Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Raising grandchildren in a recession

A fascinating article today in the Wall Street Journal, “‘Grandfamilies’ Come Under Pressure” discusses the recession poses unique problems for people raising their grandchildren.

Some six million kids, representing about 8 percent of American children, live with their grandparents, according to the U.S. Census bureau.

"Today, more and more children are being raised by their grandparents. These grandparents provide a crucial safety net, allowing children whose parents can’t provide for them to remain in families, instead of winding up as wards of the state. But as the recession hits “grandfamilies,” that safety net is under stress. The unemployment rate for older workers is lower than the overall rate. But once they become unemployed, older workers find it harder to land a job and they tend to remain out of work longer than younger workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for those 55 and over has been climbing significantly in recent months; in March, it rose to 6.2 percent — the highest it has been since September, 1949, according the bureau….

Many older workers who lose their jobs drop out of the work force, believing their efforts are hopeless. The number of people 55 and older classified by the federal government as “discouraged” — meaning they’ve given up looking for work because they don’t think there are any jobs for them — nearly tripled from December 2007 to December 2008, to 154,000 from 53,000, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute."

The medical literature is mixed on the health effects of raising grandchildren. Some studies show that raising your grandchildren takes a toll on your health. Not only is the job physically tiring, but grandparents who are raising young children often suffer from less sleep and exposure to childhood colds and have less time to take care of themselves. At the same time, some grandparents enjoy raising their grandchildren and believe it makes them more active and connected.

We have posted before on the huge contribution that grandparents make to their families and to our economy in the UK and this is often not given appropriate recognition and can even have negative tax and pension implications for this caring group.

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