Helping Across Generations: A Qualitative Study of Retirement Challenges Among Unionized Workers

Awarded Scholars:
Kristin Seefeldt, University of Michigan
Project Date:
Jul 2019
Award Amount:
$43,223

Union jobs provide livable wages and good benefits, including pensions, for those without four-year college degrees. But they have been declining for decades. Now that fewer workers have access to good-paying jobs and benefits, and public benefits are difficult to access, those with union ties may find themselves serving as a private safety net for needy relatives, sharing their resources across households and generations. How do workers balance providing help with satisfying their own economic needs? How do union retirees navigate retirement and provide help to others on their fixed incomes? Drawing on two rounds of in-depth interviews with workers and retirees from unionized jobs in southeast Michigan, sociologist Kristin Seefeldt will examine the ways that these adults provide help (both financial and practical) to their adult children, extended kin, and others. She will also investigate the extent to which serving as a private safety net is perceived to affect respondents’ own economic wellbeing, particularly planning for and during retirement. 

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