacific Islanders, and only 17% are white. And this broad diversity extends well beyond ethnicity. Overall, 40% of caregivers are men, but among millennials, this number jumps to 47%. And younger caregivers are much more likely to identify as LGBT (34%) than older caretakers (20.4%). So the traditional image of a caregiver as an older white women is quickly disappearing.
Millennial Caregivers Provide More Care
Millennials also spend more of their time providing care than other generations. 1 in 4 millennial caregivers provide more than 20 hours of care per week, and as a result are classified a higher-hour caregivers. Perhaps most surprising, 1 in 5 young caregivers provide forty hours of care or more per week – the equivalent of a full-time job. Women and African Americans are the two groups most likely to be higher-hour caregivers.
Millennial Caregivers are More Likely to Have Jobs Outside Their Caregiving Role
Most millennials hold down some type of employment while shouldering this heavy caregiving load. According to the report, almost 3 in 4 (73%) of millennial caregivers hold a job or are self-employed. More than half of millennial caregivers (53%) work full time. Of these, 22% are also higher-hour caregivers, providing another 20+ hours per week of caregiving in addition to their full time jobs. Unfortunately, these millennial caregivers also tend to work low-wage jobs. In fact, 1 in 3 employed family caregivers have an annual household income of less than $30,000.
But Those Jobs Pay Less and Offer Little Support
To make matters worse, this generation of caregivers are less likely to find support in their caregiving roles at work. More than half (54%) of employed caregivers reported that their family responsibilities affected their work in significant ways like arriving to work late or leaving early, and cutting back on work hours. In addition, millennial workers were much more likely to be reprimanded, turned down for promotions, or forced to leave work entirely than Generation X or Baby Boomer caregivers. And to add insult to injury, millennial caregivers spend a higher share of their personal income on caregiving. The report shows that millennials spend 27% of their income on caregiving, while Baby Boomers only spend 13%.
Clear Challenges, No Easy Answers
The report clearly shows the huge challenge millennial caregivers face. And with more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, the situation will surely get worse before it gets better. If nothing else, this report adds to the evidence that we’re entering a profound period of change that our society is only just beginning to understand.