In a pinch, families come to the rescue. In the past year, 26 percent of American households provided financial assistance to family (or friends) who needed help with day-to-day expenses, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study. Analyzing data from its Survey of American Family Finances, Pew reports that the helping households provided a median of $1,000 in assistance.
Some families do much more, providing their adult children with what Pew call "mobility-enhancing" funds: money for higher education and homeownership. According to Pew's analysis of the 2013 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, 10 percent of adult children received financial help from their parents for home purchasing, and 31 percent received funds for higher education. Of course the wealthiest families are most likely to provide these funds. Among adults raised in the wealthiest one-third of families, 52 percent received money from their parents for higher education and 61 percent received money for home purchasing. Among those in the least wealthy one-third, the comparable figures are just 14 and 6 percent.
"The safety net provided to households by friends and relatives," says Pew, "is a hidden dimension of the financial system and one that may reinforce existing advantages and disadvantages in family finances."
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, Extended Family Support and Household Balance Sheets