Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Financial Transfers between Adult Children and Parents in Migrant Families from the Former Soviet Union

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Financial Transfers between Adult Children and Parents in Migrant Families from the Former Soviet Union

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In modem ageing societies, families face new challenges: The increases in absolute numbers and proportions of elderly people and in life expectancy have led to welfare system reforms that especially affect intergenerational relationships within the family. For example, in Germany, a welfare state retrenchment is observed with respect to public pension cuts and decreasing coverage of costs for health care and nursing care. This development will proliferate the role of the family in caring for the elderly: Reduction of welfare state spending for the elderly may aggravate the burden placed on the adult children as they face competing demands from both younger and elderly kin (Künemund, 2006). In the public debate it remains unclear, however, who will be willing and able to care for the growing elderly population, to provide emotional support, instrumental help and financial security. Intergenerational relationships as the major sources for support within families will become even more important in the future (Albertini et al., 2007).

Migrant families in ageing societies generally face the same challenges regarding the provision for old age. In addition, migration in later life is kind of a "double jeopardy" (Litwin and Leshem, 2008): Elderly migrants are confronted both with the challenges of migration and the challenges of ageing in a new environment (e.g., age-related difficulties of learning and coping with a different language, loss of home and durable social networks). Migration processes have an impact on intergenerational family relations, which can result from the complex interplay of the opportunity structure in the country of destination and the structural and cultural context in the country of origin (Baykara-Krumme, 2008). Depending on the age at the time of relocation, different members of the same family might face different challenges in the country of destination. Apart from that, they may develop a different understanding of solidarity and norms of responsibility (de Valk and Schans, 2008).

Until today, very little is known about migrants' ageing and familial exchange processes in countries of destination such as Germany and in settings of transnational families. Are the elderly parents in migrant families able to support their adult children to a similar degree as natives or do they need more help themselves than they are able to provide for others? Moreover, does the welfare state in the country of destination have a negative impact on family relations, e.g., the willingness to provide help within the families? This is suggested by the "crowding-out" hypothesis which states that familial support is substituted by public support, but at the same time a "crowding-in" effect - support by the state does facilitate family support - such as an increase in remittances might be observed (Künemund and Rein, 1999; Künemund and Vogel, 2006).

Our analysis adds to the empirical basis for this theoretical debate by examining patterns of financial transfers between adult children and their parents in migrant families from the former Soviet Union living in Germany as well as the impact of welfare state spending for the elderly. Furthermore, we explore whether the group of ethnic German migrants from the former Soviet Union differs systematically in regard to patterns of family solidarity. Data from our survey on Ageing of Soviet Union Migrants (ASUM) 2011 allows comparing the exchange of financial transfers in migrant families in which adult children and their elderly parents both live in Germany as opposed to migrant families in which elderly parents still live in the country of origin. We investigate if adult children are supported financially by their elderly parents as well as if adult children do support their parents financially. Results indicate that financial transfers typically flow from parents to children if both adult migrants and their parents live in Germany. This pattem is also a common pattem for native Germans (Kohli et al. …

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