Unpaid caregiving and paid work over life-courses: different pathways, diverging outcomes

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Social Science and Medicine


Fiona Carmichael and Marco G. Ercolani

Publication date


We investigate the extent to which people's earlier circumstances and
experiences shape subsequent life-courses. We do this using UK
longitudinal data to provide a dynamic analysis of employment and
caregiving histories for 4339 people over 15–20 years between 1991 and
2010. We analyse these histories as sequences using optimal matching and
cluster analysis to identify five distinct employment-caregiving
pathways. Regression analysis shows that prior to embarking on these
pathways, people are already differentiated by life-stage, gender and
attitudes towards family and gender roles. Difference-in-differences
estimation shows that some initial differences in income, subjective
health and wellbeing widen over time, while others narrow. In
particular, those following the most caregiving-intensive pathways not
only end up poorer but also experience a relative decline in subjective
health and wellbeing. These results confirm that earlier circumstances
exert a strong influence on later life-courses consistent with
pre-determination, persistence and path dependence.

Volume and page numbers

156, 1-11






Labour Market, Well Being, Health, Life Course Analysis and Caregiving