Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 835–873 | Cite as

Caring for dependent parents: Altruism, exchange or family norm?

  • Justina Klimaviciute
  • Sergio Perelman
  • Pierre Pestieau
  • Jerome Schoenmaeckers
Original Paper


The purpose of this paper is to test alternative models of long-term caring motives. We consider three main motives: pure altruism, exchange and family norm. Our database is the second wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) which allows linking almost perfectly and with complete information children and their parents’ characteristics. Comparing the empirical results to the theoretical models developed, it appears that, depending on the regions analyzed, long-term caring is driven by moderate altruism or by family norm, while Alessie et al. (De Economist 162(2):193–213, 2014), also using SHARE data, stress the importance of exchange motive in intergenerational transfers.


Long-term care Intergenerational transfers Informal care Altruism Exchange Family norm 

JEL Classification

D13 J14 D64 



We are grateful to anonymous referees for their constructive comments and suggestions that significantly improved the paper. We also thank Eric Bonsang, Anne Laferrère and the participants of the fifth SHARE user conference in Luxembourg and CRESUS project Mid-Term Workshop in Antwerp for their helpful comments. We appreciate the methodological suggestions made by Vincent Starck, Bernard Lejeune and Julien Jacqmin. The authors remain responsible for all remaining errors. The financial support from the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) research project CRESUS is gratefully acknowledged. This paper uses data from SHARE wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of March 28, 2013 (DOI: 10.6103/SHARE.w4.111) or SHARE waves 1 and 2 release 2.6.0, as of November 29, 2013 (DOIs: 10.6103/SHARE.w1.260 and 10.6103/SHARE.w2.260) or SHARELIFE release 1.0.0, as of November 24, 2010 (DOI: 10.6103/SHARE.w3.100). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the fifth Framework Programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, N 211909, SHARE-LEAP, No. 227822 and SHARE M4, No. 261982). Additional funding from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11 and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Alessie R, Angelini V, Pasini G (2014) Is it true love? Altruism versus exchange in time and money transfers. De Economist 162(2):193–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker GS (1974) A theory of social interactions. J Polit Econ 82(6):1063–1093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Behrman JR (1997) Intrahousehold distribution and the family. In: Rosenzweig MR, Stark O (eds) Handbook of population and family economics, chapter 4. Elsevier, North-Holland, pp 125–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernheim BD, Shleifer A, Summers L (1985) The strategic bequest motive. J Polit Econ 93(6):1045–1076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bianchi SM, Hotz VJ, McGarry K, Seltzer JA (2008) Intergenerational ties: alternative theories, empirical findings and trends, and remaining challenges. In: Booth A, Crouter AC, Bianchi SM, Seltzer JA (eds) Intergenerational Caregiving. The Urban Institute Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Bonsang E (2009) Does informal care from children to their elderly parents substitute for formal care in Europe? J Health Econ 28(1):143–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown S, Nesse R, Vinokur A, Smith D (2003) Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it. Results from a perspective study of mortality. Psychol Sci 14(4):320–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buchanan JM (1983) Rent seeking, noncompensated transfers, and laws of succession. J Law Econ 26(1):71–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton L, Zdaniuk B, Schultz R, Jackson S, Hirsch C (2003) Transitions in spousal caregiving. Gerontologist 43(2):230–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canta C, Pestieau P (2014) Long term care and family norm. BE J Econ Anal Poli 14(2):401–428Google Scholar
  11. Chang Y-M, Luo Z (2015) Endogenous division rules as a family constitution: strategic altruistic transfers and sibling competition. J Popul Econ 28(1):173–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chiappori P-A (1988) Rational household labor supply. Econometrica 56 (1):63–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cigno A (1993) Intergenerational transfers without altruism. Eur J Politi Econ 9(4):505–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cigno A, Giannelli GC, Rosati FC (1998) Voluntary transfers among Italian households: altruistic and non-altruistic explananations. Struct Change Econ Dynam 9(4):435–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cigno A, Giannelli GC, Rosati FC (2006) Is there such a thing as a family constitution? a test based on credit rationing. Rev Econ Househ 4(3):183–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cremer H, Pestieau P, Ponthière G (2012) The economics of long-term care: a survey. Nordic Econ Policy Rev 2:108–148Google Scholar
  17. Duan N, Manning WG, Morris CN, Newhouse JP (1983) A comparison of alternative models for the demand for medical care. J Bus Econ Stat 1(2):115–126Google Scholar
  18. Glazer A, Kondo H (2014) Governmental transfers and altruistic private transfers. J Popul Econ 28(2):509–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hirst M (2005) Carer distress: a prospective, population-based study. Soc Sci Med 61(3):697–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Laferrère A, Wolff FC (2006) Microeconomic models of family transfers. In: Kolm SC, Mercier Ythier J (eds) Handbook on the economics of giving, reciprocity and altruism, chapter 13. Elsevier, North-Holland, pp 890–971Google Scholar
  21. Mellor J (2001) Long-term care and nursing home coverage: are adult children substitutes for insurance policies? J Health Econ 20(4):527–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mundlak Y (1978) On the pooling of time series and cross section data. Econometrica 46(1):69–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. OCDE (2013) Public spending on health and long-term care: a new set of projections. OCDE Economic Policy Papers, 6Google Scholar
  24. Perelman S, Pestieau P (1992) Inheritance and wealth composition. J Popul Econ 5(4):305–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pinquart M, Sörensen S (2003) Differences between caregivers and non-caregivers in psychological health and physical health: a meta-analysis. Psychol aging 18(2):250–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pollak R (1985) A transaction cost approach to families and households. J Econ Lit 23(2):581–608Google Scholar
  27. Ponthière G (2013) Long-term care, altruism and socialization. BE J Econ Anal Poli 14(2):429–471Google Scholar
  28. Schulz R, O’Brien AT, Bookwala J, Fleissner K (1995) Psychiatric and physical morbidity effects of dementia caregiving: prevalence, correlates, and causes. Gerontologist 35(6):771–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schulz R, Sherwood PR (2008) Physical and mental health effects of family caregiving. J Soc Work Educ 44(3):105–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schwarze J, Winkelmann R (2011) Happiness and altruism within the extended family. J Popul Econ 24(3):1033–1051CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tarlow B, Wisniewski S, Belle S, Rubert M, Ory M, Gallagher-Thompson D (2004) Positive aspects of caregiving. Res Aging 26(4):429–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Van Houtven C, Coe N, Skira M (2013) The effect of informal care on work and wages. J Health Econ 32(1):240–252Google Scholar
  33. Vitaliano P, Zhang J, Scanlan J (2003) Is caregiving hazardous to one’s physical health? a meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 129(6):946–972CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justina Klimaviciute
    • 1
  • Sergio Perelman
    • 1
  • Pierre Pestieau
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jerome Schoenmaeckers
    • 1
  1. 1.CREPP (Center of Research in Public Economics and Population Economics)HEC-Liège, Management School, Universitè de LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.CORE, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics, UCLLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.TSE, Toulouse School of EconomicsUniversité Toulouse 1 CapitoleToulouseFrance

Personalised recommendations