Picking up where Public Support Leaves Off: Grandparents’ Money, Time, and Space Contributions to Children and their Families

Diana B. Elliott, University of Maryland
Joan R. Kahn, University of Maryland

In 1984, Sam Preston focused our attention on the divergence in public support for elders and children, highlighting the vulnerability of children in many families that struggle to make ends meet. In this paper, we examine the ways in which grandparents may fill the gaps where parents and public programs fall short. We use rich intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and its 1997 Child Development Supplement, to study patterns of assistance from grandparents to their adult children and grandchildren. Specifically, we model the likelihood of three types of transfers: gifts of money, spending time together and living together. The analysis focuses on the impact of the “needs” of children and their parents, as well as the “abilities” of grandparents to help. Overall, we find that the needs of children’s immediate caregivers and families matter most for transfers from grandparents.

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Presented in Session 93: Generational Exchanges and Relationships: Grandparents and Grandchildren