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Good Question: Why Aren't More Men Taking Care Of Their Parents?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As we live longer, more and more of us are having to take care of our aging parents. The National Alliance for Caregivers estimates that 21 percent of people provide elder care in the United States.

Now, a new study finds that responsibility still falls far more on daughters than sons.

The report, authored by sociology graduate students at Princeton University, finds daughters help out with their parents, on average, 12.3 hours per month compared to the 5.6 hours of sons.

"It's because we are mothers by nature, we are normally the giving parent," said Clarissa Moore of New Orleans.

Gender roles likely play a significant part of the explanation. But while men's participation in childcare and housework have increased over the past few decades, the gender disparity when it comes to elder care has been static for 20 years.

"They're what we call the club sandwich generation, often caring for their own children and also caring for their parents and other loved ones," said Elaine Ryan, an AARP vice-president of government affairs for state offices.

She says women are still clearly the primary caregivers, but as more people overall step into that role, she expects more men to help out. She also pointed men don't necessarily define themselves in the caregiver role, but are more likely to just refer to themselves as "sons."

"Men actually under-identify as caregivers," she said. "They just do things, but they don't identify as caregivers per se, so we're not really sure what's behind the numbers."

The Princeton study also found that when a sister is in the family, brothers help out even less. How much daughters help is also determined by their job and kids. The author of study doesn't give any specific explanations for the disparity, but does suggest more older women require care and those women might be more comfortable around their daughters.

In the U.S., 83 percent of eldercare is conducted by families. Were it to be paid, the AARP estimates it would be worth $8 billion in Minnesota alone. Most of that money would go to women.

"These discussions are very important in families," Ryan said.

Research shows family caregivers experience stress, financial pressures and health problems. The AARP wants people to know there a resources for caregivers who need support.

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