Melody K. Waring

Ph.D. Student

Curriculum vitae

School of Social Work

University of Wisconsin-Madison

1350 University Ave
Office 126
Madison, WI 53706

Research Statement

My research sits at the intersection of long-term care, low-wage employment, and the social safety net. I have particularly focused on the relationship between long-term care for aging adults and the labor force participation of their adult children, with the intent of informing how social policy can effectively be wielded to ease economic hardships. I use quantitative and econometric methods, which I bridge together with feminist and critical race theory. My dissertation research has been supported by a fellowship from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, plus awards from the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
Current Research 
My dissertation, Caring for Aging Parents: Stratified Effects on Labor Force Participation, considers the relationship between caring for an aging parent and participating in the labor force. I am particularly interested in the stratification of care, looking for differences in experience by education and by race. I use longitudinal, quantitative data from the U.S.-based Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and have written descriptively on what relationships currently exist, and have preliminary causal analyses using econometric methods. I find women of all educations are equally likely to provide at least some time in caring for an aging parent, but women with high school education or less are more likely to provide at least 100 hours per year, and less likely to receive any time or money from their parents. In my next paper, on the relationship between caring and labor force participation, I find caregivers are as likely (or more) to be employed as non-caregivers, for as many hours, but for lower wages. This holds generally by education, though older caregivers with low education work many more hours than comparators, and younger caregivers with low education are slightly less likely to be employed at all. My current work is following adult children’s employment trajectories after a parent health crisis—preliminarily, I find no effects on hours worked, but some evidence of widening gender gaps in wages after the crisis. 
Future Directions
The work I have done in my dissertation has been primarily to describe relationships as they are. Going further, though, I am very interested in testing what could be if we applied thoughtful, forward-thinking policy. There are two streams of policies I would like to investigate as a first step: programs that provide autonomy in selecting long-term care services while aging at home, including paying family caregivers for care; and programs that expand access to paid leave for providing eldercare. I plan to leverage cross-country and intra-country (e.g., state) differences to investigate the effects of policy. A second thread of research I am interested in opening is on the experience of immigrant families—both as aging adults, and as providers of paid care (often at less than adequate wages).
In my dissertation, I have used exclusively quantitative methods. However, I am interested in incorporating qualitative data collection in mixed-methods designs to better identify the experiences of aging adults and their caregivers, and the complex interplay of giving and receiving intergenerational care. I also have been in dialog with other quantitative researchers about how feminist research methods inform quantitative analysis—including a panel I convened at the Society for Women in Sociology with Myra Marx Ferree and fellow graduate students, and a workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on feminist methods with a fellow PhD student who uses primarily qualitative methods. My intention is to expand this effort going forward, including preparing a manuscript and examining how to select quantitative models with an “intersectional” analysis.