Will Today's Working-age Women Be Tomorrow's Grandparent Baby-Sitters?

Photo: surlygirl

A social norm in Italy appears to be grandparents spending the day taking care of their pre-school grandchildren.  Even grandfathers can be seen pushing infants around in carriages and entertaining them in public squares, something very rarely seen in the U.S.  But social norms don’t just happen—they can be created and later altered by purely economic incentives.  Italy has now increased its retirement age substantially, at the same time that the labor-force participation rate of women ages 25-54 has increased by over 20 percentage points.

When today’s middle-aged Italian women have grandchildren it is unlikely that they will retire from their long-time careers, and thus unlikely that they will be available to care for grandchildren full time.  The social norm of grandparent care is unlikely to exist in Italy in 25 years.

Eric M. Jones



No Italian woman would dress like a Bolivian farmer couple!


We see this a lot in the african-american community - especially when young girls have children. Their grandparents, who are typically young themselves (30s and 40s), raise the children while the mothers work, finish high school/attend college etc. Then in 20 years or so when those children have their first kids, those mothers-cum-grandmothers are prepared to raise a child.


Wouldn't the trend towards having children later make it more likely for this trend to be able to continue? If the delay in retirements had previously been offset by having children later it would allow the trend to continue.


Remove the photo.

It is embarrassing (for the Blog Editors).


I think the people from the photo look more from ecuador than from Italy....


Grandparents looking after their grandchildren is the norm in most south and east European nations. This is a result of the more collectivistic CULTURE than of the economy.

Joshua Northey'

"Even grandfathers can be seen pushing infants around in carriages and entertaining them in public squares, something very rarely seen in the U.S."

It is not rare in the middle and lower classes. I see it all the time.

In Minnesota where I am from this is pretty common especially with single mothers. I ate more meals with my grandparents than my mother, and my sister (who is divorced) uses our mother our grandmother/grandfather for babysitting frequently. So my 3 year old nephew spends a lot of time with his great-grandparents, and grandparent.


Likewise fairly common around here. Perhaps the authors need to broaden their experience of American society.

Eric M. Jones.

No fair! You guys changed the picture from a happy Bolivian peasant couple to a New Jersey demestic tranquility scene...Cheeze......

ps: The old guy is made-man Bobo Triscano. Now in the witness-protection program.


It's a shame :0(