There were 7.8 million children living with at least one grandparent in 2009, up from 4.7 million in 1991. Such family arrangements were most common among black and Hispanic children but have risen most substantially among white children.
In 2009, 17 percent of black children and 14 percent of Hispanic children lived with a grandparent – just slightly higher than in 1991. Among white children, however, the percentage living with a grandparent increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. The number of children living with at least one grandparent in 2009 represented 10.5 percent of all kids in the U.S.
The findings come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which shows that children live in a variety of arrangements, including with single parents, no parents, grandparents and relatives, and in biological, adoptive, step- and foster families. A variety of factors can influence children's living arrangements, including parental death, divorce, multigenerational families and immigration.
Major shifts in children's living arrangements occurred between 1970 and 1990, according to the survey. At a time when births by unmarried women increased sharply, the proportion of children living with their mothers and without their fathers doubled, from 11 percent to 22 percent. The percentage of children living with two parents fell from 85 percent to 73 percent.
In the decades since, the decline in two-parent households has continued at a slower place. In 2009, three out of four white children lived with two parents, as did 86 percent of Asian children. About two-thirds of Hispanic children and 37 percent of black children lived with two parents.
The percentage of children living with only one parent has grown, with 23.6 percent of all children in 2009 living with their mothers only and 3.7 percent living with their fathers only. The proportion of children living only with their mothers varied by race, ranging from 19 percent of white children to half of black children.
More than 4 percent of children lived with no parents in 2009. Among them, 2.5 percent lived with grandparents only, up from 1.7 percent in 1991, the survey found. Here, too, the survey revealed differences by race: Of children not living with parents, 64 percent of blacks, 61 percent of Hispanics, 55 percent of whites and 35 percent of Asians lived with grandparents only.
The Census Bureau's report notes that grandparents play an important role in child care, serving as the most frequently mentioned care providers for children under age 5 among all relatives. But children living with grandparents more often lived in families in poverty (22.5 percent) than did children with no grandparents in their household (19.6 percent).
The association between living with a grandparent and being in poverty is unclear, the report said. Grandchildren may live with a grandparent to help a parent struggling with financial hardship, or a grandparent may need assistance and move in with his or her child.
Rates of poverty were highest for children living with only their mothers (40.7 percent) and lowest for those living with their fathers and grandparents (12.6 percent). About 13 percent of all children living with two parents were in poverty, the report said.
Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)