Caregiving, Recession Likely Behind 64% Rise in Children Living with Grandparent

There are many different data sets we can look at regarding family living arrangements, multigenerational households and grandparents caregiving for grandchildren, but consistently they all show growth in recent years. The latest Census Bureau report on the topic once again confirms the increase in families bringing generations together.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the report, Living Arrangements of Children: 2009, which indicated 7.8 million children live with at least one grandparent, more than double the 4.7 million children living with a grandparent in 1991 (a 64% increase.) The data are from the household relationship module of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Of those 7.8 million children, the majority (75%) are living in multigenerational homes, with at least one parent also present – about the same percentage as in 1991. That means about 25% are being raised by grandparents with no parents present.

Within racial/ethnic groups, the largest increase in children living with a grandparent over the past two decades has been among white children, with 5% of White children living with a grandparent in 1991, and 9% in 2009. Among Hispanic children, 12% lived with a grandparent in 1991, and 14% in 2009. Black children saw a similar increase, with 15% of Black children living with a grandparent in 1991 and 17% in 2009.

I was interviewed by the Washington Times about these new data, and I stressed the various reasons I believe these numbers have increased so significantly, including:

  • The aging of the population and increased need for adult children to care for aging parents, often combining households to do so – even when there are still children living in the home.
  • The recent recession and housing crisis has hit families across all socio-economic groups, with many young families turning to the grandparent generation for help.
  • Parents who aren’t capable of raising their children due to alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness and other problems that lead to child abuse and neglect.

The bad news: none of these problems are going away any time soon.

The good news: the generations continue to come together to cope with these challenges.

The American family may not look exactly like it used to, but – even when one generation is out of the picture – increasingly, another generation will step in to provide the family home a child needs.