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How Much Care Do the Aged Receive from Their Children? A Bimodal Picture of Contact and Assistance


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  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • John N. Morris


This paper presents some preliminary findings about contact between the aged and their children based on a new survey of the aged and their children, entitled The Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged-NBER (HRC-NBER) Child Survey. Data on extended families is quite limited. The HRC-NBER Child Survey represents one of the few attempts to collect economic and demographic data on the elderly and their children. While these data will be used in future,research to test structural models of the living arrangements, the purposes of the current paper are to describe the survey and to examine contact between the elderly and their children. While our findings are preliminary and will be updated and expanded as we receive more data, it appears that a significant minority of the elderly, many of whom need assistance with the activities of daily living, have either no children or have only limited contact with their children. Contact between children and the vulnerable elderly appears to be less than that between children and the nonvulnerable elderly, and the amount of contact between children and the institutionalized elderly seems the least of all. In addition, although many of the parents in our data are very poor, financial support from children to parents, other than in the form of shared housing, is uncommon. The impression given by these data is that many of the elderly are very well cared for by their children, while a significant minority either have no children or have no children who provide significant time or care. Some of the findings for this sample are striking: (1) over a fifth of the elderly have no children. (2) over one half of the elderly either do not have a daughter or do not have a daughter who lives within an hour of them. (3) over half of single elderly males and females and over two fifths of vulnerable single elderly males and females live completely alone. (4) of the elderly who have children, fewer than a quarter live with their children. (5) a small fraction of elderly with children hear from them at most on a yearly basis. (6) almost 10 percent of the children of the elderly have at most yearly contact. (7) financial assistance from children to the elderly, even in cases where the elderly are quite poor, is extremely rare. (8) in a typical month over a quarter of elderly who have children do not physically spend time with their children.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2391.

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Date of creation: Sep 1987
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as The Economics of Aging, ed. by David Wise, University of Chicago Press, March 1990.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2391

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Cited by:
  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Morris, 1988. "Why Don't the Elderly Live With Their Children? A New Look," NBER Working Papers 2734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Emanuela Cardia & Serena Ng, 2003. "Intergenerational Time Transfers and Childcare," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(2), pages 431-454, April.
  3. Cox, Donald & Stark, Oded, 2005. "On the demand for grandchildren: tied transfers and the demonstration effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1665-1697, September.
  4. Axel Borsch-Supan & Vassilis Hajivassiliou & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1992. "Health, Children, and Elderly Living Arrangements: A Multiperiod-Multinomial Probit Model with Unobserved Heterogeneity and Autocorrelated Errors," NBER Chapters, in: Topics in the Economics of Aging, pages 79-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Pal, Sarmistha, 2007. "Effects of Intergenerational Transfers on Elderly Coresidence with Adult Children: Evidence from Rural India," IZA Discussion Papers 2847, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Sarmistha Pal, 2006. "Elderly Health, Wealth and Co-residence with Adult Children in Rural India," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 06-09, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
  7. CARDIA, Emanuela & NG, Serena, 2000. "How Important Are Intergenerational Transfers of Time? a Macroeconomic Analysis," Cahiers de recherche 2000-04, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  8. Axel Borsch-Supan & Daniel L. McFadden & Reinhold Schnabel, 1996. "Living Arrangements: Health and Wealth Effects," NBER Chapters, in: Advances in the Economics of Aging, pages 193-216 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Van Houtven, Courtney Harold & Norton, Edward C., 2008. "Informal care and Medicare expenditures: Testing for heterogeneous treatment effects," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 134-156, January.
  10. Konrad, K.A. & Junemund, H. & Lommerud, K.E. & Robledo, J.R., 2000. "Geography of the Family," Norway; Department of Economics, University of Bergen 2499, Department of Economics, University of Bergen.
  11. Axel Borsch-Supan & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John N. Morris, 1988. "The Dynamics of Living Arrangements of the Elderly," NBER Working Papers 2787, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Sarmistha Pal, 2004. "Do Children Act As Old Age Security in Rural India? Evidence from an Analysis of Elderly Living Arrangements," Labor and Demography 0405002, EconWPA, revised 15 Oct 2004.
  13. Surkov, Alexander, 2009. "Пенсионная Реформа И Межпоколенческий Альтруизм В Моделях Экономической Динамики
    [Pension reform and intergenerational altrui
    ," MPRA Paper 27632, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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