, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 699-724

First online:

Returns on Lifetime Investments in Children in Egypt

  • Solveig A. CunninghamAffiliated withHubert Department of Global Health and Department of Sociology, Emory University Email author 
  • , Kathryn M. YountAffiliated withHubert Department of Global Health and Department of Sociology, Emory University
  • , Michal EngelmanAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Chicago
  • , Emily AgreeAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins University

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Parental expectations about the companionship and assistance they will receive in later life from their children are key considerations in family formation decisions. We explore patterns of parents’ investment and the support and contact they receive from adult children in Egypt, where fertility is falling and sources of support at all life stages are in flux. Using data from a survey of older adults in Ismailia governorate, we consider parents’ past investments in childbearing, child survival, and children’s education and marriage, as well as recent assistance to adult children via housing, care for grandchildren, gifts, and money. The returns from children considered include economic assistance, instrumental support, and visits. Most parental investments are associated with frequent visits from children. The assistance children provide to parents is gendered: sons tend to provide economic transfers, whereas daughters tend to provide instrumental help. A greater number of surviving children is most strongly associated with parents’ receipt of multiple types of later-life returns. Investments in children’s education and marriage are not associated with assistance, but recent assistance to children—especially economic transfers and provision of housing—is associated with receiving instrumental assistance from adult children.


Investments Childbearing Egypt Aging Intergenerational relations