Is grandparenting socio-economically patterned? Evidence from England

Giorgio Di Gessa, University College London
Karen F. Glaser, King's College London
Paola Zaninotto, University College London

Grandparents play a vital role in providing childcare to families. Qualitative research and evidence from parents raise concerns that it is grandparents who are socio-economically disadvantaged who provide grandchild care more regularly, perform more intensive tasks, and care out of financial necessity. However, no European studies have investigated these issues at population level. This study is based on grandparents aged 50+ who looked after grandchildren. Data is from wave 8 of the nationally-representative English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2016/2017). We exploit newly-collected information on frequency of grandchild care, activities, and reasons for care. Using multinomial and logistic regressions, we examined the extent to which grandparents’ wealth and education are associated with frequency of grandchild care, activities, and reasons for care. Overall, grandparents from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to provide more regular childcare. Similarly, grandparents in the lowest wealth quartile were more involved in caring-related activities (cooking, taking/collecting grandchildren to/from school) whereas highly-educated grandparents are more likely to help with homework. Finally, better-off grandparents were more likely to look after grandchildren to engage in grandchildren’s development and to provide support to parents and less likely to report difficulty in refusing to provide care. Grandparenting varies greatly by socio-economic backgrounds.

Keywords: Intergenerational relations, Older adults, Inequality

See paper.

  Presented in Session P12.