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Motivation for Money and Care that Adult Children Provide for Parents: Evidence from "Point-Blank" Survey Questions

  • Donald Cox

    ()

    (Boston College)

  • Beth J. Soldo

    ()

    (University of Pennsylvania)

When adult children provide care for their aging parents, they often do so at great expense to themselves incurring psychic, monetary, emotional, and even physical costs, in conjunction with care that is labor intensive and, at the extreme, unrelenting. While the nature of parent care and the profile of care giving children are well described in the literatures of the social sciences, we still lack insight into why adult children undertake parent care without compensation or compulsion. In this paper, we adopt a novel, direct question approach using newly available data from a special module fielded in the 2000 Health and Retirement Study that included questions on motivations for, and concerns with, the provision of familial assistance. Transfers are not always provided free of pressure from other family members, for example, and familial norms of obligations and traditions appear to matter for many respondents. These findings suggest that the standard set of economic considerations—utility interdependence, budget constraints, exchange, and the like—are insufficient for a complete understanding of private transfer behavior. Though one must always be skeptical about reading too much into what people say about why they do the things they do (or think they will do) we nonetheless conclude that “point-blank” questions offer, at the very least, a worthwhile complement to the more conventional methods for unraveling motivations for private, intergenerational transfers.

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Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College with number 2004-17.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: May 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:2004-17
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  1. Cox, Donald & Stark, Oded, 2004. "On The Demand For Grandchildren: Tied Transfers And The Demonstration Effect," Discussion Papers 18751, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  2. Behrman, Jere R & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Taubman, Paul, 1994. "Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1131-74, December.
  3. Stefan Hochguertel & Henry Ohlsson, 2007. "Compensatory Inter Vivos Gifts," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-074/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  4. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1995. "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 65, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  5. Santos-Pinto, Luís, 2003. "Positive self-image and incentives in organizations," MPRA Paper 3141, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Feb 2007.
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  9. Axel Borsch-Supan & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John N. Morris, 1990. "The Provision of Time to the Elderly by Their Children," NBER Working Papers 3363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Steven Stern, 1995. "Estimating Family Long-Term Care Decisions in the Presence of Endogenous Child Characteristics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(3), pages 551-580.
  11. Kathleen McGarry & Robert F. Schoeni, 1994. "Transfer Behavior: Measurement and the Redistribution of Resources within the Family," NBER Working Papers 4607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Steven Stern & Bridget Hiedemann, 1999. "Strategic Play Among Family Members When Making Long-Term Care Decisions," Virginia Economics Online Papers 321, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  13. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Donald Cox & Oded Stark, 1996. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Demonstration Effect," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 329., Boston College Department of Economics.
  15. Tomes, Nigel, 1981. "The Family, Inheritance, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 928-58, October.
  16. Kathleen McGarry & Robert F. Schoeni, 1995. "Transfer Behavior within the Family: Results from the Asset and Health Dynamics Survey," NBER Working Papers 5099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. B. Douglas Bernheim & Sergei Severinov, 2000. "Bequests as Signals: An Explanation for the Equal Division Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 7791, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Steven Stern & Tennille J. Neuharth, 2000. "Shared Caregiving Responsibilities of Adult Siblings with Elderly Parents," Virginia Economics Online Papers 323, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  19. Kenneth Couch & Mary Daly & Douglas Wolf, 1999. "Time? money? both? the allocation of resources to older Parents," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 219-232, May.
  20. Donald Cox & Zekeriya Eser & Emmanuel Jimenez, 1996. "Motives for Private Transfers over the Life Cycle: An Analytical Framework and Evidence for Peru," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 327., Boston College Department of Economics.
  21. Laitner, John, 1993. "Intergenerational and interhousehold economic links," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 189-238 Elsevier.
  22. Sloan, Frank A & Picone, Gabriel & Hoerger, Thomas J, 1997. "The Supply of Children's Time to Disabled Elderly Parents," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 295-308, April.
  23. Steven Stern & Maxim Engers, . "Long-Term Care and Family Bargaining," Virginia Economics Online Papers 320, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  24. Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H. & Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Scholarly Articles 3721794, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  25. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1989. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 3046, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. McElroy, Marjorie B & Horney, Mary Jean, 1981. "Nash-Bargained Household Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(2), pages 333-49, June.
  27. Andreoni, James & Vesterlund, Lise, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," Staff General Research Papers 1951, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  28. Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein, 1997. "Explaining Bargaining Impasse: The Role of Self-Serving Biases," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 109-126, Winter.
  29. Stefan Hochguertel & Henry Ohlsson, 2007. "Compensatory Inter Vivos Gifts," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-074/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  30. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
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