Volume 46 - Article 36 | Pages 1065–1108  

Intergenerational support during the rise of mobile telecommunication in Indonesia

By Yiyue Huangfu, Jenna Nobles


Background: In many Southeast Asian populations, urbanization and migration have increased the share of older adults supported by nonresident children. The expansion of mobile telephone infrastructure has emerged as a mechanism to bridge the spatial dispersion of families and to facilitate support for aging adults.

Objective: We document two decades of change in the proximity of adult children of older people in Indonesia. We then ask how the arrival and expansion of mobile communication infrastructure changed key dimensions of intergenerational support: frequency of contact and material transfers.

Methods: We combine data from a longitudinal, population-representative household survey with area-level information on mobile signal strength in Indonesia spanning the development of mobile telecommunication. We describe shifts in the family network available to older adults as well as changes in support between 1997 and 2014. We use fixed effect specifications to estimate the impact of the arrival of mobile telecommunication on intergenerational support.

Results: For Indonesian older adults, the geographic dispersal of adult children increased over the two-decade period, but the proximate residence of at least one child remained stable. Weekly contact and the monetary value of material transfers to older people doubled. The arrival of mobile technology increased contact between aging parents and their adult children but had little impact on material transfers.

Contribution: Despite the spatial dispersion of adult children, familial support for the Indonesian older-age population has increased substantially over the past two decades. Telecommunication has supported ongoing intrafamilial exchange, but the effects differ across dimensions of support.

Author's Affiliation

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