Grandchildren Living in a Grandparent-Headed Household

Family Profile No. 01, 2018
Author: Huijing Wu

Over the past few decades, changes in family patterns have increased the diversity of children’s living arrangements, including a gradual increase in children who are living in their grandparent’s household. This profile updates FP-13-03 to examine trends in the proportion of children living in a grandparent-headed household and whether those children have a parent present in the household (e.g., three-generation household). Focusing on the child’s perspective, this profile also examines the age distribution and poverty status of coresident grandchildren by the presence of a parent in 2015. Data for 1940-2000 are drawn from the Decennial Census, and data from 2010 and 2015 are based on the American Community Survey.

Trends in the Proportion of Children Living in a Grandparent’s Household

  • The share of children living in a grandparent’s household remained stable from 1940 to 1950 but declined from 5.8% to 3.2% between 1950 and 1970.
  • Since 1970, the percentage of children living in a grandparent’s household has more than doubled, reaching 8% in 2015. One in twelve children lived with a grandparent in 2015.

Figure 1. Percentage of Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households, 1940-2015

line chart showing Figure 1. Percentage of Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households, 1940-2015
Source: NCFMR analyses of U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population, 1940-2000; American Community Survey, 2010, 2015, 1-year estimates

Trends in Children Living in a Grandparent’s Household by Presence of Parent

  • The majority (about three-quarters) of children in a grandparent-headed household also lived with their parents (three-generation household).
  • Few changes have occurred in the share of children living in a skipped-generation household (no parent present). In 2015, one in four children lived with their grandparent and without a parent.  

Figure 2. Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent, 1990-2015

orange bar chart showing Figure 2. Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent, 1990-2015
Source: NCFMR analyses of U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population, 1990 & 2000; American Community Survey, 2010, 2015, 1-year estimates

Age Distribution of Children Living in a Grandparent’s Household by Presence of Parent

Among those living in a grandparent’s household, children with a parent present were younger than those with no parent present.

  • Among coresident grandchildren with a parent present (three-generation) in the household, over half (57%) were aged 6 or younger. Only 30% were aged 6 or younger among those without a parent present.
  • Coresident grandchildren with no parent present (skipped-generation) in a grandparent-headed household were most often aged 7 to 12 (37%).

Figure 3. Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent and Age Groups, 2015

teal bar chart showing percentages of Figure 3. Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent and Age Groups, 2015
Source: NCFMR analyses of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 1-yr est. 2015

Economic Disadvantage Among Children Living in a Grandparent’s Household by Presence of Parent

  • Children living in a three-generation household fare better economically than their counterparts living in skipped-generation households.
  • Nearly twice as many children in skipped generation households were living in poverty (32%) than children in three-generation households (17%).

Figure 4. Economic Disadvantage among Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent, 2015

brown bar chart showing percentage of Figure 4. Economic Disadvantage among Minor Children Living in Grandparent-Headed Households by Presence of Parent, 2015
Source: NCFMR analyses of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 1-yr est. 2015

Note: Because IPUMS-USA made changes to the coding of variables related to household members’ relationships to the reference person, the number of skipped generation households is different from that presented in FP-13-03.

Data Source
  • Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 7.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2017. https://doi.org/10.18128/D010.V7.0
References
  • Wilson, B. (2013). Grandchildren: Living in a grandparent-headed household. Family Profiles, FP-13-03. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-13-03.pdf
Suggested Citation
  • Wu, H. (2018). Grandchildren living in a grandparent-headed household. Family Profiles, FP-18-01. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. https://doi.org/10.25035/ncfmr/fp-18-01

This project is supported with assistance from Bowling Green State University. From 2007 to 2013, support was also provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the state or federal government.