May 15, 2013

The Sandwich Generation: Burdens on Middle-Aged Americans on the Rise

47%

Nearly half of middle-aged adults have a parent 65 or older and are caring for or financially supporting a child.

With an aging population and a generation of young adults struggling to achieve financial independence, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans are increasing.

Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

While the share of middle-aged adults living in the so-called sandwich generation has increased only marginally in recent years, the financial burdens associated with caring for multiple generations of family members are mounting. The increased pressure is coming primarily from grown children rather than aging parents.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 5 2012 found roughly half (48%) of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year, with 27% providing the primary support. These shares are up significantly from 2005.

By contrast, about one-in-five middle-aged adults (21%) have provided financial support to a parent age 65 or older in the past year, basically unchanged from 2005.

When survey respondents were asked if adult children have a responsibility to provide financial assistance to an elderly parent in need, fully 75% say yes, they do. By contrast, only about half of all respondents (52%) say parents have a responsibility to provide financial assistance to a grown child if he or she needs it. Some 44% say parents do not have a responsibility to do this. Read more