"Between Generations and Across Borders: Living Arrangements of the Elderly and their Children in Victorian Canada and the United States"


Department of History
University of Minnesota (1997)

By: Lisa Y. Dillon

Between Generations and Across Borders: Living Arrangements of the Elderly and their Children in Victorian Canada and the United States

This dissertation examines the living arrangements of the elderly and their children in Victorian Canada and the United States. A comparative work, this study contrasts the processes of inter-generational co-residence north and south of the border. It is based on a fully integrated set of census data from 1871 Canada and the United States in 1880, and offers the first truly consistent international comparison of nineteenth-century household structure. The dissertation demonstrates that the Canadian elderly lived with unmarried children to a significantly greater extent than did their aged American counterparts. Conversely, the American elderly resided with unrelated persons in greater numbers than did the Canadian aged. These disparities were directly related to differences in the timing of Canadian and American sons and daughters departure from home. Differences in the life course transitions of youths were in turn a product of distinct demographic structures and economic opportunities and similar gender norms north and south of the border. Qualitative research on intergenerational relationships outside the household, as well as lateral ties with siblings, friends and neighbours, demonstrate the important role played by proximity in sustaining close, supportive relationships. This evidence confirms the importance of studying co-residence patterns within the household. It also suggests that collective emotional differences between Canadian and American families resulted from structural differences in their living arrangements.