Parental altruism and nest leaving in Europe: Evidence from a retrospective survey

We use retrospective life-history data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe to assess parental altruism through the effect of parental resources and home characteristics on the age at which individuals now aged 50 or more left the nest in 13 countries. We show that the nest leaving age has declined from one cohort to the next and that the tendency has been of a relative decline in leaving one’s parents to start a family and an increase in leaving home to pursue higher education, even if the first pattern was still the most common for the baby-boomers. We test an altruistic model where constrained parents push the child out, where less constrained “proximity altruistic” parents can help the child by providing a home or even, for the richest “active altruists”, help the child leave the nest. Taking into account the endogenous child’s choices of education, we find that most parents helped by being proximity altruists, while some helped their children move out and that the quality of the home had an important influence on the nest leaving age.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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