Poverty and family solidarity: a case study of Portuguese aged population
Alice Delerue, University of Minho
In Portugal, the eldest remain particularly vulnerable to poverty: 30% of the population aged 65 and over live below the poverty line. Does poverty mean less family solidarity? To answer this question we used data from a sample survey of 1100 elderly. From a categorical principal components analysis based on variables of monetary poverty, of poverty according to living conditions and of subjective poverty, we define a multiple index of poverty. Structural and functional intergenerational family solidarities (Bengtson and Roberts, 1991) were studied within groups according to their level of poverty describe by this multiple index. We found that Portugal does not follow the tendency of the majority of European countries where living alone in old age can be an option made possible by the improvement of the living conditions of this segment of population. In Portugal, the poorest elderly are those who live alone or who live far from an adult child. The geographical distance between residences of elderly parents and the adult descendents determines the frequency of the contacts. Visits are less frequent in the poorest group when the parents dwelling place are situated at a medium distance far away from their sons or daughters' domicile. The poorest elderly also have less phone contacts with their offsprings. Family loneliness is then more significant in this social group. However, when one analyzes the exchanges between elderly and their descendents, one notes that the poorest elderly obtain and provide care to their children more often than elderly from others social groups. All things considered, structural intergenerational family solidarities are less intense in the poorest group but functional solidarities are more expressive. This last fact may contribute to reduce aged-related inequalities but at the same time reinforces gender inequalities considering that exchanges are mainly supported by women.