Posts Tagged ‘parents’

The Giving Season… and Era

Every time I cash in on being (just barely) a senior citizen – at the movie line, on the subway, for example – I feel a twinge of guilt. The elderly, on average, can better afford such items than can young adults, especially those raising small children. Yet the system of discounts for age, like much else these days – say, Medicare vs. Medicaid – is slanted toward seniors. The logic is rooted in an earlier time.

Back in the day – say, before the ’60s – the assumption was that most old people could make it through their sunset years only with financial and personal help from their grown children. In last few decades, the flow of money and of energy has been largely going the other way (see earlier post).

In two new overview papers (pdf and pdf), sociologists Judith Seltzer and Suzanne Bianchi document the help many American seniors are giving their adult children long past the school years, be it directly with money or through help such as babysitting. (Bianchi, a terrific scholar of American family life, passed away recently, much too soon.) Among the less well-off, parents might largely help by re-opening a bedroom at home or providing after-school care. One study found that about 3 of 10 pre-schoolers are with grandparents when the parents are at work. Among the most affluent, parental help can include buying 20-somethings their own Manhattan apartments (see here and here).


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The Elderly and Their Children

An item from the Global Times of Beijing:

On Dec. 28 [2012], China passed a law requiring adult children to visit their elderly parents “often,” or risk repercussions. The law is a response to the increasing difficulty of caring for an aging population that will reach 200 million this year. The law does not specify the number of required visits or possible punishments.

Old couple and their granddaughter farming in hilly Ozark country, Missouri

Ozarks (Source)

American social historians and sociologists have devoted much time to studying Americans’ ties to their elderly parents – a way of assessing what may have changed in family feelings and family values over the generations, and also, it turns out, of assessing how government policies affect family life. We haven’t reached — and are unlikely to — the Chinese condition.


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