Two major interpretations have been advanced to explain the frequent finding that ethnic elders have more extensive kin support networks than Anglo elders. Structural interpretations argue that the exigencies of poverty and ill health cause minorities to rely more heavily on family members for help than Anglos, whereas cultural explanations rest upon presumed differences in family values and attitudes. Despite the prominence of these two explanations, direct tests of the cultural model are rare. In this study, we use data from a study of 100 African, Mexican, Vietnamese, European, and Native American adults to test the hypothesis that there are ethnic group differences in familism, filial responsibility norms, and attitudes toward the elderly. The role of age and socioeconomic status in explaining racial/ethnic variation in these values is also explored. Results suggest that there are important cultural differences among groups, that these differences are not a function of group differences in SES or age, and that the differences are not consistent with the common depiction of traditional ethnic “familism”.

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