Inheritance in Contemporary America: The Social Dimensions of Giving across Generations

Overview

With the baby boom generation on the cusp of retirement, life expectancies on the rise, and the nation’s cultural makeup in flux, the United States is faced with social and policy quandaries that demand attention. How are elders to balance the competing claims of helping family members during their lifetime, saving for old age, and planning estates? What roles should the state, family, and individuals play in supporting people during later life? Are new familial gift-giving trends sustainable, and, if so, what ...

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Inheritance in Contemporary America: The Social Dimensions of Giving across Generations

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Overview

With the baby boom generation on the cusp of retirement, life expectancies on the rise, and the nation’s cultural makeup in flux, the United States is faced with social and policy quandaries that demand attention. How are elders to balance the competing claims of helping family members during their lifetime, saving for old age, and planning estates? What roles should the state, family, and individuals play in supporting people during later life? Are new familial gift-giving trends sustainable, and, if so, what effects might they have on future generations?

Inheritance in Contemporary America tackles the complex legal, policy, and emotional issues that surround bequests and inheritances in an era of increasing longevity, broadening ethnicity, and unraveling social safety nets. Through empirical analyses, case studies, interviews, and anecdotes, Jacqueline L. Angel explains the historical nature of familial giving and how it is changing as the nation’s demographics shift. She explores the legal, personal, and policy complexities involved in passing wealth down through generations and provides a cross-disciplinary context for exploring the indelible effects that newly unfolding inheritance practices will have on various societal cohorts and the nation in general.

From nuclear and extended families to the state and nongovernmental bodies, Angel’s engaging study explores how attitudes toward giving are evolving and confronts in stark terms the legacy that these shifts in attitude will leave. This book will be a vital tool for scholars and practitioners in gerontology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and public policy.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

American Journal of Sociology - Jens Beskert

Provides a good overview of some central questions regarding the role of gifts and bequests in the social fabric.

The Gerontologist

This timely and important book breaks new ground. Given the complex factors that influence inheritance decisions and behavior, it is not surprising that few books have been published on this topic. Comprehensive and thorough, Jacqueline L. Angel helps open new windows to understanding the ways we think about our gift-giving behaviors in late life and their effect on personal legacy.

American Journal of Sociology
Provides a good overview of some central questions regarding the role of gifts and bequests in the social fabric.

— Jens Beskert

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801887635
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline L. Angel is a professor of sociology at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the coauthor of Who Will Care for Us? Aging and Long-term Care in Multicultural America.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface     xi
The Story of Inheritance: Intergenerational Giving in Aging America     1
Trends in Wealth Transfers     4
The Aging American Family     4
The Inheritance Revolution     10
The Origins of Our Inheritance Laws     11
Early America     12
Forging a New Path: Women and Inheritance Laws     14
Inheritance in Modern America     16
Family and Inheritance Changes     19
Decisions about Inheritance     20
The Political Realities of Retirement Security     24
Who Is Going to Care for Us?     25
The Political Economy of Giving and Receiving     25
The Legacy of the Modern Welfare State     27
The Dilemma     29
Employer Pension versus Personal Savings     30
Cross-National Research     32
Dimensions of Giving between Generations     36
The Joy of Giving     37
Theoretical Perspectives on Money: Good versus Evil?     41
Contemporary Studies of Money     42
Gifts as Assistance     43
Contextualizing Gift Giving     47
Simply Love     48
Fellowship for Funds     48
Giving,Not Receiving     49
The Family Life Cycle and Inheritance     54
Money Memories: Narratives of the Meaning of Giving and Receiving     58
History Lessons     58
The Silent Generation     59
Baby Boomers     60
Expanding Obligations Equal Shrinking Inheritances     62
Drawing Down Assets     63
Deciding Too Late or Not at All     64
Family Disagreements     65
Background on the Interviews     65
Early Beginnings of Family Dynamics and Money     67
Money as a Gift     67
Money with Strings Attached     70
How Money Matters     71
The Costs of Wealth     73
A Guarded Secret     74
The Value of Gifts     75
Contemporary Values and Beliefs regarding Intergenerational Transfers     77
It Isn't Just Money     77
Family Values and Ideologies     78
Leaving a Legacy     80
Transferring Assets     81
Inter Vivos Exchanges     82
Children Helping Parents     84
Choosing Inheritance     85
Challenges to Family Ideologies     86
To Give or Not to Give, That Is the Question     89
Leaving a Legacy: Personal Security, Family Obligations, and the State     92
The Effects of Public Policy on Family Gift Giving     93
How Estate Taxes Vary     94
Estate Taxes and Exemptions     95
Estate Planning for the Family     98
Private Long-term Care Insurance     101
Estate Recovery and Related Long-term Care Financing Issues     102
Inter Vivos Transfers and Inheritance     103
The Impact of Gift Giving on the Family: What Helps? What Hurts?     104
Myths and Realities of Making a Will     106
Inheritance and the Next Generation of Old-Age Policies     111
The New Status Quo     112
Sorting Out the Debate     114
Possible Scenarios     116
The Politics of Social Security Reform     119
The Face of the Future Workforce     122
Policy Options: Public, Private, and Combined     123
Health Care Insecurity     127
Implications and Conclusions     131
Summary and New Directions for Research     134
The Demography of Gift Giving in Late Life     136
Should Women Worry about Their Retirement?     137
Generational Differences: Money Memories and Family Ideology     140
An Agenda for Future Research     142
Methodology     147
Questions Used in Semistructured
In-Depth Interview     150
Bibliography     151
Index     173
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