Sandwich Generation Pressures Grow & Shifts from Boomers to Gen X’ers


A Pew Research study has revealed some disturbing trends regarding the infamous sandwich generation. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

While the share of the sandwich generation has increased only marginally, the financial burdens associated with caring for multiple generations of family members are mounting.

According to a new nationwide Pew Research Center survey, roughly half (48%) of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year, with 27% providing the primary support. These shares are up significantly from 2005. By contrast, about one-in-five middle-aged adults (21%) have provided financial support to a parent age 65 or older in the past year, basically unchanged from 2005. The new survey was conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 5, 2012 among 2,511 adults nationwide.

While middle-aged adults are devoting more resources to their grown children these days, the survey finds that the public places more value on support for aging parents than on support for grown children.

Who is the sandwich generation? Its members are mostly middle-aged: 71% of this group is ages 40 to 59. An additional 19% are younger than 40 and 10% are age 60 or older. Men and women are equally likely to be members of the sandwich generation. Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to be in this situation. Three-in-ten Hispanic adults (31%) have a parent age 65 or older and a dependent child. This compares with 24% of whites and 21% of blacks.

More affluent adults and married adults are more likely to be sandwiched. However, the survey suggests that adults in the sandwich generation are just as happy with their lives overall as are other adults.

The strain of supporting multiple family members can have an impact on financial well-being.Among those who are providing financial support to an aging parent and supporting a child of any age, 28% say they live comfortably, 30% say they have enough to meet their basic expenses with a little left over for extras, 30% say they are just able to meet their basic expenses and 11% say they don‰Ûªt have enough to meet even basic expenses.

While some aging parents need financial support, others may also need help with day-to-day living. Among all adults with at least one parent age 65 or older, 30% say their parent or parents need help to handle their affairs or care for themselves; 69% say their parents can handle this on their own.

When aging adults need assistance handling their affairs or caring for themselves, family members often help out. Among those with a parent age 65 or older who needs this type of assistance, 31% say they provide most of this help, and an additional 48% say they provide at least some of the help.

When the Pew Research Center explored this topic in 2005, Baby Boomers made up the majority of the sandwich generation. They were more than twice as likely as members of the next generation‰ÛÓGeneration X‰ÛÓto have a parent age 65 or older and be supporting a child (45% vs. 20%). Since 2005, many Baby Boomers have aged out of the sandwich generation, and today adults who are part of Generation X are more likely than Baby Boomers to find themselves in this situation.
Source – Pew Research