(e.g., that which accompanies residence in the same neighborhood or community).

One of the more remarkable demographic trends of recent decades is a reduction in household size, a trend that has been noted for persons of all ages and in numerous countries. Although a number of underlying factors help explain this trend, one of particular importance with respect to older people is a post-World War II trend toward having fewer children with whom to coreside. As illustrated below, however, this trend has recently reversed (or will soon reverse) in many industrialized countries. Household structure (or "living arrangements") is thus in part a consequence of patterns of kin availability and is the second major topic addressed in this chapter.

The third and final topic addressed is the spatial proximity of elderly and their kin, especially their adult children. Throughout, an effort is made to survey, albeit selectively, theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to the relevant literature. Some attention is also devoted to enumerating existing data sources that figure prominently in actual (or potential) research.


Demographers and other social scientists have a long history of interest in kinship. Lotka (1931), in an article on the relationship between mortality and orphanhood, developed methods for determining the probability that a person at a given age has a living parent. More generally, demographers have devoted efforts to describing kinship patterns and to the formulation of models that relate kin patterns to underlying demographic forces. These issues are the concern of the present section.

Kin availability is of particular importance with respect to the elderly, since members of the kin group constitute a resource pool—with "resources" construed broadly to encompass space (i.e., shared residential space), time, and money—on which elders in need of care or assistance can call. The kin group also represents, of course, a set of potential claimants on similar resources held by the elderly. Thus the composition of a kin group defines a complex set of potential interpersonal linkages that are of substantive interest.

Conceptual Issues

Inclusiveness of Measures

Before attempting to measure patterns of kin availability, it is necessary to establish the scope of the term "kin." Our concern is with kin groups

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