Children in Kinship Care

Is it possible to identify how many kinship care families are in each state using the Relate variable? Relate provides for specifying foster care, but that would be different from kinship care.


There aren’t any variables in the CPS that directly capture kinship care. While RELATE describes the relationship between the line respondent and the household reference person (household head), this does not directly capture kinship care since neither of the minor’s parents will necessarily be the household head. The child may even be unrelated to the household head if they are part of a second family living at the address. There are however some variables you might still use to get an estimate of kinship care.

IPUMS constructed variables MOMLOC and POPLOC will likely be helpful as they report the individual’s probable mother and father line number within the household, respectively. Note that these group social relationships such as step- and foster-parents together with biological parents in one group labeled “parent”. These interrelationship variables will be reported for the respondent regardless of their age as long as the probable parent is present in the household (otherwise the value defaults to 0). If you’re looking at children who are being taken of by a family member in place of their parent(s), you might restrict your sample to households with minors who report both 0 for MOMLOC and POPLOC. In cases where RELATE indicates a family relationship to the Householder, then MOMLOC=0 and POPLOC=0 indicate a likely kinship care arrangement. If MOMLOC=0 and POPLOC=0 and the child is not related to the householder, then there are two cases:

  1. If there are other non-relatives in the household, they might be the caretakers of the child, but we don’t actually know if they are even related to the child, so individual researchers will need to make a judgement call there.
  2. No other non-relatives, then it seems to be a non-kinship care arrangement.

Once you’ve determined which households you believe engage in kinship care, you can use HHWT to estimate the number of these households for each state.