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Helping Across Generations: An Exploratory Study of Blue Collar Workers’ Retirement Well-Being

The project: With today’s young adults facing increasing financial pressures, it is parents that often come to the rescue. Older adults from working-class backgrounds often provide help to their adult children and extended families, which can affect family relationships and their own economic well-being, particularly in retirement. This project explored the impacts of these arrangements and suggest needed reforms to the social safety net and to the ways we think about retirement so that poverty is both alleviated and prevented.

The process: Researchers interviewed 23 retirees associated with local chapters of the United Auto Workers, unions representing the custodians and groundskeepers at U-M, and the Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel about the types and frequency of help provided to their adult children and extended kin; how help is negotiated; how the provision of help affects economic and emotional well-being; and how provision of help is balanced against one’s own needs in retirement. 

Results: Preliminary findings led to additional funding from the Russell Sage Foundation to expand the study to 65 retirees and conduct follow-up interviews with participants. 

Kristin S. Seefeldt, U-M School of Social Work and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy