Shared Households as a Safety Net for Older Adults

by Hope Harvey, University of Kentucky and Kristin Perkins, Georgetown University

In 2017, over 20% of older adults in the United States lived in shared households (defined as those that include any adult besides the householder and householder’s romantic partner). With a record number of older adults facing housing affordability challenges, shared households may provide an important private housing safety net if other household members contribute to housing costs. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we will (1) describe the prevalence and characteristics of older adults’ shared households, including intergenerational households and co-residence with extended family and non-kin; (2) explore the safety net function of shared households by examining whether and how much older adults contribute towards shared housing costs; (3) estimate how financial contributions vary by (a) shared household type, (b) householder status, and (c) disability status; (4) investigate the stability of this safety net by examining the consistency of other household members’ contributions towards housing costs and the sources of any instability; and (5) examine variation by race and ethnicity and by income source. These descriptive analyses will improve our understanding of the composition and financial impacts of shared households for older adults and provide a foundation for future research assessing the advantages and disadvantages of these arrangements. This proposal responds to the Economic Security of SSA Beneficiaries research focal area, with a particular emphasis on housing status and costs. This project will also address the Disparities by Race and Ethnicity research focal area by examining variation in informal housing support by race and ethnicity.

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