Sept. 4, 2013 - In 2011, 7.7 million children in the U.S.–one-in-ten—were living with a grandparent, and approximately 3 million of these children were also being cared for primarily by that grandparent, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Both of these numbers rose rapidly after the onset of the recession in 2007 and have stabilized since 2009, when the recession officially ended.
In most cases (71%), grandchildren living with a grandparent are actually living in the grandparent's household. This share rises to 94% among those children who are also being cared for primarily by a grandparent.
Children who are cared for primarily by a grandparent are more likely to be living below the poverty line (28% versus 17%) and have lower median household income ($36,000 versus $48,000) than children who are not being cared for primarily by a grandparent.
In 80% of the cases where children are living with a grandparent, at least one of the child's parents is also in the household. And in more than half of the cases where children are both living with a grandparent and being cared for primarily by that grandparent, at least one of the child's parents is also present. Some 52% of children are living with one parent in addition to a grandparent caregiver, and an additional 8% are living with two parents.
Many of the parents in these households have characteristics suggestive of the need for family assistance. For example, 44% had a baby as a teen, and 12% have a disability. One-fifth (21%) are unemployed, 29% lack a high school diploma and 22% are currently enrolled in school.
Other findings include:
Among racial and ethnic groups, black children are the most likely to be cared for primarily by a grandparent—8% are, compared with 4% of Hispanics, 3% of whites, and 2% of Asian children.
Among those children being cared for primarily by a grandparent, the plurality (39%) are white, while 26% are black, 25% Hispanic and 3% Asian.
About half (51%) of black children being cared for primarily by a grandparent are also living with at least one parent. This share rises to 61% for whites, 66% for Hispanics and 84% for Asians being cared for primarily by a grandparent.
Children younger than 6 are more likely than older children to live with or be cared for by a grandparent: 14% of those below age 6 are co-residing with a grandparent, and 6% are being cared for by a grandparent. Among older children, about 9% are living with a grandparent, and 4% are being cared for primarily by a grandparent.
Some 7 million grandparents are living with a grandchild—an increase of 22% from 2000, when fewer than 6 million grandparents were living with a grandchild.
Among co-resident grandparents, roughly four-in-ten (39%) are also serving as the primary caregiver to a grandchild in the household.
Most (55%) of these grandparent caregivers have had this responsibility for three years or more. This is particularly common among black grandparent caregivers—61% have cared for a grandchild for at least three years.
Fully half (51%) of grandparent caregivers are white, 22% are black, 20% are Hispanic, and 3% are Asian. Among the population ages 50 and older, a much larger share—76%—is white, and smaller shares are black (10%) and Hispanic (9%). Asians comprise 4%.
One-fifth (22%) of grandparent caregivers are living below the poverty line. This share is just 10% among the full population ages 50 and older.
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