Living arrangements of older adults in the developing world: an analysis of demographic and health survey household surveys

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2002 May;57(3):S145-57. doi: 10.1093/geronb/57.3.s145.


Objectives: This study examines living arrangements of older adults across 43 developing countries and compares patterns by gender, world regions, and macro-level indicators of socioeconomic development.

Methods: Data are from Demographic and Health Surveys. The country is the unit of analysis. Indicators include household size, headship, relationship to head, and coresidence with spouse, children, and others. Unweighted regional averages and ordinary least-squares regressions determine whether variations exist.

Results: Average household sizes are large, but a substantially greater proportion of older adults live alone than do individuals in other age groups. Females are more likely than males to live alone and are less likely to live with a spouse or head of a household. Heading a household and living in a large household and with young children is more prevalent in Africa than elsewhere. Coresidence with adult children is most common in Asia and least in Africa. Coresidence is more frequent with sons than with daughters in both Asia and Africa, but not in Latin America. As a country's level of schooling rises, most living arrangement indicators change with families becoming more nuclear. Urbanization and gross national product have no significant effects.

Discussion: Although living arrangements differ across world regions and genders, within-region variations exist and are explained in part by associations between countrywide levels of education and household structure. These associations may be caused by a variety of intermediating factors, such as migration of children and preferences for privacy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Developing Countries*
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class