The first U.S. Census Bureau report in more than a decade on grandparents living with grandchildren highlights growth and diversity, and confirms that, while the trend has slowed some as the economy recovers from recession, multigenerational living is not going away. Fully 10 percent of the estimated 65 million grandparents live with at least one grandchild, up from 7 percent in 1992.
“Recent trends in increased life expectancy, single-parent families and female employment increase the potential for grandparents to play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren,” Renee Ellis , a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, said in a statement. “ Increases in grandparents living with grandchildren are one way that the grandparent role has changed.”
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About 3 percent (4.2 million) of all U.S. households include grandparents and grandchildren, and the majority (60 percent) are headed by a grandparent rather than a parent. Most (64 percent) coresident grandparents are women.
The percentage of all children living in grandparent-headed households doubled from 1970 (3 percent) to 2012 (6 percent). While increases in the 1970s and 1980s were likely due to increased substance abuse, divorce and teen pregnancy, more recent increases were likely tied to the economic recession and housing crisis, which has prompted increases in multigenerational living.
For the first time, the report also compared grandparents who live with their grandkids against those who don ’t, and there are some striking differences. Grandparents who live with grandchildren tend to be younger, are more likely to be black or Hispanic, and have lower education levels and nearly double the rate of poverty as grandparents who do not live with grandchildren. While coresident grandparents were more likely to be working, they are also more likely to have work limitations due to an illness or disability.
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Of grandparents living with grandchildren, nearly 40 percent (2.7 million) are raising grandchildren — meaning that they report being responsible for the basic needs of those grandchildren — and almost 40 percent of those have done so for five or more years. Nearly half (45 percent) of them live in the South, and one-third of these households have no parents present in the home. These grandparent caregivers are aging and tend to have more stress and report lower health levels. In addition, poverty levels of co-resident grandparents and their grandchildren are closely related to who heads the household — nearly half of grandmother-headed homes with grandchildren and no parents live in poverty.
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