Family Transfers With Retirement-Aged Adults in the United States: Kin Availability, Wealth Differentials, Geographic Proximity, Gender, and Racial Disparities

Mobile Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn


This paper examines transfers of time and money between retirees and their children.  It uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to test whether numbers of children, parent-child wealth differentials, geographic proximity, and gender contribute to racial and ethnic differences in transfers of time and money between retirement-aged adults and their children.  Critical components of the analysis include measuring kin availability, the spatial and social embeddedness of family networks, supply as well as demand for transfers, and gender.  Key limitations are that we exclude those who have no living family members with whom they could transfer, and we do not examine the role of non-familial transfers.

The paper found that:

  • There are large racial disparities in family transfers; non-White older adults are less likely to give either time or money transfers to their children than White older adults. Non-White older adults are also less likely to receive time transfers from their children, but they are more likely to receive money transfers from them.
  • Having more children is associated with marginal declines in the likelihood of transfer with each child, but an overall increase in the likelihood of transfer with any child.
  • Parents who live closer to their children tend to provide more time to them and receive more time from them, while those in the same family provide more money.
  • Parents who are relatively wealthier than their children are more likely to give them money and are less likely to receive time or money from them.
  • Racial disparities in transfers appear to be growing across parental birth cohorts.

The policy implications of these findings are:

  • Challenges regarding retiree financial security and the availability of informal care from family members are likely to grow because adults with fewer children receive less overall support than those with many children, and historical declines in birth rates mean that more older adults increasingly have fewer children.
  • Older adults may be more likely to receive instrumental care, but not financial support, from their children in the future, because people are increasingly likely to live close to their children, and closer children are more likely to provide such care.
  • There may be especially large unmet financial and instrumental needs for female and non-White population subgroups of retirees.