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A House of Her Own: Old Age Assistance and the Living Arrangements of Older Nonmarried Women

Listed author(s):
  • Dora L. Costa

I show that the trend towards single households among older nonmarried women, the majority of whom were widows, has been ongoing only since 1940 and investigate the factors that fostered the rise in separate living quarters since mid-century by examining the impact of Old Age Assistance on living arrangements in 1940 and 1950. I find that Old Age Assistance substantially increased demand for separate living quarters, but that demand depended upon the rules of the program, in particular whether children were held legally responsible for the care of their aged parents. I argue that almost half of the decline in the fraction of older nonmarried women living with relatives from 1950 to 1990 can be attributed to rising Social Security benefits and expanded eligibility and to the fact that Social Security benefits were given with no strings attached.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6217.

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Date of creation: Jun 1999
Publication status: published as Journal of Public Economics, vol. 72, pp. 39-59, 1999.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6217
Note: AG DAE
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  1. Costa, Dora L, 1997. "Displacing the Family: Union Army Pensions and Elderly Living Arrangements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1269-1292, December.
  2. Robert Michael & Victor Fuchs & Sharon Scott, 1980. "changes in the propensity to live alone: 1950–1976," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 17(1), pages 39-56, February.
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