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Race / Ethnic Differentials in the Health Implications of Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren,

Faculty Associate Feinian Chen studies health implications for grandparents caring for grandchildren

Dr. Chen's R03 grant from NICHD focuses on the impact of caregiving for grandchildren on grandparents’ health for different race / ethnic groups in the U.S. Although it is known that Black and Hispanic grandparents are more likely to co-reside with grandchildren and to provide routine care for grandchildren than their White counterparts, much less is known about whether varied levels of caregiving have differential effects on their health. First, minority grandparents who are heavily involved with childcare tend to be disproportionately concentrated lower on the socioeconomic ladder and may have poorer health conditions initially. Second, the socioeconomic disadvantages of these families may induce additional stress and exacerbate existing poor health conditions. Third, the presence of strong familistic traditions and the mobilization of social support networks may act as a buffer for adverse socioeconomic conditions. The study uses data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative, longitudinal panel study of older adults in the U.S. Using the cumulative advantage / disadvantage and cumulative inequality (CAD/CI) framework, the project should enhance our understanding of different mechanisms through which grandparents’ caregiving influences health trajectories. The focus on race/ethnic disparities is critically important, given minority grandparents’ higher level of childcare involvement, race/ethnic differences in sub-cultural norms, socioeconomic resources and social ties, and the rate of growth of the Hispanic population.