Doubling Up When Times Are Tough: A Pilot Study of Obligations to Share a Home in Response to Economic Hardship

Judith A. Seltzer, University of California, Los Angeles
Suzanne M. Bianchi, University of California, Los Angeles
Charles Q. Strohm, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper uses innovative new data to investigate attitudes about the desirability of intergenerational coresidence in the United States. We conducted a pilot vignette study on the internet with a national probability sample of adults. The vignette varies whether an older mother or adult child needs a place to live, duration of coresidence, adult child’s marital and cohabitation status, whether the child is a (single) parent, and the child’s gender. We analyze closed-ended responses to the vignette, an open-ended follow-up question asking respondents to explain why co-residence is (un)desirable, and standard attitude questions drawn from major face-to-face surveys and randomly placed before or after the vignette. Based on preliminary analysis, respondents’ explanations for why coresidence is (un)desirable are consistent with motivations in theories about intergenerational transfers, including the degree of need, short-term exchange and long-term reciprocity for earlier help, family role obligations, ill-defined obligations of cohabiting unions, and relationship quality.

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Presented in Session 28: New Sources and Methods for Data Collection