A significant change in the age structure, i.e., a change in the ratio of distinct generations, is the most important consequence of the aging process. The transformation of the population’s age structure affects the change in the makeup of a family or kinship group. While in a traditional society the elderly make up a small part of a family, in today's society children serve as the minority. This is why the younger generation’s ability to provide support is falling, while the need to support elderly family members is growing.
In her research, Anna Mironova tried to figure out what kind of support close relatives are giving one another, and what the characteristics of this support are under conditions of demographic aging in Russia.
To answer this question, data from the last two censuses (2002 and 2010) was used, as were data from monitoring living conditions in Russia and data from the HSE’s Longitudinal Monitoring Survey on the health and economic welfare of households and individuals. Empirical analysis was based on this data and identified the main characteristics of the assistance relatives provide one another. The researcher also attempted to track changes in the makeup of Russian households between 2002 and 2010.
The system of intergenerational transfers in Russia is a complex, multifaceted subject of study with five forms of measurement: economic, demographic, social, psychological, and cultural/spiritual (the transmission of values and investment in human capital).
The research showed that Russian households are actively involved in private intergenerational exchanges, Mironova notes. There were very few families in which members would not provide each other with one type of assistance or another.
Surveys in Taganrog, for example, show that 40% of men over 60 and women over 55 provide financial and material support to their children and grandchildren.
In Moscow, 25% of people above the age of 60 receive material assistance from their children, while 11.7% receive instrumental support and 56.6% are cared for during illness.
The most intense exchanges are seen between parents and children. Parents help their children more often than children help their parents – 16.7% of respondents versus 7%.
About the same situation is seen for grandparents and their grandchildren. Whereas 11.7% of the elderly say they help their grandchildren, only 1% of respondents say they support older people.
The research showed that intergenerational transfers differ in structure – children often help their parents around the house and care for them when they are sick, while parents provide their children with financial support and participate in raising grandchildren.
Diagram 1. Rising transfers by type of support, 2011 (%)
Diagram 1. Falling transfers by type of support, 2011 (%)
* Source: Values Survey in Two Federal Districts of Russia, 2012
It was also found that mutual financial support makes up about a fourth of the overall household budget.
The analysis of intergenerational transfers also showed changes in the structure of the Russian family over the last several years. The structure of households became simpler, as the number of people per household fell to 2.6 in 2010 from 2.7 in 2002, Anna Mironova says.
An increase took place over the eight years in the proportion of households consisting of one (up 19.4%) or two people (up 7.1%). Additionally, over half of all single-parent households include individuals over the age of 55, the vast majority of which are women.
In addition, a drop was seen for the share of families with children under 18, which demonstrates that parents are providing less support for their children, Mironova concludes.