Journal Article

Projections of human kinship for all countries

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120:52, e2315722120 (2023)
Open Access


Demographers have long attempted to project future changes in the size and composition of populations, but have ignored what these processes will mean for the size, composition, and age distribution of family networks. Kinship structures matter because family solidarity—a crucial source of informal care for millions of people around the world—is conditional on kin being alive. Here, we present innovative projections of biological kin for the 1950 to 2100 period and discuss what they imply for the availability of informal care. Overall, we project that the number of living kin for individuals will decline dramatically worldwide. While a 65-yo woman in 1950 could expect to have 41 living kin, a 65-yo woman in 2095 is projected to have just 25 [18.8 to 34.7] relatives (lower and upper 80% projection intervals). This represents a 38% [15 to 54] global decline. The composition of family networks is also expected to change, with the numbers of living grandparents and great-grandparents markedly increasing, and the numbers of cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren declining. Family networks will age considerably, as we project a widening age gap between individuals and their kin due to lower and later fertility and longer lifespans. In Italy, for example, the average age of a grandmother of a 35-yo woman is expected to increase from 77.9 y in 1950 to 87.7 y [87.1 to 88.5] in 2095. The projected changes in kin supply will put pressure on the already stretched institutional systems of social support, as more individuals age with smaller and older family networks.

Keywords: World, biological family, family composition, kinship, projections
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.