Guess how many grandparents there are in the world?

Here are some facts and figures I just learned from a new book, Grandparenting: Contemporary Perspectives, by Australian social scientists Susan Moore and Doreen Rosenthal:

  • Of the more than seven billion people in the world, approximately 1 billion are grandparents. About 70 to 80 percent of older adults eventually become grandparents.
  • On average, people in industrialized countries become grandparents in their early 50s; in developing countries, grandparenthood often begins by age 45
  • In some developing countries, 30 percent of older adults are raising their grandchildren, often due to poverty, illness, or death in the middle generation. In industrialized countries, the proportion of elders raising their grandchildren is much lower but still significant.
  • In Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of southern Europe, three-generation households are the norm; in other places, including the United States and Great Britain, these households—once unusual—are increasingly prevalent.
  • Across Europe, 58 percent of grandmothers and 49 percent of grandfathers provide regular or occasional childcare. Grandmothers in Italy, Spain, and Greece provide about twice as much care as grandmothers in Sweden, France, and Denmark do.
  • About 60 percent of grandparents in the United States who live within an hour of their grandchildren provide regular childcare.
  • British grandparents gift an average of 5,000 pounds a year to their children and grandchildren, sometimes by drawing on their retirement savings.