This study provides new information about the demography of step-grandparenthood in the United States. Specifically, we examine the prevalence of step-grandparenthood across birth cohorts and for socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. We also examine lifetime exposure to the step-grandparent role.
Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the Health and Retirement Study, we use percentages to provide first estimates of step-grandparenthood and to describe demographic and socioeconomic variation in who is a step-grandparent. We use life tables to estimate the exposure to step-grandparenthood.
The share of step-grandparents is increasing across birth cohorts. However, individuals without a college education and non-Whites are more likely to become step-grandparents. Exposure to the step-grandparent role accounts for approximately 15% of total grandparent years at age 65 for women and men.
A growing body of research finds that grandparents are increasingly instrumental in the lives of younger generations. However, the majority of this work assumes that these ties are biological, with little attention paid to the role of family complexity across three generations. Understanding the demographics of step-grandparenthood sheds light on the family experiences of an overlooked, but growing segment of the older adult population in the United States.