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The Economics of Care Work

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (CST)

Hilton Riverside, Magazine
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Justin Wolfers, University of Michigan

A Disaggregated View of Household Production Trends

Benjamin Bridgman
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis


Household production is an important source of economic value but estimates of its value typically do not provide detail on the value of individual services. This paper provides disaggregated estimates of U.S. household production from 1965 to 2020 to examine both long-run trends and the short-run changes during Covid-19. The value of household production relative to GDP has fallen since 1965. Cooking and childcare shifted to market production and housework hours declined significantly as household appliances automated many of those tasks. Cooking is the only service with a quantitatively large shift to market production. Over 90 percent of other household services are produced by the household sector. Covid-19 partially reversed the long-run trend, increasing the relative value of the household sector. The value of services physically done inside the home (like cooking and childcare) grew sharply while those done outside the home (like shopping) fell.

A Model of Demand for In-Family and Institutional Caregiving Incorporating Marriage Markets

Shoshana Grossbard
San Diego State University, IZA, and CESifo
Lorena Hakak
Federal University of ABC and GeFam


According to the Grossman model the demand for health-related goods or services such as medical care varies with the cost of their substitutes produced in the household. This paper contributes to the literature on the demand for health-related products by simultaneously considering substitution between household-produced items and commercial health-related products and substitution between goods produced at home by oneself and by one’s spouse or partner. New variables that can help explain demand for medical care and other health products are identified, including sex ratios in marriage markets and exogeneous parameters that influence sex ratios such as gender differences in mortality and incarceration. It is argued that laws about marriage or divorce may affect demand for health-related inputs and health outcomes such as good health or good nutrition. We examine how demand for health-related inputs may vary according to many traits of men and women who may marry each other and produce goods on each other’s behalf. New insights are gained regarding the determinants of the price elasticity of demand for health-related goods such as medical services.

Employment Shocks, Unemployment Insurance, and Caregiving

Yulya Truskinovsky
Wayne State University


Working Americans are increasingly taking on various caregiving roles for family members. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of job loss and income support on the labor supply, economic well-being, and caregiving behavior of families with care needs is a pressing policy question. This paper considers caregiving during periods of (involuntary) unemployment and, specifically, the role of unemployment insurance (UI) on caregiving. Although caregiving increases following job separations, more generous UI benefits reduce the likelihood that workers who are laid off provide family care. The effect is the largest for adults between ages 40 and 65, for men, and for unmarried individuals. In the context of a rapidly aging US population, this analysis provides knowledge about how social insurance policies that provide wage replacement support working families with growing long term care needs.

Care Jobs, Caregiving, and a Pandemic

Misty L. Heggeness
U.S. Census Bureau and University of Maryland


This paper highlights the challenges associated with the double bind of paid care work and unpaid domestic care work during the pandemic with a focus on families at the lower end of the earnings distribution who held paid care jobs before the pandemic. It describes their experiences in paid and unpaid work and their experiences both in terms of employment, earnings, and time use and discusses the policy implications of economic recovery for those in our society who engage in care work.

Nancy Folbre
University of Massachusetts Amherst
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics