, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 699–724 | Cite as

Returns on Lifetime Investments in Children in Egypt

  • Solveig A. Cunningham
  • Kathryn M. Yount
  • Michal Engelman
  • Emily Agree


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 


  1. Aarssen, L. W. (2005). Why is fertility lower in wealthier countries? The role of relaxed fertility-selection. Population and Development Review, 31, 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agree, E., & Glaser, K. (2009). Demography of informal caregiving. In P. Uhlenberg (Ed.), International handbook of the demography of aging (pp. 647–668). New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aquilino, W. (1990). The likelihood of parent-adult child coresidence: Effects of family structure and parental characteristics. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 405–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S. (1981). A treatise on the family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bengtson, V. L., & Roberts, R. E. L. (1991). Intergenerational solidarity in aging families: An example of formal theory construction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 856–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boggatz, T., & Dassen, T. (2005). Ageing, care dependency, and care for older people in Egypt: A review of the literature. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 14(8B), 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boggatz, T., Farid, T., Mohammedin, A., & Dassen, T. (2009a). Attitudes of Egyptian nursing home residents towards staying in a nursing home: A qualitative study. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 4, 242–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boggatz, T., Farid, T., Mohammedin, A., & Dassen, T. (2009b). Attitudes of older Egyptians towards nursing care at home: A qualitative study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 24, 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bulatao, A. R. (1981). Values and disvalues of children in successive childbearing decision. Demography, 18, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caldwell, J. C. (1976). Toward a restatement of demographic transition theory. Population and Development Review, 2, 321–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Caldwell, J. C. (1978). A theory of fertility: From high plateau to destabilization. Population and Development Review, 4, 553–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caldwell, J. C. (2005). On net intergenerational wealth flows: An update. Population and Development Review, 31, 721–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cox, D., & Stark, O. (2005). On the demand for grandchildren: Tied transfers and the demonstration effect. Journal of Public Economics, 89, 1665–1697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crimmins, E. M., & Ingegneri, D. G. (1990). Interaction and living arrangements of older Americans and their adult children: Past trends, present determinants, and future implications. Research on Aging, 12(1), 3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. El-Zanaty, F., Hussein, E. M., Shawky, G. A., Way, A. A., & Kishor, S. (1996). Egypt Demographic and Health Survey 1995. Calverton, MD: Macro International.Google Scholar
  16. El-Zanaty, F., & Way, A. (2009). Egypt Demographic and Health Survey 2008. Cairo, Egypt: Ministry of Health, El-Zanaty and Associates, and Macro International.Google Scholar
  17. Engelman, M., Agree, E. M., Yount, K. M., & Bishai, D. (2010). Parity and parents’ health in later life: The gendered case of Ismailia, Egypt. Population Studies, 64, 165–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fapohunda, E. R., & Todaro, M. P. (1988). Family structure, implicit contacts, and the demand for children in southern Nigeria. Population and Development Review, 14, 571–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gadallah, M. (2002). Draft country profile on ageing: Egyptian case study. Retrieved from
  20. Hermalin, A. I. (1999). Challenges to comparative research on intergenerational transfers. Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 27(2), 9–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hermalin, A. I., & Yang, L.-S. (2004). Levels of support from children in Taiwan: Expectations versus reality, 1965–99. Population and Development Review, 30, 417–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoddinott, J. (1992). Rotten kids or manipulative parents: Are children old age security in western Kenya? Economic Development and Cultural Change, 40, 545–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hurd, M. D., Smith, J. P., & Zissimopoulos, J. M. (2007). Inter-vivos giving over the lifecycle (RAND Working Paper WR-524). Santa Monica, CA: RAND.Google Scholar
  24. Jellal, M., & Wolff, F. (2002). Insecure old-age security. Oxford Economic Papers—New Series, 54, 636–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Joseph, S. (1993). Connectivity and patriarchy among urban working-class Arab families in Lebanon. Ethos, 21, 452–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Joseph, S. (2000). Gender and citizenship in the Middle East. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Joseph, S. (2008). Familism and critical Arab family studies. In K. M. Y. H. Rashad (Ed.), Family in the Middle East: Ideational change in Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia (pp. 25–39). Oxford, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2, 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaplan, H. (1994). Evolutionary and wealth flow theories of fertility: Empirical tests and new models. Population and Development Review, 20, 753–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Khadr, Z. A. (1997). Living arrangements and social support systems of the older population in Egypt. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  31. Kholoussy, H. (2010). For better, for worse: The marriage crisis that made modern Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lee, G. R., Netzer, J. K., & Coward, R. T. (1994a). Filial responsibility expectations and patterns of intergenerational assistance. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 559–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lee, Y.-J., Parish, W. L., & Willis, R. J. (1994b). Sons, daughters, and intergenerational support in Taiwan. The American Journal of Sociology, 99, 1010–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Loewe, M. (2000). Social security in Egypt, an analysis and agenda for policy reform (ERF Working Paper 2024). Cairo, Egypt: Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey.Google Scholar
