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Key Findings Details

Geographic Dispersion and the Well-being of the Elderly
by Suzanne M. Bianchi, Kathleen McGarry and Judith A. Seltzer
WP 2010-234

The majority of care for the frail elderly is provided by family members.  Kin who live nearby are more likely to provide care than those who live farther away, although the causal association between proximity and care is hard to establish. We describe proximity and co-residence of adult children and their mothers as a backdrop for understanding the availability of potential caregivers.

* Co-residence of adult children and widowed or divorced mothers is significantly more likely among Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks than among non-Hispanic Whites.

* Co-residence is less likely for married adult children, for children who are themselves parents, and for the highly educated.

* Adult children who live with a widowed or divorced mother are less likely to be employed full-time than adult children who live on their own.

* Approximately one half of adult children and their mothers live more than 10 miles apart and do not appear to move closer to each other over a two-year period.  A little less than one quarter live within 10 miles of each other and 8 percent share a household. 

* Among the 17 percent of mother-child pairs whose proximity changes in a two-year period, about half of the changes bring the mother and adult child geographically closer to each other and half farther apart.

* The needs of both generations are likely reflected in moves that result in co-residence.