More Grandparents Care for Grandkids, New Report Finds

Grandchildren living with grandparentsGrandma’s house isn’t only a great place to visit. For a growing number of children, it’s a great place to move in during bad economic times.

A new report from the Pew Research Center, “At Grandmother’s House We Stay“, found that grandparents were the primary caregivers for more than 3 million children in 2011, a 20 percent increase from a decade earlier. According to Pew, those numbers surged between 2007 and 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession.

Contest: Post your memory of the birth of your grandchild

The report also found that one in 10 children (7.7 million) were living in the same household with a grandparent. In almost three-quarters of the cases, those grandchildren were actually living in the grandparent’s household – though the majority of them also had at least one parent living there too. In most cases, it was grandmothers and moms living with a child.

According to Pew, children who are cared for primarily by a grandparent are more likely to live below the poverty line (28% versus 17%) and have lower median household income ($36,000 versus $48,000) than children who being raised by their parents.

These findings mirror other grandparent studies I’ve reported on in recent years, including AARP’s 2011 Grandparent Study, and point to what I call the “grandparent safety net” – when difficulties arise, grandparents are likely to come to the rescue.

But to me, the most intriguing aspect of Pew’s new report is the insight it provides into the situations of the parents of kids being raised by a grandparent.

  • 77% were not married
  • 44% had a baby as a teen
  • 31% were under the age of 25
  • 29% lack a high school diploma
  • 22% are currently enrolled in school
  • 21% are unemployed
  • 12% have a disability

All families are unique and complicated, but this data, along with other research about multigenerational households, makes it clear: When the going gets tough, there’s no place like (grandma’s) home, and there are an awful lot of kids who are lucky the door is open.

Grandparent caregivers: Find help in my Grandfamilies Guide here on 

Photo credit: Jen

Amy Goyer is AARP’s Home & Family Expert; she splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, Ariz., where she is caregiving for both of her parents who live with her. Her new book, AARP’s Juggling Work and Caregiving, will be published this fall. Follow Amy on Twitter @amygoyer and on Facebook.


Also of Interest


See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more