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AARP Multicultural Survey July 2001

II. Overview

Squeezed, But Not Stressed

During the last few decades, Americans have begun to start their families later in life. At the same time, life expectancy has continued to grow, increasing the proportion of Americans who have parents surviving well into their 80s and 90s. These demographic changes have wrought such economic and cultural developments as the growth of the retirement housing industry, and changes in the expectations for child care, elder care, and the roles of women.

Members of the sandwich generation—those Americans between the ages of 45 and 55—are indeed the people in between. Members of this cohort feel both the responsibility of parenting and the worries of caring for elderly parents. How are they coping?

The AARP-sponsored survey reports that this generation may be squeezed, but it is not very stressed. Overall, our results describe a generation that is comfortable with and confident of its capacity to manage its family roles. Members of this generation welcome involvement in the care of their loved ones, but are cool to the thought of imposing their own future needs on their children.

What are the roots of this self-confidence? The generation’s demographics may provide some clues. The sandwich generation is generally more likely to be married, better educated, and more affluent than the nation as a whole. The typical sandwich generation member works full time at a job he or she has held for at least a year. More than 4 of every 10 experience both sides of the sandwich; 44 percent have children under 21 as well as living parents, in-laws, or both.

Most members of the generation (54%) currently care for children, parents, or both. Twenty-two percent focus their care exclusively on a parent or in-law. Generally, older boomers who care for their parents and in-laws indicate no difficulty with managing the stresses of family care. As life-extending health care continues to advance, their parents and other relatives may live even longer, further increasing the demands for care. For now, however, the sandwich generation is coping well and enjoys taking care of its families. In a nation as diverse as the United States, there are inevitably differences in how well they are coping, and the types of care they give. Many of these stem from variation in the “thickness” of each ethnic culture’s conception of family responsibility, and the fact that income and life prospects are not evenly distributed across the racial

Prepared for AARP by Belden Russonello & Stewart and Research/Strategy/Management Page 3

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