The Health Benefits of Grandchildren

Robert D. Plotnick, University of Washington

Grandchildren may affect their grandparents’ health for several reasons. For example, grandchildren provide incentive to adopt healthier behaviors since grandparents can look forward to interactions with their grandchildren, thus increasing the value of future health stocks. Conversely, if grandchildren intensify the bequest motive, grandparents may consume less, including less health care, to increase their estates. Yet there is little evidence on the impacts of grandchildren on elders’ health. We use the HRS to examine differences between elders with and without grandchildren in self-rated health, number of nights spent in a hospital or nursing home, total medical expenditures, body-mass index, depressive symptoms, amount of physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. We use OLS to determine if there is a significant association between having grandchildren and each health indicator. We use instrumental variables and fixed effects models to address the possibility that unobservables may affect both being a grandparent and health.

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Presented in Session 61: Economic Perspectives on Intrafamily Resource Flows