Family income is known to affect child health, but this relationship can be bidirectional. We sought to characterize this relationship by quantifying forgone family employment (FFE) due to a child’s health condition in families of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) with updated figures.
We conducted a secondary data analysis from the 2016–2017 National Survey of Children’s Health. CSHCN with previously employed caregivers were included (N = 14 050). FFE was defined as any family member having stopped work and/or reduced hours because of their child’s health or health condition. Child, caregiver, and household characteristics were compared by FFE status. Logistic regression analysis was conducted to evaluate the association between hours of medical care provide by a family member and FFE. US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports were used to estimate lost earnings from FFE.
FFE occurred in 14.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 12.9%–16.1%) of previously employed families with CSHCN and was 40.9% (95% CI 27.1%–54.7%) for children with an intellectual disability. We observed disproportionately high FFE among CSHCN who were 0 to 5 years old and of Hispanic ethnicity. We found a strong association between FFE and increasing hours of family-provided medical care, with an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of 1.72 (95% CI 1.25–2.36) for <1 hour per week (compared with 0 hours), an aOR of 5.96 (95% CI 4.30–8.27) for 1 to 4 hours per week, an aOR of 11.89 (95% CI 6.19–22.81) for 5 to 10 hours per week, and an aOR of 8.89 (95% CI 5.26–15.01) for >10 hours per week. Lost earnings for each household with FFE were estimated at ∼$18 000 per year.
With our findings, we highlight the need to implement programs and policies that address forgone income experienced by families of CSHCN.