, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 433–454 | Cite as

Retirement Timing of Women and the Role of Care Responsibilities for Grandchildren

  • Robin L. LumsdaineEmail author
  • Stephanie J. C. Vermeer


This article considers the potential relationship between providing care for grandchildren and retirement, among women nearing retirement age. Using 47,444 person-wave observations from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we find that the arrival of a new grandchild is associated with more than an 8 % increase in the retirement hazard despite little overall evidence of a care/retirement interaction. We document that although family characteristics seem to be the most important factors driving the care decision, they are also important determinants of retirement. In contrast, although financial incentives such as pensions and retiree health insurance have the largest influence on retirement, the opportunity cost associated with outside income seems to have little effect on whether a grandmother provides care. There is little evidence of substitution between caring for grandchildren versus providing care for elderly parents or engaging in volunteer activities; grandchild care is instead taken on as an additional responsibility. Our findings suggest that policies aimed at prolonging work life may need to consider grandchild care responsibilities as a countervailing factor, while those policies focused on grandchild care may also affect elderly labor force participation.


Aging Grandparents/grandparenthood Health and Retirement Study Labor force participation 



Preliminary research for this article was initiated while the first author was a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The collaboration for this article is the result of a research internship at American University for the second author. We gratefully acknowledge financial support for the first author from the National Institute on Aging, Grant Nos. R03-AG14173 and R03-AG043010, and for the second author from Stichting A.A. van Beek-Fonds. We also thank Rachel Friedberg, Ed Lazear, Chris Ruhm, David Wise, and seminar participants at American University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Erasmus University, the Hoover Institution, the NBER Summer Institute on Aging, and the NETSPAR International Pension Workshop for helpful conversations and suggestions on this topic. We are especially grateful to Kathleen McGarry for her input and expertise on the data set and to Mike Bader, Seth Gershenson, Alan Gustman, Elvira Sojli, Wing Wah Tham, three anonymous referees, and the Editor for their very helpful comments on this article.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin L. Lumsdaine
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Stephanie J. C. Vermeer
    • 4
  1. 1.Kogod School of BusinessAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and RetirementTilburgThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Roland Berger Strategy ConsultantsAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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