Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 971–1001 | Cite as

No free lunch, buddy: past housing transfers and informal care later in life

  • Emanuele CianiEmail author
  • Claudio Deiana


Previous empirical literature on the relation between intergenerational transfer of assets and services has mostly focused on contemporary exchanges. By contrast, we provide novel evidence showing that parents who helped their adult children in the past are rewarded by higher chances of receiving informal care later in life. To this end we use Italian data containing precise retrospective information about the help with housing that couples received from their parents when they got married, such as a real estate donation or down payment. Our estimates show that this type of past help is positively associated with the current provision of informal care to the parents. This result is robust to controlling for a large set of individual and family characteristics and is only partially due to increased geographical proximity. We suggest that this finding can be explained by mixed self-interest motives, related to theories based on either bilateral exchange or the presence of a third generation (grandchildren), such as the demonstration effect model or the family constitution model.


Informal care Housing Intergenerational transfers Geographical proximity 

JEL codes

D10 J13 J14 



This paper has been presented at the European Commission seminar series, at the University of Essex (2016), at the 18th IZA European Summer School in Labor Economics, at the Royal Economic Society Conference at the University of Manchester (2015), at the 2nd CIdE workshop in Econometrics and Empirical Economics (WEEE) and at the VII Italian Workshop in Empirical Economics at the Collegio Carlo Alberto, Moncalieri (Turin, Italy). We would like to thank Matthias Parey, David Reinstein, Giovanni Mastrobuoni, Daniel Hamermesh, Stephen Machin, Marco Francesconi, Giulio Zanella, Massimiliano Bratti, Claudio Labanca, Effrosyni Adamopoulou, Vincenzo Mariani, Ludovica Giua, Paolo Sestito, Federico Signorini, Raffaello Bronzini, Matthias Kredler, Federico Vaccari, the editor and two anonymous referees for valuable comments and suggestions. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors only. They do not necessarily reflect the views of, or involve any responsibility for, the institutions to which they are affiliated. Any errors are the fault of the authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

11150_2018_9417_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (308 kb)
Supplementary Appendix


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Directorate Generale for Economics, Statistics and Research, Structural Economic Analysis DirectorateBank of ItalyRomeItaly
  2. 2.Centre for the Analysis of Public PoliciesUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  3. 3.Joint Research Centre, Directorate I - Competences, Competence Centre on Microeconomic Evaluation (CC-ME)European CommissionIspra (VA)Italy
  4. 4.University of EssexColchesterUK

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