Abstract: Examining the Decade Ahead: Exploring Shifting Age and Identity Demographics on Families (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

582P Examining the Decade Ahead: Exploring Shifting Age and Identity Demographics on Families

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Taylor Patskanick, LCSW, MSW, MPH, Technical Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Julie Miller, MSW, PhD, Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Lisa D'Ambrosio, PhD, Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Joseph Coughlin, PhD, Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Background and purpose: Significant demographic shifts are occurring in the United States (U.S.), which in 2030 will not only have 20% of its population reach the traditional retirement age but, by 2045, is expected to be minority white. In 2030 Generation X (born 1965-1980) will be between the ages of 50-65 and considered aging into later life. Anticipating the decade ahead requires an understanding that changing age and racial/ethnic diversity in the U.S. will prompt new trends in household composition and family relationships, including multigenerational living and changes to roles in the family.

Methods: To begin to explore and describe these trends, fifteen online focus groups were conducted in August 2020 with ethnically diverse participants ages 40-69 (n=92). Focus groups were stratified by participants’ self-reported age (40s, 50s, 60s) and their primary racial/ethnic identity (Black, Latine/x, Asian, white, Multiracial). All participants completed a pre-group questionnaire capturing demographic data including nationalities, immigration histories, geographic location, household characteristics, and care responsibilities. Focus groups were moderated using a semi-structured guide by facilitators who matched the primary racial/ethnic identity as group members. Quantitative analyses of the questionnaire triangulated focus group data, which were analyzed by three coders using qualitative description orientation and coded with a codebook and a manifest content approach.

Results: The majority of participants were born in the U.S. (80.4%), had a parent(s) who had immigrated to the U.S. (51.6%) and were currently married (44.6%). Gender differences arose in focus groups about the roles participants play in the family; several participants noted roles they had inherited from aging parents and those they planned to pass down to younger generations. Black and Latine/x participants were more likely to report living with grandchild(ren), and Asian, Latine/x, and white participants were more likely to report living with a parent(s) or parent(s)-in- law. Variance in the benefits of multigenerational living was found by age across focus groups. Latine/x participants frequently described caregiving for aging parents as a cultural value, but many participants who raised children in the U.S. but who were not born in the U.S. described cultural gaps in family attitudes about caregiving for aging parents that had widened across the generations. The COVID-19 pandemic had prompted many life transitions across groups: working from home, losing work or starting a new job, supporting children through remote learning, and family member moves into and out of the home.

Conclusion: There was heterogeneity in cultural identity across racial/ethnic identity groups. Participants often identified as American and as members of multiple racial/ethnic groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted living situations, prompting a rise in multigenerational households. Life stage and culture influenced relationships in the family and individuals took on differing roles in the family system by gender and age. Social workers across multiple domains of practice must utilize a multicultural lens when interacting with multigenerational families. Implications for the provision of social services and policy in light of shifting needs, values, and decision-making of families will be discussed.