Living Alone in Later Life. a Multi-Country Comparative Analysis

Mojgan Padjab, Umeå University
David Reher, UCM
Miguel Requena, UNED
Glenn Sandström, Umeå University

Objectives. This paper compares the determinants of living alone among women during later life in five countries with very different family systems, policy contexts, levels of development and socioeconomic characteristics. The set of countries used is taken from the developed and the developing world, spans every continent, and includes Spain, Iran, Indonesia, Kenya and Costa Rica. All of these countries have the requisite micro census data (circa 2011) needed for this type of analysis, including children ever born, marital status and educational attainment.

Methods. Multilevel logistic regression techniques are used to estimate the weight of different factors behind the residential choices of elderly women. Decomposition exercises of intercountry differences are also presented.

Results. Basic theoretical expectations about micro-determinants of living alone are validated and compared with those found in the existing literature. As expected, the importance for living alone of not having children is greater in more familistic and less developed societies where institutions tend to be weaker. Population characteristics explain only a small part of the differences in living alone that characterize these societies.

Discussion. While economic development accounts for an important part of living alone among elderly women observed in the five countries, many of the observed differences are also explained by societal characteristics such as family systems and available policy options. Everywhere levels of living alone are likely to increase in the future, but strong differences in the pace of change are likely to emerge in view of different levels of development and familism.

Presented in Session 87: Families in Later Life Stages