Inter-vivos Giving By Older People in the United States

Who Received Financial Gifts from the Childless?

Published in: Ageing and society, v. 29, no. 8, Nov. 2009, p. 1207-1225

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Michael D. Hurd

Inter-vivos financial transfers from older parents to their adult children are widespread in the United States. Childless people may simply make fewer transfers. On the other hand, because their giving is away from children, their decisions are more complex in that there are multiple potential targets of approximately equal attractiveness. Using data for 1996 to 2004 from the United States Health and Retirement Study, this article examines the differences between parents and childless older people in financial transfers to people other than their children. The results show that, overall, parents tend to give less than the childless to other people. However, some variation is found depending on the nature and target of the gift. Having children does not affect giving to charities but does reduce the prevalence of giving to parents, but not nearly as much as the reduction in giving to family and friends. It can therefore be concluded, first that there is little substitution between personal and impersonal transfers ; secondly, that the sense of obligation to parents is not reduced by giving to charities or to children; and thirdly, that having children reduces the need to satisfy the desire for family and social ties by means of links to family and friends.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.