Older adults without close kin in the United States.

TitleOlder adults without close kin in the United States.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMargolis, R, Verdery, AM
JournalJournals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Date Published07/2017
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsAdult children, Marriage, Support systems

Objectives: We document the size and characteristics of the population of older adults without close kin in the contemporary United States.

Methods: Using the Health and Retirement Study, we examine the prevalence of lacking different types and combinations of living kin, examine how kinless-ness is changing across birth cohorts, and provide estimates of kinless-ness for sociodemographic and health groups.

Results: In 1998-2010, 6.6% of U.S. adults aged 55 and above lacked a living spouse and biological children and 1% lacked a partner/spouse, any children, biological siblings, and biological parents. Kinless-ness, defined both ways, is becoming more common among adults in their 50s and 60s for more recent birth cohorts. Lacking close kin is more prevalent among women than men, native born than immigrants, never-married, those living alone, college-educated women, those with low levels of wealth, and those in poor health.

Discussion: Kinless-ness should be of interest to policy makers because it is more common among those with social, economic and health risks; those who live alone, with low levels of wealth, and disability. Aging research should address the implications of kinless-ness for public health, social isolation, and the demand for institutional care.

User Guide Notes


Alternate JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Citation Key9119
PubMed ID28575387
PubMed Central IDPMC5927096