Demographic Factors Reshaping Ties to Family and Place

by Peter A. Morrison

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This paper explores the broad topic of how the selective character of human migration and changing family circumstances may shape the intensity of local need among the future elderly. At origin, it is the healthier, better educated, and more affluent elderly who venture to migrate; and although people migrate from a broad spectrum of origins, they flow selectively to a narrow spectrum of destinations. At the same time, contemporary changes in family makeup and internal division of labor alters their capacity to care for elderly members. These demographic realities define a policy issue ripe for study. 1990 census data can reveal how the pressures of population aging will diffuse spatially, in terms of timing and intensity, and given the complex interaction of migration selectivity and family transformation, who will be distanced from whom, and with what consequences. Scattered evidence for earlier years casts light on certain facets of this issue: (1) the ties between the elderly and their children, (2) the differing configurations of migration flows generating elderly concentration in locales, and (3) the changing nature of elderly concentration in recent decades. With 1990 census data, it will be possible to extend certain findings and consider their implications for how future aging and dependency may express themselves locally.

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