Financial Transfers to Husbands’ and Wives’ Elderly Mothers in Mexico: Do Couples Exhibit Preferential Treatment by Lineage?

Noel-Miller, Claire, and Rania Tfaily
Working paper no. 2008-04


This study extends research on differences by lineage in elderly parents’ receipt of assistance from adult children to the Mexican context by examining couples’ preferential allocation of financial transfers to a husband’s or a wife’s elderly mother. The analysis differentiates between mothers’ financial and physical needs and considers the effect of transfers by siblings of each marital partner to their respective mothers on the couple’s choice of a recipient for their financial gift. We find evidence of competition for financial assistance between mothers, with only few couples providing assistance to both. In contrast to previous research in the U.S., we show that mid-life Mexican couples disproportionately favor husbands’ mothers when faced with mothers’ financial needs, but that couples exhibit greater financial responsiveness to wives’ mothers’ needs for personal assistance. Our analysis indicates strong effects of help from siblings on couples’ transfers to a partner’s own mother.