Population Research and Policy Review 23: 359–377, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
A demographic examination of grandparent caregivers in the
Census 2000 Supplementary Survey
JAN E. MUTCHLER & LINDSEY A. BAKER
Gerontology Institute and Department University of Massachusetts Boston, USA
Abstract. As part of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, the Census Bureau is required to de-
termine how many grandparents are serving as caregivers to a grandchild. Using data from
the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, this paper presents demographic information on two
types of grandparent households, and outlines the challenges associated with use of the new
questions about grandparent care developed by the Census Bureau. We compare skipped-
generation households, in which a grandparent and grandchild coreside but no parent is
present, to three-generation shared-care households in which the grandparent claims primary
responsibility for the grandchild. We focus on two geographic regions of the United States,
New England and the Deep South, providing the ﬁrst report on the prevalence and character-
istics of these households, and the extent to which these attributes are geographically variable.
We estimate that the population of three-generation shared-care families is at least as large
as the population of skipped-generation grandparent care families. We identify a number of
differences between skipped-generation and shared-care households, especially with respect to
the age of the grandchildren involved and the levels of economic hardship. Signiﬁcant regional
differences are also observed, with grandparent care households of both types being more
common in the Deep South than in New England. We conclude that data using these new
questions have the potential to greatly enrich our demographic understanding of grandparent
households by shedding new light on a type of grandparent care often hidden from analysis:
grandparents who are responsible for grandchildren in three-generation households.
Keywords: Grandparenting, intergenerational caregiving, kinship
As part of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, the Census Bureau is required to
determine how many grandparents are serving as caregivers to one or more
grandchildren, and whether that care is of short or long duration. In response
to that mandate, the Census Bureau developed questions about grandparents
who are responsible for their grandchildren living in the same household.
These questions were included in the 2000 Census of Population, and also
in the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, which was conducted as part of,
but separate from, the Census 2000 data operation. In this paper we examine
the features of these new questions, as well as their analysis potential for