Spatial Distance between Parents and Adult Children in the United States

J Marriage Fam. 2020 Apr;82(2):822-840. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12606. Epub 2019 Oct 14.


Objective: This brief report presents contemporary national estimates of the spatial distance between residences of parents and adult children in the United States, including distance to one's nearest parent and/or adult child and whether one lives near all of their parents and adult children.

Background: The most recent national estimates of parent-child spatial proximity come from data for the early 1990s. Moreover, research has rarely assessed spatial clustering of all parents and adult children.

Method: Data are from the 2013 Panel Study of Income Dynamics on residential locations of adults 25 and older and each of their parents and adult children. Two measures of spatial proximity were estimated: distance to nearest parent or adult child, and the share of adults who have all parents and/or adult children living nearby. Sociodemographic and geographic differences were examined for both measures.

Results: Among adults with at least one living parent or adult child, a significant majority (74.8%) had their nearest parent or adult child within 30 miles, and about one third (35.5%) had all parents and adult children living that close. Spatial proximity differed substantially among sociodemographic groups, with those who were disadvantaged more likely to have their parents or adult children nearby. In most cases, sociodemographic disparities were much higher when spatial proximity was measured by proximity to all parents and all adult children instead of to nearest parent or nearest adult child.

Conclusion: Disparities in having all parents and/or adult children nearby may be a result of family solidarity and also may affect family solidarity. This report sets the stage for new investigations of the spatial dimension of family cohesion.

Keywords: Disparities; Families; Geographic proximity; Intergenerational relations; Living arrangements; Panel Study of Income Dynamics.