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Volume 11 Issue 1 - February 2010

Director's Corner by John Laitner

This newsletter features an interview with researchers Robert Pollak and Janice Compton on their 2009 MRRC project, “Geographical Proximity and Intergenerational Transfers.” The life-cycle model of household behavior has played an important role in many MRRC projects; it is a general framework for organizing research on many aspects of saving for retirement, labor supply and retirement age, portfolio choices at different ages, etc. The framework can be extended to include the roles of intergenerational transfers of time and money. That is the focus of Pollak and Compton’s work. They are particularly interested in grandparents’ transfers of child care time, and receipt of elder care from their children.

Robert Pollak organized a session on this topic at the recent ASSA meetings in Atlanta. A number of MRRC researchers participated, including Michael Hurd, John Laitner, Bob Willis, Jim Smith, and Kathleen McGarry. The papers presented touched upon many of the new data resources now available in this area.

Pollak and Laitner also collaborated last May to run a two-day workshop on related topics at the University of Michigan, sponsored by the Health and Retirement Study, Panel Study on Income Dynamics, and the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging. Despite the ever more sophisticated array of market services available, and the ever greater mobility of households in choosing where to live, intergenerational time transfers remain an important component in the plans and well-being of many Americans.

These topics are prominent in current policy discussions as well. For example, the January 2010 Middle Class Task Force Report proposes tax credits and programs to aid the ‘sandwich generation’ — those who are "struggling to care for both their children and their parents."

The second feature article is "Income, Material Hardship, and the Use of Public Programs among the Elderly," by Helen Levy. She uses data from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study to document patterns of material hardship among the elderly.