Childlessness and upward intergenerational support: cross-national evidence from eleven European countries

Luca Maria Pesando, University of Pennsylvania

Childless individuals are often depicted as “selfish” as they opt out of raising children in favour of investing resources in themselves. Yet no research has investigated whether this claim holds in alternative domains of social life, such as intergenerational family support. Using data from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) for 11 European countries, this article examines differences between childless and non-childless individuals in the provision of financial, care, and emotional transfers to their elderly parents. Results do not support the idea that the childless are less prone to providing transfers upwards than individuals with children. In fact, estimates from multivariate logistic regressions suggest that, ceteris paribus, childless adults are 26 to 31 per cent more likely to provide support to their parents as compared to the non-childless, with the effect driven by transfers to the mothers. Some evidence further hints at the existence of a cross-gender effect, whereby childless males are more likely to transfer to their mothers, whereas childless females are more likely to transfer to their fathers. These findings enrich the literature on childlessness and ageing, and support the view that researchers and policy makers should take into more consideration not only what childless people receive or need in old age, but also what they give.

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Presented in Session 97: Determinants of intergenerational transfers