Leaving the Nest with Golden Parachutes: Demographic Divergence in Parental Safety-Nets

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Date and Time: 
Monday, March 6, 2017
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Heeju Sohn
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Parents and adult children serve as important social safety-nets during periods of ill health, economic crises, and marital instability. Improvements in healthy life expectancies are allowing parents to support their adult children longer. However, growing non-marital childbearing and divorce are weakening the safety-nets that they can provide. Diverging demographic trends between socioeconomic groups suggest that adults with lower socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to have parents who require care or die earlier than their higher SES peers. This article quantifies and compares adults' expected number of years with two surviving parents who are still living with each other. The analyses adapts the Brass Technique to examine two female cohorts aged 25-49 from the 1988 (n = 3,823) and 2013 (n = 3,815) Panel Study of Income Dynamics Roster and Transfers Files. Higher SES women spent 3.3 years longer with two surviving and married parents than lower SES women in 1988. This disparity increased to 5.9 years in 2013 driven predominantly by higher rates of union dissolution among parents of lower SES women. Growing differences in paternal mortality also contributed to the rise in inequality.