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Gender, Class and the Cost of Unpaid Care: An Analysis of 25 Countries

Background: This article examines the relationship between gender, class and unpaid care for children and elderly household members across twenty-five countries. Methods: Using the microdata files of the 2015–2017 Luxembourg Income Study, we demonstrate that household income quintile shapes the relationship between resident caregiving and a) women's diminished share of household income and b) the associated "wage penalty" women experience in paid employment, examining dual-headed heterosexual households and grouping countries at varying levels of GDP per capita. Results: Our analyses demonstrate that both eldercare and childcare have a negative impact on women's economic outcomes, yet the effects of both types of unpaid care vary across class. Overall, childcare has a larger impact for women in lower income households, while eldercare has a larger impact for women in higher income households. However, the wage penalties experienced by wealthier women due to either type of potential care responsibilities are considerably less than those experienced by women in poorer households. Conclusions: Together, these data suggest that unpaid resident caregiving has effects that are both highly gendered and highly classed, leading to intersectional disadvantages for women performing unpaid care within poorer households across countries, and with effects that, in some cases, are further amplified within low-GDP countries. 


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Journal article
University of Toronto Press
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Journal of Comparative Family Studies
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