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An Old-Age Security Motive for Fertility in the United States?

Michael S. Rendall and Raisa A. Bahchieva
Population and Development Review
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp. 293-307
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2807975
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2807975
Page Count: 15
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An Old-Age Security Motive for Fertility in the United States?
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Abstract

The old-age security motive for fertility is conventionally associated with developing countries, where the mechanisms of public and private-market provision for the wellbeing of the elderly are inadequate or uncertain. The present study argues for its continued relevance for developed countries. Examination of the poverty rates among the unmarried elderly in the United States uncovers substantial poverty alleviation through the financial and functional assistance of coresident family memebers. the period examined is the mid-1980s, immediately after the decline of official elderly poverty rates following successive expansions of the Social Security program. An alternative set of poverty measures assuming no financial or functional assistance by coresident family members, and adjusting for additional household labor resources required by functionally impaired elderly persons, is estimated for the unmarried US elderly populaton. These measures are then compared to poverty measures based on observed household structure and functional assistance to assess the contribution to poverty alleviation of coresident family members. Almost twice as many unmarried elderly, and three times as many disabled unmarried elderly, would be classified as poor without coresident family economic and functional assistance. the old-age security motive is discussed as a potential explanation for differential fertility according to socioeconomic status, and as a factor to consider with regard to the effects of future changes in social support programs for the elderly.

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