Children in the Care of Grandparents, by Legislative District

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Learn More About Family Structure

Measures of Family Structure on
On, measures of family structure include: households with and without children under age 18; family structure for children, overall, and by race/ethnicity; and children in the care of grandparents. These data are estimates based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). Data are available for:
  • Cities, school districts, and counties with 65,000+ residents, as single-year estimates;
  • Cities, school districts, and counties with 10,000+ residents, as 5-year estimates (however, for family structure by race/ethnicity, data are provided as 5-year estimates for regions of 50,000+ residents); and
  • Legislative districts, as 5-year estimates.
Family structure estimates are for children living in households and exclude those in group quarters (e.g., student dormitories). A “female-headed household” is a household maintained by a female with related children present. The female head of household typically is the children’s mother but also may be their grandmother, aunt, older sibling, or another relative. The definition of "male-headed household" is comparable. The same-sex couple category combines both unmarried and married partners due to small sample sizes. “Other households” include youth living alone or with nonrelatives.
Family Structure
Family Income and Poverty
Food Security
English Learners
Childhood Adversity and Resilience
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important
Child well being is influenced by the family environment and the presence of caring, stable adults. Family structure and the nature of the family relationships, in particular, are important factors in child development (1, 2). For example, single-parent families are more likely than two-parent families to have lower incomes and experience financial hardship (3). Financial hardship can affect families’ ability to provide the environment and experiences a child needs for optimal cognitive, emotional, and physical development (4). In addition to adequate family income, positive child development is influenced by factors such as parental affection, responsiveness, and consistency, as well as high quality relationships between parents or significant adults (2). These factors are more critical than the family structure itself (3).

Over the past 30 years, the percentage of children living in households with two married parents has declined nationwide, while the percentage in families headed by a single parent or grandparents has increased (3, 5). Though it is not clear if the percentage of children living with same-sex partners has increased in recent decades (due to data limitations), research shows that children in these families are as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents (2). Studies indicate that child development is not influenced by the gender or sexual orientation of parents (2).
For more information about family structure see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends Databank. (2015). Family structure. Retrieved from:

2.  Lamb, M. E. (2012). Mothers, fathers, families, and circumstances: Factors affecting children’s adjustment. Applied Developmental Science, 16(2), 98-111. Retrieved from:

3.  Coontz, S. (Ed.). (2015). Moynihan+50: Family structure still not the problem. Council on Contemporary Families. Retrieved from:

4.  Redd, Z., et al. (2011). Two generations in poverty: Status and trends among parents and children in the United States, 2000-2010 (Research Brief No. 2011-25). Child Trends. Retrieved from:

5.  U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). Table CH-7. Grandchildren under age 18 living in the home of their grandparents: 1970 to 2014. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2014, more than one-third of California households (36%) included children, similar to previous years. About two-thirds (67%) of California children lived in households headed by married couples of the opposite sex in 2014; the remaining percentage lived in households headed by single women (19%), single men (5%), unmarried couples of the opposite sex (9%), and married or unmarried same-sex couples (0.2%). Family structure varies by race/ethnicity. In 2010-14, an estimated 10% of Asian/Pacific Islander children in California lived in households headed by single women, while the same was true for about 49% of African American/black children. In 2014, an estimated 3% of California's children lived in the care of grandparents, similar to previous years, but percentages vary by county.
Policy Implications
Family provides an essential safety net for children, and public policy can help support and reinforce that safety net for the good of the family, and for society at large. In California, about two-thirds of households with children are headed by married couples, while 23% of children live in households headed by a single parent (1). Children can thrive in any type of family structure. However, research shows that single-parent households tend to be less financially secure or stable than those with married parents (2, 3).

A small percentage of children are raised by other caregivers, such as grandparents, who often need information, financial and emotional support, and authority to nurture, feed, house, and educate the children in their care (4). Some children are raised in households headed by same-sex couples; while research shows that these children do as well as children of heterosexual couples, they can face discrimination (5, 6).

Policy options that could promote child well being in homes with a single parent, kinship caregiver, or same-sex parents include:
  • Strengthening the social and financial safety net for single custodial parents through policies that support balancing work and caring for children, provide adequate cash assistance for low-income families in need, and effectively enforce child support obligations (2, 3, 7)
  • Ensuring that kinship caregivers (such as grandparents) have the full range of support needed to provide for children in their care, enroll them in school, ensure that they receive regular medical care, and avoid placement in non-relative foster care (4)
  • Eliminating legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian populations, as anti-gay legislation and attitudes can negatively affect the mental health of gay and lesbian parents, which can affect the emotional and behavioral health of their children (6, 8)
  • Developing and implementing responsible fatherhood programs that are comprehensive and address child support collection issues, paternal employment, relationship skills, parenting skills, and domestic violence concerns (2, 3, 9)
For more policy ideas and links to research and websites with related information, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  As cited on, Family structure for children in households, by city, school district and county (65,000 residents or more). (2015). U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey. Retrieved from:

2.  Waldfogel, J., et al. (2010). Fragile families and child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 20(2), 87-112. Retrieved from:

3.  McLanahan, S., et al. (2010). Strengthening fragile families (Policy Brief). The Future of Children. Retrieved from:

4.  Sakai, C., et al. (2011). Health outcomes and family services in kinship care: Analysis of a national sample of children in the child welfare system. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 165(2), 159-165. Retrieved from:

5.  Lamb, M. E. (2012). Mothers, fathers, families, and circumstances: Factors affecting children’s adjustment. Applied Developmental Science, 16(2), 98-111. Retrieved from:

6.  Pennings, G. (2011). Evaluating the welfare of the child in same-sex families. Human Reproduction, 26(7), 1609-1615. Retrieved from:

7.  Cancian, M., et al. (2010). Promising antipoverty strategies for families. Urban Institute. Retrieved from:

8.  Goldberg, A. E., & Smith, J. Z. (2011). Stigma, social context, and mental health: Lesbian and gay couples across the transition to adoptive parenthood. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(1), 139-150. Retrieved from:

9.  Knox, V., et al. (2010). Policies that strengthen fatherhood and family relationships: What do we know and what do we need to know? MDRC. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
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