Nearly 40 Million Americans Provide Unpaid Caregiving

There are nearly 40 million Americans that provide unpaid eldercare, with many spending as much as three hours per day providing care services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  

From 2011-2012, there were 39.6 million eldercare providers in the nation, representing 16% of the U.S. civilian non institutional population age 15 and older, according to data from the BLS and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). 

Eldercare providers are defined as individuals who provide unpaid care to someone age 65 to older who needs help because of a condition related to aging.


Individuals ages 45-54 and 55-64 were the most likely to provide eldercare (23% and 22%, respectively), followed by those age 65 and older (16%).

Experience also varied among the caregiver population, as half of eldercare providers had two years or less, while 15% had provided care for 10 years or more. 

Because eldercare can involve a range of activities, such as assisting with grooming, preparing meals, and providing transportation and companionship services, caregivers spent an average of 3.2 hours providing care on a given day. 


Employment was found to be a factor in the frequency and longevity of providing care, as caregivers age 65 and older who were not employed were more likely to provide care on a given day. Additionally, these older caregivers also spent the most time providing eldercare at an average 4.1 hours.

Conversely, younger caregivers between ages 15-24 spent the least amount of time providing care at an average of 1.3 hours per session.

A number of caregivers were adult children providing care to their parents and children of their own, which BLS referred to as the “sandwich generation,” as they are in between two generations that require care. 

These adult caregivers represented 45% of total eldercare providers included in the ATUS analysis. Of the eldercare providers who were parents, 78% were employed, and 64% were employed full-time.

This group of working parent caregivers were also less likely to provide care on a daily basis than the overall population of eldercare providers, 13% compared with 20%. 

Written by Jason Oliva

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