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The number of Utah grandparents who live with at least one grandchild is estimated at 57,800 roughly equivalent to the entire population of Taylorsville. That means one of every 24 adults age 30 or over reside with a grandchild.
And a third of such grandparents have assumed the primary financial responsibility for raising those grandchildren instead of their parents, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"The economic wherewithal of families has been tremendously compromised by the Great Recession. I think that explains a lot of the multi-generational living arrangements," said Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah.
The new report looks at grandparents who lived with grandchildren in 2012.
Nationally, it said 10 percent of all grandparents 7 million of them lived with at least one grandchild that year. That is up from 7 percent in 1992.
"Recent trends in increased life expectancy, single-parent families and female employment increase the potential for grandparents to play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren," said Renee Ellis, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Increases in grandparents living with grandchildren are one way that the grandparent role has changed," she said.
Of the Utah grandparents who are responsible for raising grandchildren, about 42 percent have had that responsibility for five years or more. About 11 percent of them live in poverty.
In about 30 percent of the Utah grandparents-with-grandchildren households, no parent of the child lives there so the grandparents have full responsibility for the child.
Perlich noted that civilizations for centuries had homes that were multi-generational. "It's only been in recent generations that people could afford to split off and have all these separate households," she said. The recession and the weak economy that followed have increased pressure for younger families to move in with grandparents.
"For the vast majority of households, the standard of living is flat or has gone down," she said. She added that about a third of the people who are unemployed "are long-term unemployed," which may have forced them to move in with other family members.
Also, Perlich said the older generation may have more wealth and economic capacity than the younger generation to provide care.
"Many older folks, grandparents, have jobs that, that, in general, have a higher probability of having benefits as well as higher pay as compared to young adults," she said.
"Remember that this has been a high-wage recession and a low-wage recovery. The 'new' jobs pay less and more often do not have benefits," Perlich said. "Multigenerational cohabitation is more likely, given this scenario."
Besides being a guardian of a grandchild, Perlich said increasing numbers of grandparents offer day-to-day care of children while parents work "given the necessity of women working just to keep the families afloat."
She said Utah has also seen an increase in single-parent families, "and that's hugely difficult to do on your own. If there's extended family that can help with daycare on a day-to-day basis, that would help that family be much more resilient."
Perlich said another reason for more multi-generational households "is the presence of recent immigrants. They tend to have multi-generational households just normally."
Perlich said Utah researchers had noticed recently that "we're not seeing household formation at the rates and amounts you would expect in normal conditions," and increasing numbers of multi-generational families is a part of that along with young people waiting longer to get married or to move out on their own because finding jobs is hard.
"That's impacting homebuilders," she said, because fewer new homes are needed.
Utah grandparents living with grandchildren
Number • 57,807 (roughly equivalent to the population of Taylorsville).
Percent • 4.1 percent of the population age 30 and over.
Percent responsible for granchildren • 33 percent.