Mothers of children with disabilities face unique tradeoffs in retirement decisions. They may be more constrained in their ability to save for retirement, and may require greater economic resources to support their families in retirement while also balancing caregiving responsibilities. Benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) have the potential to enhance economic stability for these families. We use a mixed-methods approach, leveraging data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and data from interviews with 12 mothers, to examine differences in retirement outcomes for mothers of children with disabilities compared with other mothers and to understand how mothers of children with disabilities think about retirement options, and the role of SSA benefits in their retirement planning. Quantitative analyses largely find no differences in retirement timing or planning for mothers of children with disabilities, but find that mothers of children with disabilities have lower labor market participation than other mothers; interviews identify caregiving responsibilities as key considerations for mothers’ decisions about when, where, and how much to work. Qualitative data reveal that even among our relatively-advantaged sample, caregiving, career trajectories, and expected financial needs of children affected retirement plans. SSA benefits were not a primary retirement consideration for our qualitative sample, though quantitative analyses suggest mothers with significant caregiving responsibilities are more likely to receive retirement benefits at an early age. Our findings suggest a role for outreach to families about available benefits and emphasize the importance of additional research on this topic with more diverse families.
WI22-04: All in the Family: Parents of Children with Disabilities and Retirement