Ageing and Society

Research Article

The role of European welfare states in intergenerational money transfers: a micro-level perspective


a1 Sociology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

a2 Sociology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


This article uses a comprehensive theoretical framework to explain why parents send money to particular children, and examines whether intergenerational solidarity is shaped by spending on various welfare domains or provisions as a percentage of gross domestic product. The theoretical model at the level of parents and children distinguishes parental resources and children's needs as the factors most likely to influence intergenerational money transfers. Differences in state spending on various welfare domains are then used to hypothesise in which countries children with specific needs are most likely to receive a transfer. For parents we hypothesise in which countries parents with specific available resources are most likely to send a transfer. We use data from the first wave of the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to analyse the influence of welfare-state provisions on the likelihood of intergenerational transfers in ten European countries. The results indicate that, in line with our expectations, the likelihood of a transfer being made is the outcome of an intricate resolution of the resources (ability) of the parents and the needs of a child. Rather large differences between countries in money transfers were found. The results suggest that, at least with reference to cross-generational money transfers, no consistent differences by welfare state regime were found.

(Accepted April 27 2010)

(Online publication August 09 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Niels Schenk, Sociology, Erasmus University, P.O. Box 1738, Rotterdam 3000 DR, The Netherlands. E-mail: