Economic Exchange and Support Within U.S. Families
NBER Working Paper No. 4080
This paper examines U.S. family exchange and support, its levels and trends. The paper points out the importance of demographics and geographic mobility in affecting the amount and form of family exchange. It then considers family economic exchange in the form of shared living. financial transfers, and the provision of time. Finally, it describes recent tests of family altruism and risk sharing. The paper paints a very pessimistic picture. Demographic, geographic, and economic pressures have taken their toll on U.S. families in recent years. While many Americans are members of extended families that are intact and in touch, a growing number of Americans have few extended family members on whom to rely. Family support in the form of shared living, financial assistance, and significant provision of time is increasingly becoming the exception, rather than the rule. Family economic assistance appears still to be available for many Americans in the case of dire emergencies, but short of such emergencies Americans are increasingly left to fend for themselves.