Aisha Adkins would rather have her own place, instead of living with her parents. She would also like a job, a car, a master’s degree and savings. But at 35, a decade after graduating from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro with a specialty in social services, she has had to put off those goals.
Her mother, Rose, received a diagnosis of dementia six years ago, at 57, and cannot be left alone. Since then, Ms. Adkins has been consumed with her care. “I’ve gone on three dates in the last three or so years,” she said.
While men, too, are being forced to step up, Ms. Poo noted that “women in particular are bearing the brunt.” By knocking many women in their prime earning years from the work force, the growing strain from care is weighing down the American economy.
Among the 36 industrialized countries currently in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 17th in 2000 in the participation of prime-age women in the work force. By 2017, it had slid to 30th. While the lack of family-friendly policies like parental leave and child care subsidies played a role — making it tougher for American women to juggle motherhood and work — economists say the virtual absence of support for eldercare is a prime suspect in explaining why the share of women taking part in the labor force stalled in the late 1990s after rising relentlessly for 50 years.
“Your mother,” he told us, “has multiple sclerosis.” Whatever that was. I carried on with my day like any other on that trip, going swimming, having...