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MetLife Report on American Grandparents – 2011


This report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute culls data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the status of American grandparents and implications for American employers. One third of all U.S. households are headed by a grandparent (page 9.) Comprised largely of the Boomer generation, these grandparents have more spending power and are working longer than ever before. Understanding the concerns, advantages, and economic impact of Boomer grandparents will help community planners and local governments provide better services.

Key Points

The number of grandparents is “growing at twice the overall population rate” (page 3) to 80 million grandparents nationally by 2020. They are living longer, better educated and have more spending power than ever before.

Other report highlights include:

  1. Most grandparents today are between the ages of 45-64. This makes them relatively young. Their incomes are growing by $659 billion, increasing from 28 to 34 percent, while incomes for younger demographics are in decline by $312 billion dollars. This shift is driven by higher unemployment in the 25-34 age demographic than in the 55-64 age category. This means that more grandparents are able to financially helping younger generations.
  2. Grandparents are spending money at higher levels than previously. This is due, in part, to education. In particular, men in the 55-64 age bracket have the largest percentage of college graduates than any generation previously. They are educated professionals who have been in their jobs for many years and stand in contrast to those ages 25-34, fewer of whom are college graduates. On average, the “non-health spending [of grandparents] increased by $11,700 per household” (page 15).  And while the 55-64 age bracket is spending more than their younger counterparts on related items, the report indicates that the bulk of spending is on education (tuition and school fees) for their grandchildren.
  3. The report cites three implications for employers: 1) financial advice is likely to come from grandparents to younger demographics, 2) most senior managers are likely to be grandparents, which means the benefits “tilt toward those that help young families cope with the rising cost of education and childcare” (page 19), and 3) a form of insurance that covers grandchildren may be an attractive benefit employers can offer.

How to Use

Community planners and local governments need to know the concerns, demographic make-up, and opportunities that lie with grandparents in their communities. The reason is sheer size and spending power. Knowing what grandparents need, helping multi-generational households emerge from the Great Recession, and how grandparents are spending their discretionary incomes will help determine better service offerings, programs, and partnerships.

View full report: MetLife Report on American Grandparents – 2011 (PDF – 313 KB)

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