Grandpa and the Snapper: The Well-Being of the Elderly Who Live with Children

Angus Deaton, Arthur A. Stone

Chapter in NBER book Discoveries in the Economics of Aging (2014), David A. Wise, editor (p. 283 - 300)
Conference held May 9-11, 2013
Published in June 2014 by University of Chicago Press
© 2014 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in NBER Book Series - The Economics of Aging

Elderly Americans who live with people under age 18 have lower life evaluations than those who do not. They also experience worse emotional outcomes, including less happiness and enjoyment, and more stress, worry, and anger. In part, these negative outcomes come from selection into living with a child, especially selection on poor health, which is associated with worse outcomes irrespective of living conditions. Even with controls, the elderly who live with children do worse. This is in sharp contrast to younger adults who live with children, likely their own, whose life evaluation is no different in the presence of the child once background conditions are controlled for. Parents, like elders, have enhanced negative emotions in the presence of a child, but unlike elders, also have enhanced positive emotions. In parts of the world where fertility rates are higher, the elderly do not appear to have lower life evaluations when they live with children; such living arrangements are more usual, and the selection into them is less negative. They also share with younger adults the enhanced positive and negative emotions that come with children. The misery of the elderly living with children is one of the prices of the demographic transition.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w19100, Grandpa and the Snapper: the Wellbeing of the Elderly who Live with Children, Angus Deaton, Arthur A. Stone
Commentary on this chapter: Comment, David Laibson
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