  35. Mason, A., Lee, S.-H., & Russo, G. (2001). Population momentum and population aging in Asia and near East countries (East-West Center Working Papers, Population Series No. 107). Honolulu, HI: East–west Center.Google Scholar
  36. Moghadam, V. M. (2004). Patriarchy in transition: Women and the changing family in the Middle East. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35, 137–162.Google Scholar
  37. Morgan, P., & Berkowitz King, R. (2001). Why have children in the 21st century? Biological predisposition, social coercion, rational choice. European Journal of Population, 17, 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nandakumar, A. K., El-Adawy, M., & Cohen, M. A. (1998). Perception of health status and limitations in activities of daily living among the Egyptian elderly. Boston, MA: Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved from
  39. Nawar, L., Lloyd, C. B., & Ibrahim, B. (1995). Women’s autonomy and gender roles in Egyptian families. In C. M. Obermeyer (Ed.), Family, gender, and population in the Middle East: Policies in context (pp. 147–178). Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
  40. Nugent, J. B. (1985). The old-age security motive for fertility. Population and Development Review, 11, 75–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rendall, M. S., & Bahchieva, R. A. (1998). An old-age security motive for fertility in the United States? Population and Development Review, 24, 293–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roan, C. L., & Raley, R. K. (1996). Intergenerational coresidence and contact: A longitudinal analysis of adult children’s response to their mother’s widowhood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 708–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rugh, A. B. (1984). Family in contemporary Egypt. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Seelbach, W. C., & Sauer, W. J. (1977). Filial responsibility expectations and morale among aged parents. The Gerontologist, 17, 492–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shaham, R. (1997). Family and the courts in modern Egypt: A study based on the decisions by Sharí’a courts 1900–1955. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.Google Scholar
  46. Singerman, D., & Ibrahim, B. (2001). The cost of marriage in Egypt: A hidden variable in the new Arab demography and poverty research. Cairo Papers in the Social Sciences, 24(Spring), 80–116.Google Scholar
  47. Sinunu, M. A., Yount, K., & El-Afifi, N. (2008). Formal and informal care of frail older adults in Cairo, Egypt. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 24, 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tabutin, D., & Schoumaker, B. (2005). The demography of the Arab world and the Middle East from the 1950s to the 2000s. A survey of changes and a statistical assessment. Population-E, 60(5–6), 505–615.Google Scholar
  49. Tomassini, C., Kalogirou, S., Grundy, E., Fokkema, T., Broes van Groenou, M., & Karisto, A. (2004). Contacts between elderly parents and their children in four European countries: Current patterns and future prospects. European Journal of Ageing, 1, 54–63.Google Scholar
  50. Turke, P. (1989). Evolution and the demand for children. Population and Development Review, 15, 61–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Turke, P. W. (1991). Theory and evidence on wealth flows and old-age security: A reply to Fricke. Population and Development Review, 17, 687–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. United Nations Development Programme and The Institute of National Planning. (2005). The Egypt Human Development Report 2005: Choosing our future: Towards a new social contract. New York and Cairo: UNDP and INP.Google Scholar
  53. Wahba, J. (2009). An overview of internal and international migration in Egypt. In R. Assaad (Ed.), The Egyptian labor market revisited (pp. 157–176). Cairo, Egypt: Economic Research Forum.Google Scholar
  54. Winckler, O. (2005). Arab political demography Volume 1: Population growth and natalist policies. Sussex, UK: Sussex Academy Press.Google Scholar
  55. Yount, K. M. (2005). The patriarchal bargain and intergenerational coresidence in Egypt. The Sociological Quarterly, 46, 137–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yount, K. M. (2008). Gender, resources across the life course, and cognitive functioning in Ismailia, Egypt. Demography, 45, 907–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yount, K. M., Cunningham, S. A., Engelman, M., & Agree, E. M. (2012). Gender and material transfers between older parents and children in Ismailia, Egypt. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 116–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Yount, K. M., & Sibai, A. (2009). The demography of aging in Arab Countries. In P. Uhlenberg (Ed.), International handbook of population aging (pp. 283–311). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  59. Zimmer, Z., & Kwong, J. (2003). Family size and support of older adults in urban and rural China: Current effects and future implications. Demography, 40, 23–44.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Solveig A. Cunningham
    • 1
  • Kathryn M. Yount
    • 2
  • Michal Engelman
    • 3
  • Emily Agree
    • 4
  1. 1.Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Sociology and Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive HealthJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations