How Can Social Security Children’s Benefits Help Grandparents Raising Grandchildren?
Siyan Liu and Laura D. Quinby, Boston College
In 2020, around two million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of their grandchildren, with grandparent care concentrated in historically disadvantaged communities. Despite being particularly vulnerable to financial insecurity, most grandparents receive little formal support because they take responsibility for their grandchildren outside of the foster care system. Without legal custody, grandparents are often ineligible for state and federal programs such as subsidies for foster parents, housing assistance, and – importantly – Social Security dependent child benefits.
The goal of this study is to evaluate how expanding eligibility for child benefits could improve the financial well-being of grandparent caregivers. Using the Health and Retirement Study, American Community Survey, and Current Population Survey, it will first assess the intensity of grandparent caregiving by race/ethnicity and household wealth. It will then document how many grandparent caregivers rely on Social Security child benefits. Lastly, it will evaluate how grandparents’ finances would improve if eligibility for child benefits were aligned with the more lenient tax criteria for claiming a dependent grandchild.