Race Differences in Characteristics and Experiences of Black and White Caregivers of Older Americans

Gerontologist. 2020 Sep 15;60(7):1244-1253. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnaa042.


Background and objectives: Racial disparities in health and socioeconomic characteristics of older adults have implications for the experiences of their family and unpaid caregivers, but knowledge to date has primarily drawn from convenience samples. Using a population-based sample, we examine associations between caregiver race and caregiving-related effects.

Research design and methods: Study participants include white (n = 992) and black (n = 556) respondents to the 2015 National Study of Caregiving who assisted community-dwelling older adults with disabilities who participated in the National Health and Aging Trends Study. Guided by Pearlin's Stress Process Model, hierarchical logistic regression models were constructed to examine race differences in caregiving-related effects after adjusting for caregiving context, stressors, and resources.

Results: Relative to white caregivers, blacks more often provided in excess of 40 hr of care per week (54.3% vs 38.6%) and more often cared for an older adult with dementia (27.1% vs 20.7%) who was living below the federal poverty line (31.7% vs 11.9%) or was Medicaid-eligible (42.2% vs 11.8%). Black caregivers more often used supportive services (32.9% vs 24.8%). In fully adjusted regression models, black caregivers were more likely to report gains and less likely to report emotional difficulty than whites. Service utilization did not attenuate caregiving-related emotional difficulty or participation restrictions, regardless of race.

Discussion and implications: Findings highlight caregiving disparities and counterintuitive differences in experiences and indicate the importance of identifying supports such as paid family leave and faith and community-based programming to better support community-dwelling low-income older adults and their family and unpaid caregivers.

Keywords: Health disparities; Long-term services and supports; Minorities; Racial disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caregivers*
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Race Factors
  • United States