What the American Community Survey tells us about grandparents who are raising their grandchildren in Indiana

Rachel Strange

Overall, 59,544 Hoosier grandparents live with and are responsible for 64,835 grandchildren under 18 years old.

Across Indiana, 41,700 homes (1.6 percent of all households) consist of grandparents who are responsible for raising their grandchildren under age 18.
Over the past decade (2006-2016), the number of households consisting of grandparents caring for their grandchildren grew by about 22 percent in Indiana. However, the number of grandparent caregiver households has dropped since 2011 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Indiana households where grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren over time


Note: Error bars are shown. Changes between each year are statistically significant.
Source: American Community Survey one-year estimates

The American Community Survey (ACS) asks these questions to “help federal agencies understand the special provisions needed for federal programs designed to assist families, as older Americans are often in different financial, housing and health circumstances than those of other ages. These data also help measure the effects of policies and programs that focus on the well-being of families, including tax policies and financial assistance programs.”1

This article presents a brief overview of the 2016 ACS data for Indiana of this relatively small, but important, population group.

Overall, 59,544 Hoosier grandparents live with and are responsible for 64,835 grandchildren under 18 years old. Forty-one percent of these grandparents have been responsible for their grandchildren for at least five years (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Amount of time grandparents have been responsible for grandchildren's care in Indiana, 2016


Source: American Community Survey one-year estimates

In 63 percent of these households, the parent is also present, while the parent is absent in the remaining 37 percent (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Parental presence in Indiana households where grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren's care, 2016


Note: Margins of error are 1,664 for the “no parent present” category and 2,701 for the “parent also present” category.
Source: American Community Survey one-year estimates

Grandparent demographics

Of the grandparents responsible for their grandchildren,

  • 35 percent are at least 60 years old.
  • 70 percent are married.
  • 63 percent are female.
  • 62 percent are in the labor force. (Of those under 60 years of age, 76 percent are in the labor force.)
  • 25 percent (15,161 grandparents) are disabled.
  • Median family income for grandparent householders responsible for grandchildren was $52,587. When no parent was present, median family income dropped to $42,937.
  • 17 percent of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren were in poverty in 2016. The majority of these were under 60 years old.

Child demographics

We don't have data specifically for the 64,835 children who are their grandparent's responsibility; instead, data are tabulated for all kids who live with their grandparents (there are 85,335 households where grandchildren share a home with their grandparents, but in only 41,700 of these households are the grandparents responsible for their grandchildren’s care). Nevertheless, out of the 116,047 Hoosier children who live in a grandparent's home, 41 percent are younger than 6 years old. An additional 33 percent are between 6 and 11 years old, while the remaining 26 percent are between ages 12 and 17.

County comparison

Figure 4 is an interactive graphic to allow you to explore these data at the county level (based on the 2016 five-year ACS estimates). Please keep in mind that this is a small subset of the population, so margins of error will be somewhat large at the county level. Most of the state's counties fall into the “medium reliability” category on these measures, with eight counties meeting the threshold for “high reliability.” Only Rush County's data fall into the “low reliability” category.2

Figure 4: County-level data about grandparents responsible for their grandchildren’s care


Since 2006, the number of households where grandparents are raising their grandchildren has increased significantly, though more recent years have seen that trend begin to reverse itself somewhat. Also, nearly three-quarters of the state's 9,900 grandparent caregivers in poverty are under the age of 60, which likely indicates that Social Security payments are helping older grandparents stay out of poverty as they care for their grandchildren.

For more data on grandparent families from the American Community Survey, visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder data portal at https://factfinder.census.gov/.


  1. “Why We Ask Questions about Grandparents as Caregivers,” U.S. Census Bureau, www.census.gov/acs/www/about/why-we-ask-each-question/grandparents/.
  2. These reliability thresholds are based on an estimate's coefficient of variation (CV). High reliability is based on a CV of 12 percent or less, while low reliability indicates a CV exceeding 40 percent. The eight counties falling within the high reliability category on these measures include Marion, Lake, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh, Allen, Madison, Clark and Elkhart. For more detail on these thresholds, please see “The American Community Survey,” Esri White Paper, July 2018, http://downloads.esri.com/Support/downloads/other_/J10020_American_Community_Survey_2018.pdf.