Intergenerational transfers in European families
Emery, Thomas Edward
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This research examines the financial assistance given by parents to their adult children and the extent to which it is influenced by social policy. In recent years these intergenerational financial transfers have been the subject of much research and a great deal has been learnt about when and why parents make the decision to provide financial assistance (Cox, 1987; Kohli, 1999; Albertini & Kohli, 2012). Furthermore, there has been considerable research on apparent differences in such financial assistance across countries and the extent to which this is attributable to differences in the social policies of these countries (Albertini, Kohli, & Vogel, 2007; Schenk, Dykstra, & Maas, 2010; Brandt & Deindl, 2013). The aim of this research is to further this understanding by considering transfers from different perspectives, first by considering the receipt of transfers rather than the giving of transfers and then by exploring the transfer decision in the context of multi-child families. Through these approaches and by using new data sources and analytical methods, the research estimates the association between social policy and intergenerational financial transfers. Furthermore, it was the specific aim of this research to consider whether such an association would explain cross-national variation in transfer behaviour and the importance of social policies relative to other determinants of transfer behaviour. To achieve these aims a variety of quantitative methods were used to model the giving and receiving of transfers using data from the Survey for Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the European Union’s Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). The analysis of this latter dataset represents an important contribution in itself as it allows for the exploration of the receipt of transfers in a comparative perspective for the first time. To incorporate the complex and rich nature of these two datasets, multilevel models are used to model households over time and children within families. The results of these analyses suggest that there is a small association between certain policies and parents providing financial assistance to their adult children. Those in receipt of larger public pensions are marginally more likely to provide financial assistance to their adult children than those with smaller public pensions. As for adult children themselves, those receiving financial assistance from the state in the form of child benefit, housing benefits, social exclusion benefits and educational benefits are fractionally more likely to receive from their parents as well. The estimated coefficients and maximum effect size of such social policies are very small compared to time invariant factors which include the parent’s financial resources and the number of siblings the child has. In addition, the cross-national variation in transfer behaviour identified within the analyses is considerably smaller than in previous research. The research concludes that social policies are of less importance with regards to transfer behaviour than previous research has suggested. Whilst the research identifies a clear association between social policies and transfer behaviour, it is relatively weak compared to other factors. However the research stops short of concluding that social policies do not matter, instead suggesting that future research should critically assess the importance of intergenerational transfers in determining the adult child’s outcomes.