With a Little Help From Our Family?

Undercover Economist Tim Hartford looked at a little-noticed survey by the US Census looking at households experiencing hardships in 2011 (like having your phone disconnected, missing rent and mortgage payments, and not seeing a doctor or dentist when needed), and who helped when times were tough. He found that more than half of households expected help from family members, but not too many received it:

The overwhelming majority were disappointed. It was rare for family members to provide help with rent arrears — about one time in six — and it was rarer still to receive financial help from other sources or for other purposes.

Hartford uses this survey to launch into research showing that when it comes to finding a job, it’s usually people we barely know — acquaintances, old college friends — who become especially useful, and arrives at the conclusion that when it comes to our careers and paying our bills, our families may not be too helpful (and maybe that’s why payday loans are so popular, he suggests).

Is this true for you? In my own life, my family doesn’t have money to spare, nor have they helped me find a job, but on the other hand, they have turned to me for help with both.

Photo: Rafael M Souza

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