Sources of emergency help and routine assistance in old age

Dennis P. Hogan, David J. Eggebeen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


We use data from the 1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households to examine the consistency between expected and observed sources of support, and patterns of support during times of need for older Americans. We find partial support for the concept of social support convoys. Consistent with past research, we find that most older persons report they have someone, typically adult children, to turn to in emergencies. We also find that routine assistance is commonplace among the elderly. In contrast to past work, and inconsistent with the idea of convoys of social support that stand ready to assist elderly persons when they are in need, we find that support networks appear to be quite simple - persons are either receiving help or not. Furthermore, we find that support is not responsive to some needs, and inadequately responsive to others. A significant minority of elders are receiving no informal assistance; and elderly Americans in need are only slightly more likely to be receiving aid than those who are not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-936
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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