Family

  • Elizabeth Peters
  • Sara McLanahan

Leaders: Elizabeth Peters, Sara McLanahan

The continuing decline in prime-age employment interacts with ongoing changes in the structure and composition of low-income families. The relevant trends here include (a) declining marriage rates and increasing cohabitation, (b) increases in nonmarital births and multi-partner fertility, and (c) rising noncustodial parenthood (especially for fathers). These developments all work to weaken the “family safety net” for poor children. In a precarious labor market, a second parent provides backup in difficult times (e.g., extra income, childcare), thus reducing the risks of poverty. The family safety net is in this sense weakening just as the labor market is becoming more precarious. Moreover, because some programs (e.g., EITC) provide higher benefits for custodial parents, the rise of noncustodial parenting undermines the capacity of the formal safety net to step in as the family safety net weakens. These and related changes in family structure have prompted a spate of policy proposals, some involving safety net reforms that accommodate the new family forms (e.g., incentivizing noncustodial parents to comply with child-support orders), and others addressing the underlying institutional changes themselves (e.g., increasing the availability of long-acting reversible contraceptives). The charge of the Family RG is to evaluate these proposals and to better understand how the safety net is adapting to changes in family structure. The following projects are a sampling of the research underway within this RG.

A new round of Fragile Families data collection: Under the leadership of Sara McLanahan, a new initiative to update the Fragile Families Study is underway, with a focus on adding administrative records, metabolic and immune markers, and measures of methylation.

Income and the developing brain: Does income support for families affect the brain function and development of infants? A new experiment will reveal all.

Measuring family complexity in the AOS: Will the American Opportunity Study (AOS) capture the rise of ever more complicated family forms? By linking tax, census, and birth records, the AOS should be up to the task.

Family - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Review of Evidence on Enablers and Barriers H. Elizabeth Peters, Nan Marie Astone, Ammar A. Malik, Fenohasina Maret Rakotondrazaka, Caroline Heller

Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Review of Evidence on Enablers and Barriers

Author: H. Elizabeth Peters, Nan Marie Astone, Ammar A. Malik, Fenohasina Maret Rakotondrazaka, Caroline Heller
Publisher: Urban Institute
Date: 10/2016

Besides human rights protection and social welfare improvement, fostering female participation in the economy can stimulate growth with human capital accumulation and enhance the competitiveness of businesses. But women face many barriers to participating in the labor market, particularly in high productivity sectors, due to limited investments in education, time burdens from care responsibilities, legal prohibitions to land ownership, and sexual harassment and violence. We find evidence that improving access to infrastructure and public services, reforms in inheritance laws, family friendly workplace policies, and reduction in levels of violence can significantly improve women’s economic empowerment.

 

Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes, Elira Kuka

Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States

Author: Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes, Elira Kuka
Publisher: NBER
Date: 09/2016

In this paper, we comprehensively examine the effects of the Great Recession on child poverty, with particular attention to the role of the social safety net in mitigating the adverse effects of shocks to earnings and income. Using a state panel data model and data for 2000 to 2014, we estimate the relationship between the business cycle and child poverty, and we examine how and to what extent the safety net is providing protection to at-risk children. We find compelling evidence that the safety net provides protection; that is, the cyclicality of after-tax-and-transfer child poverty is significantly attenuated relative to the cyclicality of private income poverty. We also find that the protective effect of the safety net is not similar across demographic groups, and that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those living with non-Hispanic black or Hispanic, single, or particularly immigrant household heads-or immigrant spouses, experience larger poverty cyclicality than non-Hispanic white, married, or native household heads with native spouses. Our findings hold across a host of choices for how to define poverty. These include measures based on absolute thresholds or more relative thresholds. They also hold for measures of resources that include not only cash and near cash transfers net of taxes but also several measures of medical benefits.

Home, heart, and being Latina: Housing and intimate relationship power among low-income Mexican mothers Whitney Welsh, Linda Burton

Home, heart, and being Latina: Housing and intimate relationship power among low-income Mexican mothers

Author: Whitney Welsh, Linda Burton
Publisher: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
Date: 07/2016

The authors examine an emergent association between low-income Mexican mothers’ control of housing and power relations in their romantic unions. Guided by valued resource theory, and mothers’ lived racial, ethnic, and gender experiences of navigating access to housing and sustaining intimate unions, the authors used secondary longitudinal ethnographic data on 29 low-income mothers of Mexican descent as exemplar cases to explore (1) mothers’ housing dependencies as they transitioned from their natal homes to coresidential housing with romantic partners, (2) the factors that differentially shaped mothers’ housing options, and (3) how mothers’ control of housing procurement influenced their intimate relationship power. The findings suggest that mothers followed one of five housing dependency pathways, with 25 percent securing housing independently. Most traversed complex and transient levels of dependence on their partners for housing with immigrants and native-born Mexican Americans evincing nuanced differences in their relationship power depending on their housing situations. In most cases, regardless of their national origin (Mexico or the U.S.), mothers’ control of housing procurement directly corresponded to increased relationship power. The importance of considering the impact of race/ethnicity on housing and women’s power in Latino families in future research is also discussed.

