Meet the Parents? The Causal Effect of Family Size on the Geographic Distance Between Adult Children and Older Parents

33 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009

See all articles by Helena Holmlund

Helena Holmlund

IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation

Helmut Rainer

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute

Thomas Siedler

University of Hamburg - Faculty of Business, Economics, and Social Sciences; DIW Berlin; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); University of Essex

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Abstract

An emerging question in demographic economics is whether there is a link between family size and the geographic distance between adult children and elderly parents. Given current population trends, understanding how different configurations of family size and sibship influence patterns of child-parent proximity is vitally important, as it impacts on issues such as intergenerational care and everyday mobility. It may be the case, for example, that larger families enable the responsibility of care for older parents to be shared among more siblings, possibly decreasing individual involvement and relaxing constraints on geographic mobility. However, there is no causal evidence to date on this issue. This study is the first attempt to estimate the causal effect of sibship size on the geographic distance between older parents and adult children by using a large administrative data set from Sweden. We find a positive association between sibship size and child-parent geographic distance. However, when we use multiple births and sibship sex composition as instruments for family size, we do not find any evidence that the observed positive relationship represents a causal effect. Given that family sizes are continuing to fall in many developed countries, our findings suggest that the trend towards smaller families will not necessarily result in adult children being more constrained in terms of their geographic location decisions, at least in countries with extensive state-provision of elderly care.

Keywords: child-parent geographic proximity, family size

JEL Classification: J10, C10

Suggested Citation

Holmlund, Helena and Rainer, Helmut and Siedler, Thomas, Meet the Parents? The Causal Effect of Family Size on the Geographic Distance Between Adult Children and Older Parents. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4398. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1489221

Helena Holmlund (Contact Author)

IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation ( email )

Box 513
751 20 Uppsala
Sweden

Helmut Rainer

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, 01069
Germany

Thomas Siedler

University of Hamburg - Faculty of Business, Economics, and Social Sciences ( email )

Von-Melle-Park 9
Hamburg, 20146
Germany

DIW Berlin ( email )

Mohrenstra├če 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

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