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Displacing the Family: Union Army Pensions and Elderly Living Arrange- ments

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  • Dora L. Costa

Abstract

I argue that the trend toward single households among retired men 65 years of age or older has been ongoing since 1880. When coresidence is measured by the percentage of elderly men living in the households of their children or other relatives, fully 57 percent of the decline in coresidence among elderly retired men from 1880 to 1990 occurred between 1880 and 1940. This trend has been disguised in more aggregated statistics by the relatively low retirement rates that prevailed in the past and by the unchanging coresidence levels of labor force participants. I investigate the factors that fostered this rise in separate living quarters for the aged by examining the determinants of living arrangements in 1910 among retired veterans receiving Union Army pensions. I find that Union Army pensions exerted a sizable, negative impact on the coresidence rates of the retired, implying that increases in income have always been associated with an increased demand for the privacy and autonomy provided by separate living arrangements. My findings imply that prior to 1940 rising incomes were the most important factor enabling the elderly to live alone. After 1940, increases in the attractiveness of independent living may have played a role.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5429.

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Date of creation: Mar 1998
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5429

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  1. Costa Dora L., 1993. "Height, Weight, Wartime Stress, and Older Age Mortality: Evidence from the Union Army Records," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 424-449, October.
  2. Costa, Dora L, 1995. "Pensions and Retirement: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 297-319, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 1998. "Informal Family Insurance and the Design of the Welfare State," JCPR Working Papers 44, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  2. Eric Edmonds & Kristin Mammen & Douglas L. Miller, 2004. "Rearranging the Family? Income Support and Elderly Living Arrangements in a Low Income Country," NBER Working Papers 10306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Juarez, Laura, 2009. "Crowding out of private support to the elderly: Evidence from a demogrant in Mexico," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(3-4), pages 454-463, April.
  4. Costa, Dora L., 1999. "A house of her own: old age assistance and the living arrangements of older nonmarried women," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 39-59, April.
  5. Ingrid Ellen & Brendan O’Flaherty, 2007. "Social programs and household size: evidence from New York city," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 387-409, August.
  6. Robert W. Fogel & Louis Cain & Joseph Burton & Brian Bettenhausen, 2011. "Was What Ail'd Ya' What Kill'd Ya'?," NBER Working Papers 17322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Orsini, Chiara, 2010. "Changing the way the elderly live: Evidence from the home health care market in the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 142-152, February.
  8. Manacorda, Marco & Moretti, Enrico, 2005. "Why Do Most Italian Young Men Live With Their Parents? Intergenerational Transfers and Household Structure," CEPR Discussion Papers 5116, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2010. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," Working Papers 2010-07, Banco de México.
  10. Marco Manacorda & Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Intergenerational transfers and household structure: why do most Italian youths live with their parents?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20078, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Kathleen McGarry & Robert F. Schoeni, 1998. "Social Security, Economic Growth, and the Rise in Independence of Elderly Widows in the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 6511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Robert Schoeni, 1998. "Reassessing the decline in parent-child old-age coresidence during the twentieth century," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 307-313, August.
  13. Dora L. Costa, 2008. "The Rise of Retirement Among African Americans: Wealth and Social Security Effects," NBER Working Papers 14462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Kathleen Mcgarry & Robert Schoeni, 2000. "Social security, economic growth, and the rise in elderly widows’ independence in the twentieth century," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 221-236, May.
  15. Gary V. Engelhardt & Jonathan Gruber & Cynthia D. Perry, 2002. "Social Security and Elderly Living Arrangements," NBER Working Papers 8911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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