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    Relations between the young and old

    Extending the work of CPC’s ‘Exchange between the generations’ strand, Professor Jane Falkingham has recently been appointed as Special Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness & Provision.

    The House of Lords Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has been set up at a time when there is a perception that young people in the UK have fewer opportunities and economic benefits than previous generations. At the same time, society is ageing, and people are working longer and retiring later. The Committee will focus on issues of intergenerational fairness and provision across four key policy areas: jobs and the workplace; housing; the role of communities; and taxation.

    Within CPC, we are looking at support across the generations, investigating how parents and children care for each other and how younger and older people live together. Can we reduce the public health burden by strengthening ties between the generations? Outside of the UK, we are researching poverty, wellbeing and solidarity across generations, examining the quality of life and well-being of older people in China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as those living in the slums of Nairobi.

    What’s housing got to do with it?

    For example, new research from Albert Sabater, Elspeth Graham and Nissa Finney shows that the probability of an older adult (65 and over) sharing the same neighbourhood with a younger adult (aged 25-44) has declined over time, with evidence of higher residential age segregation as housing affordability decreases across each neighbourhood in England and Wales.

    Drawing on population data from the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, information on key housing characteristics as well as house price and income data for small areas in England and Wales, their research has been investigating the relationship between housing (dis)advantage and residential age segregation.

    Speaking on the findings, Dr Sabater says: “In the UK, housing debates have almost entirely ignored residential age segregation as one of the potential consequences of the ongoing housing affordability crisis. Our findings indicate that neighbourhoods with lower levels of affordable housing are more likely to be residentially segregated by age. Such a trend can result in undesired consequences, especially if it continues. For instance: the inability of many young people to access desired housing can impact other aspects of life, such as starting a family and employment opportunities. Also, increasing residential separation by age implies reduced inter-generational interaction that could threaten social cohesion, so further research is of paramount importance.”

    Indeed, the homeownership vs renting debate has far-reaching effects. Working with colleagues from the University of Florence, Ann Berrington and Agnese Vitali have been examining whether the move away from homeownership in the UK is affecting people’s decisions to become parents.

    It is usually presumed that people are more likely to become parents after they become home owners. However, couples’ preferences to become homeowners before having their first child have been undermined by the dramatic changes in the UK housing market over recent decades. In Britain in particular, homeownership rates have fallen dramatically among young adults as a result of low wages, precarious employment, reductions in the availability of mortgage credit, lack of affordable homes, and rising house prices.

    Using data from the British Household Panel Survey and the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Survey the research team have found that, in comparison to the 1990s, people are now more likely to be entering parenthood while living in insecure private rented accommodation.

    CPC researchers have also been examining how major life events such as entering into a relationship, separation and divorce affect our living arrangements.

    Previous research shows that separated individuals move from homeownership to (private) renting and experience a period of instability in their living arrangements. However, little is known about whether and when separated individuals will become homeowners again. Hill Kulu and Julia Mikolai have been investigating what happens after divorce and separation, studying homeownership levels among separated individuals in Britain using data from the British Household Panel Survey.

    Professor Kulu comments: “Our findings support the view that separation can have long-term effects on people’s housing status. Our results have shown that people who have separated are much less likely to own a home than those who are married or living together unmarried. Interestingly, homeownership levels increase over time since separation; however, the levels increase among people who form a new relationship, whereas homeownership rates remain low among those who remain separated.”

    They are also investigating how house moves and changes in partnership status evolve and interact in individuals’ lives. The findings, combining data from the British Household Panel Survey and the Understanding Society study, show that people are more likely to move during the first year of a relationship, or following separation. Separated and cohabiting individuals are most likely to move to private renting, whereas married people are more likely to move to homeownership. Most people now move to start a cohabiting relationship rather than because of getting married.

    What about those in mid-life?

    Maria Evandrou, Jane Falkingham, Madelín Gómez-León and Athina Vlachantoni have been examining those considered to be in the middle of the younger and older generations, the so-called ‘sandwich generation’.

    The research team have analysed the 1958 National Child Development Study to examine how mid-life men and women distribute their time dedicated to support their elderly parents and their own adult children through providing grandchild care.

    Professor Vlachantoni comments: “Our early findings indicate that around one third of those in mid-life are ‘at risk’ of having to provide care to multiple generations of their families, and about half have to provide some care to both grandchildren and elderly parents at the same time. With the large generation of baby-boomers entering mid- and later life and an increasing number of families spreading across three or four generations, figuring out ways to support individuals who care for multiple generations will need to be a policy priority.”

    Alongside this work, a collaborative project bringing together colleagues from Scotland and Southampton is helping to develop a better understanding of the scale and nature of unpaid caring activities, how these interact with other paid and unpaid activities such as work and leisure, and how patterns of time use may be changing as society changes.

    Led by Alison Bowes from the University of Stirling, Maria Evandrou, David Bell, Alison Dawson, Jane Falkingham, Athina Vlachantoni, Nadine Thomas, Alasdair Rutherford and Rosalie Ashworth are working to inform better ways of collecting survey data on unpaid care that will inform policy and capacity planning, such as the design of the Scottish Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

    “Closely informed by the views and experiences of unpaid carers themselves, we are investigating the dynamics of unpaid care for older people by collecting and analysing time-use data and by developing improved methods of understanding the nature of unpaid care in survey research.” Says Professor Bowes. “This will in turn inform policies which can effectively support the provision of unpaid care, helping to counteract current demographic changes which may reduce it.”

    Older people’s well-being?

    Demonstrating the complexity of intergenerational relations, Athina Vlachantoni, Jane Falkingham, Maria Evandrou and Min Qin have been investigating the negative impacts on parents’ health when adult sons leave home in India and China. India and China are both undergoing unprecedented urbanisation, with increasing numbers of younger people and adults moving into cities, leaving behind their older parents in rural areas. Both India and China have a patrilineal culture which emphasises a son’s duty to support his parents, however it is also men who are most likely to migrate, leaving parents without this support.

    The research demonstrates that having a migrant son in India and China is linked to older parents’ poorer health status. They have found that in China there is a strong association between digestive diseases among parents and having a migrant son. In India, parental hypertension, diabetes and heart disease were found to be strongly associated with having a migrant son.
    In another study, Yazhen Yang, Maria Evandrou and Athina Vlachantoni have found that changes to Chinese culture as a result of this rapid modernisation are exerting pressure between the generations in terms of financial and social support.

    Professor Evandrou says: “Our studies demonstrate the complex nature of intergenerational relations, for example where a culture change which sees it become more common for adult sons to leave home can have a large impact on the health of their parents left behind. It is vital that we continue to study the effects of how different generations live, or indeed don’t live, together, how they interact and what the social, financial and health costs are. The policy implications of such findings need to be taken into account at the national, regional and local level to strengthen intergenerational ties and to improve older, as well as younger people’s well-being.

    Further reading:
    (Un)Affordable Housing and the residential separation of age groups (CPC Briefing Paper 45)

    The spatialities of ageing: Evidencing increasing spatial polarisation between older and younger adults in England and Wales (Demographic Research)

    Divorce, Separation, and Housing Changes: A Multiprocess Analysis of Longitudinal Data from England and Wales (Demography)

    Tackling chronic disease among ‘left-behind’ older people in India and China (CPC Briefing Paper 42)

    Children’s migration and lifestylerelated chronic disease among older parents ‘left behind’ in India (SSMPopulation Health)

    Follow progress of the House of Lords Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision on Twitter @LordsIntergen

    Posted 01/02/2019 10:27