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Support from Adult Children and Parental Health in Rural America

Shelley Clark, Elizabeth M. Lawrence, Shannon M. Monnat

Journal of Rural Social Sciences, February 2022

Shannon Monnat

Shannon Monnat


Adult children are a primary source of care for their aging parents. Parents in rural areas, however, live further from their adult children than parents in urban areas, potentially limiting the support they receive and compromising their health and ability to age in place. We use two waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (2013 and 2017) to investigate the relationships among geographic proximity, adult children’s instrumental and financial support, and parental health. Rural parents live further from their adult children and receive less financial support, but they are more likely to receive instrumental assistance. In addition, rural parents have worse health and more functional limitations than urban parents, and these differences persist after controlling for proximity to and support from adult children. Our findings indicate that factors beyond proximity influence the complex relationships between spatial and social boundaries and their consequences for older adults’ health and well-being.

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