Living arrangements of non-partnered pensioners in Europe: alone or with others?

Pilar Zueras, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Pau Miret Gamundi, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

This study focuses on residential autonomy, analysing through the last decade the living arrangements of the elderly -aged 66 to 95- who do not live with a partner, in several European countries. The main hypothesis is that meanwhile health and wealth allow it; the probability of living alone is higher than living with relatives or other people. However, previous research has stated different residential patterns among Nordic, Central and Southern countries. The aim of this paper is to examine whether the higher or lower proneness to live with other people instead of living alone observed in these European regions is cultural or, on the contrary, there are structural or circumstantial factors that could explain the differences. This paper analyses individual and contextual characteristics of those people living with others regarding those living alone. We use the four available waves of Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2004/5 - 2010/1) a timespan that allows checking the effects of the economic crisis and consider the 10 countries participating in all waves. The observed interregional distance of coresidence ratio increases after controlling for structural and contextual factors, which suggests idiosyncratic cultures. However, the main results show that: 1) severe limitations in daily live instrumental activities is the factor that has the greatest impact on the probability of coresidence; 2) the economic crisis has triggered a shift on the trend driving to an increase of coresidence; and 3) both higher educational and higher income levels entail a lower ratio of coresidence; suggesting higher freedom of choice in Nordic countries rather than familism in Southern Europe. The spread of the crisis has led to increased coresidence of older people in all the countries considered. However, it is expected that it will have a stronger impact in those countries where the crisis is fiercer.

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Presented in Session 39: Living arrangements