A demographic analysis of the grandparent phase of life

Rachel Margolis, University of Western Ontario

Demographic changes impact the absolute and relative length of time that we spend in different family roles. In this paper, I examine how the grandparent phase of life has been affected by recent mortality and fertility decline, and fertility postponement. First, I use the Sullivan method to estimate how many years (at the population level) people spend in two states: grandchild-less and with grandchildren, and how recent demographic changes have shifted the grandparent phase of life. Second, I examine sex differences in grandparenthood and their causes. Third, I examine the relative importance of the reasons for being grandchild-less at each age and whether the importance of these factors has changed over time. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Survey of Health Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) are used to compare the grandparent phase of life across context. Preliminary results for the United States show that the transition to grandparenthood is occurring later, which is due mostly to fertility postponement of children. Implications for family relationships, care-giving, and evolutionary demography are discussed.

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Presented in Session 40: Ageing and intergenerational relations