Between 1970 and 1990, the percentage of elderly widows living alone increased dramatically. Cultural explanations—“society neglects its elderly”—are popular, but economics also plays a part.
A recent paper co-authored by Fed consultant Víctor Ríos examines income changes of widows and their adult children during this period and finds that they explain as much as 74 percent of the increase in widows living by themselves.
Relationships among explanatory factors are complex and nonlinear, note the economists, who find that marital status of the child also affects living arrangements, reducing the explanatory power of income changes alone to 52 percent.
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