Beyond Income: What Else Predicts Very Low Food Security Among Children? Patricia M. Anderson, Kristin F. Butcher, Hilary W. Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Beyond Income: What Else Predicts Very Low Food Security Among Children?

Author: Patricia M. Anderson, Kristin F. Butcher, Hilary W. Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Publisher: Southern Economic Journal
Date: 06/2016

We examine characteristics and correlates of households in the United States that are most likely to have children at risk of inadequate nutrition – those that report very low food security (VLFS) among their children. Using 11 years of the Current Population Survey, plus data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and American Time Use Survey, we describe these households in great detail with the goal of trying to understand how these households differ from households without such severe food insecurity. While household income certainly plays an important role in determining VLFS among children, we find that even after flexibly controlling for income-to-poverty rates some household characteristics and patterns of program participation have important additional explanatory power. Finally, our examination of the NHANES and ATUS data suggests an important role for both mental and physical health in determining the food security status of children.

Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation Petra Persson, Maya Rossin-Slater

Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation

Author: Petra Persson, Maya Rossin-Slater
Publisher: NBER
Date: 05/2016

This paper studies how in utero exposure to maternal stress from family ruptures affects later mental health. We find that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood. Further, family ruptures during pregnancy depress birth outcomes and raise the risk of perinatal complications necessitating hospitalization. Our results suggest large welfare gains from preventing fetal stress from family ruptures and possibly from economically induced stressors such as unemployment. They further suggest that greater stress exposure among the poor may partially explain the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

family - CPI Affiliates

Elizabeth Peters's picture Elizabeth Peters Family Research Group Leader; Director of Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
The Urban Institute
Linda Burton's picture Linda Burton Poverty Research Group Leader, Dean of the Social Sciences
Duke University
Sara McLanahan's picture Sara McLanahan Family Research Group Leader, Director of Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs
Princeton University
Annette Lareau's picture Annette Lareau Professor of Sociology; Stanley I. Sheerr Professor in the Social Sciences
University of Pennsylvania
Christine Percheski's picture Christine Percheski Assistant Professor of Sociology; Institute for Policy Research Faculty Fellow
Northwestern University

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Family - Other Research

Title Author Media
Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession Antonina Pavlenko

Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession

Author: Antonina Pavlenko
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 09/2016

The study revealed that rapid increases in unemployment rates during the Great Recession were associated with increases in men's abusive behavior. This association persisted even after individual and household-level experiences with unemployment and material hardship were controlled for. The authors argue that these results indicate that economic uncertainty plays an important role in relationship dynamics, above and beyond its direct effects on job loss and material hardship. 

This brief was published as part of our Recession Trends initiative.

Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children Ann Owens

Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children

Author: Ann Owens
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 06/2016

Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.

Behavioral and Statistical Models of Educational Inequality Anders Holm, Richard Breen

Behavioral and Statistical Models of Educational Inequality

Author: Anders Holm, Richard Breen
Publisher: Rationality and Society
Date: 06/2016

This article addresses the question of how students and their families make educational decisions. We describe three types of behavioral model that might underlie decision-making, and we show that they have consequences for what decisions are made. Our study, thus, has policy implications if we wish to encourage students and their families to make better educational choices. We also establish the conditions under which empirical analysis can distinguish between the three sorts of decision-making, and we illustrate our arguments using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study.

A Wearable Social Interaction Aid for Children with Autism Peter Washington, Catalin Voss, Nick Haber, Serena Tanaka, Jena Daniels, Carl Feinstein, Terry Winograd, Dennis Wall

A Wearable Social Interaction Aid for Children with Autism

Author: Peter Washington, Catalin Voss, Nick Haber, Serena Tanaka, Jena Daniels, Carl Feinstein, Terry Winograd, Dennis Wall
Publisher: Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Date: 05/2016

Over 1 million children under the age of 17 in the US have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These children struggle to recognize facial expressions, make eye contact, and engage in social interactions. Gaining these skills requires intensive behavioral interventions that are often expensive, difficult to access, and inconsistently administered. We have developed a system to automate facial expression recognition that runs on wearable glasses and delivers real time social cues, with the goal of creating a behavioral aid for children with ASD that maximizes behavioral feedback while minimizing the distractions to the child. This paper describes the design of our system and interface decisions resulting from initial observations gathered during multiple preliminary trials.

Is Your Spouse More Likely to Divorce You if You Are the Older Partner? Paula England, Paul D. Allison, Liana C. Sayer

Is Your Spouse More Likely to Divorce You if You Are the Older Partner?

Author: Paula England, Paul D. Allison, Liana C. Sayer
Publisher: Journal of Marriage and Family
Date: 05/2016

The authors assessed how the relative age of spouses affects whether men or women initiate a divorce, using data from the National Survey of Families and Households. Ex-spouses' reports of who left generally agreed, but not always, so the analysis used a latent class model embedded in an event-history model with competing risks that the woman leaves the man or the man leaves the woman. Support was not found for the hypothesis that age heterogamy itself increases the odds of divorce: Even large age differences did not make men more likely to leave younger wives, and women's exits were as likely when the marriage is homogamous as when she was older. The main conclusion is that both men and women are more likely to leave if their spouse is older than they are. The effects were stronger for men, but the gender difference in effect size was not statistically significant.