NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Long-Term Care of the Disabled Elderly: Do Children Increase Caregiving by Spouses?

Liliana E. Pezzin, Robert A. Pollak, Barbara S. Schone

NBER Working Paper No. 14328
Issued in September 2008
NBER Program(s):   LS

Do adult children affect the care elderly parents provide each other? We develop two models in which the anticipated behavior of adult children provides incentives for elderly parents to increase care for their disabled spouses. The "demonstration effect" postulates that adult children learn from a parent's example that family caregiving is appropriate behavior. The "punishment effect" postulates that adult children may punish parents who fail to provide spousal care by not providing future care for the nondisabled spouse when necessary. Thus, joint children act as a commitment mechanism, increasing the probability that elderly spouses will provide care for each other; stepchildren with weak attachments to their parents provide weaker incentives for spousal care than joint children. Using data from the HRS, we find evidence that spouses provide more care when they have children with strong parental attachment.

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Published: Liliana Pezzin & Robert Pollak & Barbara Schone, 2009. "Long-term care of the disabled elderly: do children increase caregiving by spouses?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 323-339, September.

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