Care of the Elderly during a Time of Demographic Transition: The U.S. North, 1850 to 1880

Alice B. Kasakoff, University of South Carolina

As in the developed world today, the native born population of the Northern U.S. was aging and there was a reduced pool of family care givers. Census samples show the proportion of persons over 65 living with their children declined. This paper explores the effect of fertility decline and urbanization on family forms and adult lives of the children using a longitudinal database derived from genealogies, that contain information on the availability of adult children and how far they were from their parents. In 1850, over 90% of elderly with living sons over 15 lived in the same town as at least one of them (usually the youngest). In 1880, fewer elderly lived with children and more were living with daughters. The paper will assess the role of non-farm work in producing this result, as well as the affect of staying at home on the children’s futures.

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Presented in Session 155: Historical Analysis of Families and Households