By Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker
Pew Research Center
September 9, 2010
One child in 10 in the United States lives with a grandparent, a share that increased slowly and steadily over the past decade before rising sharply from 2007 to 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
About four-in-ten (41%) of those children who live with a grandparent (or grandparents) are also being raised primarily by that grandparent,1 according to the census data.
This figure -- 2.9 million children -- rose slowly throughout the decade and it, too, spiked from 2007 to 2008. In that single year, there was a 6% increase.
The phenomenon of grandparents serving as primary caregivers is more common among blacks3 and Hispanics than among whites,4 but the sharpest rise since the recession began has been among whites.
The number of white grandparents primarily responsible for their grandchildren rose by 9% from 2007 to 2008, compared with an increase of just 2% among black grandparents and no change among Hispanic grandparents.
Almost half (49%) of children being raised by grandparents also live with a single parent. For about four-in-ten (43%) of these children, there is no parent in the household. About 8% have both parents in the household, in addition to the caregiver grandparent.
Whether or not they live with and raise their grandchildren, being a grandparent is central to the lives of most older Americans. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey, 80% of those ages 65 and older have grandchildren, as do 51% of those ages 50-64.5 The survey finds that grandparents place a premium on time spent with their grandchildren.
Just as the number of children being cared for by their grandparents has increased from 2000 to 2008, the corresponding number of grandparents serving as primary caregivers to their grandchildren increased 8%, from 2.4 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2008.
Three percent of that increase occurred from 2000 to 2007, and 5% occurred from 2007 to 2008.
Among grandparents who serve as primary caregivers for grandchildren, there are notable differences by race, ethnicity and income. More than half of grandparent primary caregivers (53%) are white, while 24% are African American, 18% are Hispanic and 3% are Asians. In comparison, in the population ages 50 and older, 78% are white, 10% are black, 8% are Hispanic and 4% are Asian.
While grandparents who serve as primary caregivers for their grandchildren are disproportionately black and Hispanic, the increase in grandparent primary caregiving across the decade has been much more pronounced among whites. From 2000 to 2008, there was a 19% increase in the number of white grandparents caring for their grandkids.
Link to complete study