Brief • 3 min Read
In observance of International Women’s Day, The Harris Poll conducted a poll examining childcare for working parents in the United States for Fortune.
Below a few of the key insights that emerged from the study.
Grandmothers are providing the next generation with a multitude of support and playing a role in childcare. Four in 5 working families that rely on grandma to provide childcare report that they’d be lost without the support they get from their children’s grandmother.
Grandmas are supporting America’s children in many facets of life, from special attention (55%) and emotional support (54%) to teaching life skills (43%), sharing family history (48%) or traditions (45%) to helping with schoolwork (34%). On top of it all, 2 in 5 working parents (42%) rely on grandmothers for childcare. And when unexpected childcare issues occur, grandma is the number one person tagged in for unpaid care (41%).
Unpaid care allows for greater flexibility and ability to pursue career goals, and the lack of unpaid care could negatively impact working parents’ current employment situation. Two-thirds of working parents who rely on grandmas for childcare say there are times they could have lost their job without the help of their child’s grandmother.
More than a third of working parents who rely on unpaid childcare (35%) say this allows them to have increased flexibility in work schedules. Four in 5 working parents who rely on grandmas for childcare say the care they provide allows them to pursue their career goals. When asked what impact that lacking access to unpaid childcare would have on their work situations, parents mention needing special accommodations at work (33%), not being able to manage current workload (28%), or that their quality of work would suffer (27%). One in 5 working parents who rely on unpaid child (20%) are say they would have to quit their job without this support. A similar proportion say their career growth would be stunted (20%). About two-thirds (67%) say there have been times they could have lost their job without the help of their child’s grandmother.
While personal financial benefits are acknowledged by some working parents, majorities of those who rely on grandmothers for childcare appear to recognize these women are silently underpinning the American economy.
Among working parents who rely on unpaid childcare, more than a third (37%) cite the financial benefit of lower/no cost childcare and 3 in 10 (29%) say they would be unable to afford other forms of childcare if they could not rely on this support. From a broader economic perspective, 9 in 10 working parents who rely on grandmas for childcare (92%) say America’s grandmas are making large economic contributions through the childcare they provide and more than 4 in 5 (83%) say that without this care the American economy would suffer.
The vast majority agree that grandmas provide a unique type of care, and evidence of strong bonding is clear among working parents who rely on grandmothers for childcare.
Nine in 10 working parents who rely on grandmas for childcare (91%) say grandmothers can provide a type of care that no one else can. Working parents who rely on unpaid childcare, a role often filled by grandmas, most commonly say it has provided additional bonding time with family, both for the child (53%) and provider (50%). These parents also say this provider provides care a non-family member caregiver could not (40%) and that the provider pays greater attention to their children (40%). Those who rely on grandmas specifically are more likely to agree with all benefits. And 9 in 10 working parents who rely on grandmas for childcare (90%) say the care they provide has created a meaningful bond between them.
Without the ability to rely on unpaid childcare, nearly 2 in 5 (38%) say their mental (30%) or physical health (19%) would suffer.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll among 2,048 adults ages 18 and older, including 581 working parents of children under 18. Data were collected between February 16-21, 2023. Data are weighted where necessary by age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, household income, education, marital status, size of household, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.
Respondents are selected among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. The sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. This credible interval will be wider among subsets of the surveyed population of interest.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to other multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including, but not limited to coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.
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