Kinship Status and Life Course Transitions as Determinants of Financial Assistance to Adult Children
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This dissertation contributes to the literature on intergenerational transfers by examining the dynamics of financial assistance provided by midlife parents to their adult children across the life course. This dissertation also examines whether the cumulative advantage hypothesis stretches across generational lines during co-occurring life course experiences so that financial transfers convey additional advantages to adult children. I use panel data from four waves of the Health and Retirement Study (1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998) to provide a broad picture of the process of financial assistance to younger adults within extended families. I constructed within-family trajectories of assistance to demonstrate that financial transfers are more common than previously estimated. Over 60% of all midlife-parent households gave $500 or more at least once and many parents gave multiple transfers and/or gave transfers to several adult children during a seven-year period. In an examination of kinship structures that differentiates between paternal children and maternal children within blended families, I use nonlinear logistic regression models to show that the decreased likelihood that fathers provided financial assistance to children from a previous marriage accounted solely for the reduction in transfers that all stepchildren received compared to biological children. Multilevel regression models demonstrate that transfer amounts are also influenced by kinship structures and parental resources. Additional analyses show adult child life course transitions related to schooling and coresidence were influential for parents' transfer behaviors while other life course transitions related to work, marriage, home ownership and the addition of a grandchild to the family were not influential. The number of life course transitions experienced by adult children during later waves significantly increased the likelihood of transfer receipt. However, the diversification of experiences over time made it difficult to pinpoint specific life course transitions relevant to financial assistance from parents. The strong impact of previous transfers upon the likelihood that adult children would receive transfers at later waves shows that patterns of repeated transfers were common for many intergenerational families. I argue that future research should analyze the impact of parental wealth on transfers and should explicitly examine parents' motives for giving money to adult children.
Sociology, Individual and Family Studies
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