Related BLS programs | Related articles
September 2006, Vol. 129, No. 9
The 'sandwich generation': women caring for parents and children
Charles R. Pierret
The term "sandwich generation" has become increasingly common in the United States over the last two decades. In a collective sense, the term has been used to describe the middle-aged generation who have elderly parents and dependent children.1 In the individual sense, the term describes people who are squeezed between the simultaneous demands of caring for their aging parents and supporting their dependent children. This article uses the term in the individual sense and estimates how many women 45 to 56 years old are part of the sandwich generation based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women (NLSYW). It examines demographic characteristics of these women and the type and amount of support they give to their children and parents.
The size of the sandwich generation depends on how one defines it. An AARP report found that 44 percent of 45- to 55-year-olds both had at least both one living parent and one child under age 21. Only 7 percent of 45- to 55-year-olds, however, lived in a household containing three generations; usually oneself, one’s parents or in-laws, and one’s children.2 Support, of course, can mean something other than co-residence. Parents may provide financial support to their nonresident children for college expenses, the purchase of a home, or just as gifts. They may also provide help with childcare or household errands. Adult children can likewise help their elderly parents with personal care or errands, or with financial assistance, even if they do not live together.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 2006 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (64K)
1 Russell A. Ward and Glenna Spitze, "Sandwiched Marriages: The Implications of Child and Parent Relations for Marital Quality in Midlife," Social Forces, vol. 77, no. 2, 1988, pp. 647–66.
2 "In the Middle: A Report on Multicultural Boomers Coping with Family and Aging Issues," AARP, Washington, DC, July 2001.
National Longitudinal Surveys
Related Monthly Labor Review articles
children, and women's employment: what do we know?—Dec.
Married mothers' work patterns: the job-family compromise.—June 1994.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers