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What Happens to Grandma? Work and Caregiving in Later Life in Europe, Asia, and the United States


    Population aging is an area of increasing concern for many countries, especially issues related to economic productivity and the distribution of caregiving responsibilities. Family members are often expected to provide adequate care to older adults regardless of their own situation, while older adults themselves are often working longer before retiring. Family caregiving and delayed retirement are often pitted against financial dependency on the state in later life, but how differently do societies respond to these pressures?This project will compare survey data from Europe, United States, and Asia to describe how patterns of work and caregiving differ across countries. We examine these differences as they relate to (a) institutional factors such as the generosity of welfare regimes, long-term care policies, and labor market security; (b) cultural norms such as filial piety; and (c) differences in female labor force participation and gender equality.


    The project goals for Winter 2018 are to harmonize data (and conduct preliminary analysis, if possible) from surveys among older adults living in different countries. By the end of the semester, we hope to pursue more specific research questions based on comparable measures across these surveys. 

Potential tasks in this project:--Review sociological and gerontological literature on informal care and retirement as they relate to health and well-being. --Use questionnaires and codebooks to identify variables related to work, informal caregiving, and health that could be used for comparison across countries. Two surveys of interest have been identified so far - the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) conducted in the U.S., and the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Data from both surveys are available to the public.--Download relevant datasets and produce basic descriptive analyses using statistical software (most likely STATA).--Actively contribute to idea generation and the formulation of specific hypotheses.


    We seek students with interests exploring aging, cross-national comparisons, work, caregiving and health. Students should have a good foundation in statistics (i.e. such as having taken an elementary statistics course) or an interest in using quantitative data, although proficiency in statistical software is not required (the willingness to learn, however, is). Through this project, students will experience the early stages of a research project and have the opportunity to contribute and mold it related to their own interests. Gaining a familiarity with these widely-used population surveys will also provide a solid foundation for independent research work on aging and health in the future.

Supervising Faculty Member: Dr. Sarah Burgard

Graduate Students: Shannon Ang and Erin Ice

Contact information:

Average hours of work per week: 3-9 hours/week

Range of credit hours students can earn: 1-3

Number of positions available: 2