Does Gendered Labor Force Structure Affect Adult Children's Provision of Transfer to Their Elderly Parents? An Examination of the Late-Middle-Aged Generation

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2005-04-24

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Adult children are key supporters of elderly parents, providing both monetary and time resources. In the existing literature, the most commonly used approach to assess this intergenerational transfer process is the "need versus ability" model. It posits that parents with higher need are more likely to receive support, whereas adult children equipped with better support-giving ability are more likely to give transfers. In addition, adult children's transfer motivation, including altruism, reciprocity, and rational calculations, all provide theoretical insight into the question of transfer differentials.

Using the 1992 and 1996 Health and Retirement Study (HRS 92-96), this dissertation goes beyond the need, ability, and motivation model to examine how adult children ages 51 to 61 satisfy their non-coresident parents' need. This project incorporates gender norms and adult children's labor force participation constraints to assess the gendered division of transfer practices. The effects of spouses' and siblings' roles, resource competition between grandchildren and their grandparents, resource competition between two living parents, and adult children's life course transition, are also considered.

Statistical analysis shows that both gender norms and the gendered labor force structure affect adult children's transfer behaviors. Adult sons tend to use monetary transfers to substitute for time contributions because their opportunity costs in the wage market are high. Conversely, because the social norms construe women as primary caregivers, adult daughters' time contributions to parents do not decrease even when they are well-paid. Spouses of adult children may either be transfer supporters or resource competitors to their parents-in-law. While siblings are important in transfer practices, this study finds that sisters are more likely to substitute for adult children's caregiving roles, whereas brothers' contributions supplement adult children's transfer efforts. Finally, adult children's transfer practices are sensitive to their employment transitions. Adult children who stayed in the labor force from 1992 to 1996 are the most likely to increase their amount of monetary transfers. On the other hand, those who retired from their paid jobs in the studied time interval are more likely to increase their time contributions.

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