Recent literature on intergenerational relations – although giving different explanations – suggests that the giving of money and services to children reinforces the receiving of money and services by elderly people. To explore the flow of support between the generations we present evidence about the type and intensity of the help that elderly people receive from their adult children and their families. By comparing five developed countries we examine whether the amount of family help transferred to older people is shaped by a ‘crowding out’ process, in which more generous welfare systems displace family solidarity. Taking co-residence into account the international comparison does not support the crowding out hypothesis. We then show that the giving of services by older people to their adult children increases the probability that they receive help from them. This indirectly supports the reverse hypothesis, namely that the relationship between the state and the family may be described as a process of ‘crowding in’: generous welfare systems which give resources to elderly people help to increase rather than undermine family solidarity.
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