Continuity in Intergenerational Support across Three Generations

Esther M. Friedman, University of California, Los Angeles
Judith A. Seltzer, University of California, Los Angeles

Changes in the demography of U.S. families – increasing longevity, smaller families, and higher rates of women’s employment – raise new questions about who will care for older family members. This paper examines social support and transfers between parents and adult children. It poses three questions: How do the needs and resources of both generations affect the level of help that the younger generation provides parents? How and why do sisters and brothers differ in the help they provide to their parents? Is there continuity across generations in intergenerational care giving? We use data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey (WLS), a fifty-year panel study of high school graduates of the class of 1957 and their siblings, the latter being a more socioeconomically diverse group. We consider socialization or “demonstration effects” and take account of both actual and potential exchange and reciprocity in family relationships.

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Presented in Session 11: Intergenerational Transfers to the Elderly