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Historical Trends in Parental Financial Support of Young Adults

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Robert F. Schoeni

We use the Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) to examine trends in young adults’ dependence on financial support from parents. MTF began in 1975 and surveys a new national sample of approximately 16,000 high school seniors each year, roughly 2,400 of which are selected annually (since 1976) to participate in a longitudinal panel. As part of each follow-up questionnaire respondents are asked to report the degree to which they depend on their parents for financial support. The MTF is the only large-scale, longitudinal, nationally representative study that provides the opportunity to study this behavior in a historical context. Using these unique data, we provide a description of trends in parental support among young adults—including variations by gender, race, and family background—going back nearly 35 years. We also examine how shifts in demographic and economic behavior vary with these trends, paying particular attention to traditional markers of adulthood, e.g. educational progress, employment and relationship formation.

Funding Period: 03/01/2013 to 06/30/2014

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