, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 229–260 | Cite as

Stepfamily Structure and Transfers Between Generations in U.S. Families

  • Emily E. WiemersEmail author
  • Judith A. Seltzer
  • Robert F. Schoeni
  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • Suzanne M. Bianchi


Unstable couple relationships and high rates of repartnering have increased the share of U.S. families with stepkin. Yet data on stepfamily structure are from earlier periods, include only coresident stepkin, or cover only older adults. In this study, we use new data on family structure and transfers in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to describe the prevalence and numbers of stepparents and stepchildren for adults of all ages and to characterize the relationship between having stepkin and transfers of time and money between generations, regardless of whether the kin live together. We find that having stepparents and stepchildren is very common among U.S. households, especially younger households. Furthermore, stepkin substantially increase the typical household’s family size; stepparents and stepchildren increase a household’s number of parents and adult children by nearly 40 % for married/cohabiting couples with living parents and children. However, having stepkin is associated with fewer transfers, particularly time transfers between married women and their stepparents and stepchildren. The increase in the number of family members due to stepkin is insufficient to compensate for the lower likelihood of transfers in stepfamilies. Our findings suggest that recent cohorts with more stepkin may give less time assistance to adult children and receive less time assistance from children in old age than prior generations.


Intergenerational transfers Stepfamilies Family size Parent–child relationships 



This article was presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Population Association of America in San Diego, CA. We thank Shelly Lundberg for comments on that earlier draft. The data from the 2013 PSID Rosters and Transfers Module used in this article, as well as the analyses presented, were funded by NIA Grant P01 AG029409, and the construction of the weights was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant No. 2011-6-24). The project was also supported in part by the California Center for Population Research at UCLA (CCPR), which receives core support (P2C-HD041022) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and by the Duke Population Research Institute (DuPRI), which receives core support (P30AG034424) from the National Institute on Aging. We thank Sung Park and Joshua Rasmussen for their research assistance in preparing this article. Sadly, Suzanne Bianchi passed away before this article was published, but the article could not have been written without her contributions.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 238 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily E. Wiemers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Judith A. Seltzer
    • 2
  • Robert F. Schoeni
    • 3
  • V. Joseph Hotz
    • 4
  • Suzanne M. Bianchi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.California Center for Population Research and Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Social Research, Ford School of Public Policy, and Department of EconomicsUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Duke Population Research Institute and Department of EconomicsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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