Research project

Intergenerational flows of support in later life

Project overview

Flows of support between different generations of kin can be upwards or downwards. This project will investigate flows in both directions by exploring regular and one-off financial, emotional and instrumental contributions.

Inheritances constitute one of the largest intergenerational financial flows, especially amongst homeowners. At the same time, funding long-term care remains one of the most critical unresolved policy issues.

If an older person needs to spend time in residential care, they may have to pay part of the fees and in some instances may need to sell their home to do so. Information on inheritance planning is now widespread but financial literacy varies across the population and not all older people are aware of how to manage their assets. Within this project, we investigate the complex interactions between informal / unpaid care, residential care, housing, and inheritance from a number of different perspectives.

Using in-depth qualitative interviews we explore the preferences of older people and how they and their families make decisions around moves into more age-friendly housing e.g. smaller or single floor accommodation, supported accommodation or to live with family members, as well as moves to residential care. We also investigate the role flows of support through (anticipated) inheritance play in shaping those decisions.

This is complemented by quantitative analyses using data from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study to examine downsizing during later life, and the Wealth and Assets Survey to study financial literacy and inheritance planning. The research will also provide insights into how transfers of housing wealth between generations may intensify intra-generational inequalities.

Outputs from this project inform contemporary policy debates around funding long-term care, housing and inheritance taxes, with consideration being given to issues of 'fairness' between and within generations. Drawing on the team's expertise in administrative data linkage, separate research explores changing intergenerational experiences, relationships and digital literacy. This activity uses new data on family health in Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS) that has resulted from collaboration with Generation Scotland.

This research project is funded through the ESRC Centre for Population Change Connecting Generations, directed by Professor Jane Falkingham. This research project is led by Professor Athina Vlachantoni with Professor Maria Evandrou, Professor Jane Falkingham and Dr Min Qin.


Lead researcher

Professor Athina Vlachantoni

Professor of Gerontology & Social Policy

Research interests

  • Informal care provision and receipt
  • Unmet need for social care
  • Pension protection
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Other researchers

Professor Maria Evandrou FAcSS


Research interests

  • ESRC: Centre for Population Change (CPC): I am Co-Director of ESRC Centre for Population Change. My collaborative work focuses on a) Increasing longevity and the changing life course, and b) Understanding intergenerational relations & exchange. For more information, please visit the CPC website.
  • ESRC CPC - Connecting Generations: I am also Co-Director of the ESRC CPC-Connecting Generations research programme. The research will investigate areas such as changing intergenerational relationships; intergenerational flows of support in later life; and work-life balance, employment and caring responsibilities in mid-life. More information on the Connecting Generations research programme here.
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Professor Jane Falkingham

VP Engagement and International
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Dr Min Qin

Senior Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Intergenerational exchange
  • Population ageing
  • Later life health and wellbeing
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs