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
Increasing Family Complexity and Volatility: The Difficulty in Determining Child Tax Benefits Elaine Maag, Elizabeth Peters, Sara Edelstein

Increasing Family Complexity and Volatility: The Difficulty in Determining Child Tax Benefits

Author: Elaine Maag, Elizabeth Peters, Sara Edelstein
Publisher: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center
Date: 03/2016

The American family is changing. Individuals marry later, divorce more frequently, or live together without being married. Nonmarital births, complex custody arrangements, and multiple generations of families living together are more common, but the tax system has not kept pace. Although tax benefits are an important pillar of support for children, understanding who in a complex family should claim them can be difficult. We document demographic trends and explain their importance with respect to tax filing and eligibility for child-related benefits, such as the earned income tax credit, child tax credit, and dependent exemption.

Health Behaviors, Mental Health, and Health Care Utilization Among Single Mothers After Welfare Reforms in the 1990s Sanjay Basu, David H. Rehkopf, Arjumand Siddiqi, M. Maria Glymour, Ichiro Kawachi

Health Behaviors, Mental Health, and Health Care Utilization Among Single Mothers After Welfare Reforms in the 1990s

Author: Sanjay Basu, David H. Rehkopf, Arjumand Siddiqi, M. Maria Glymour, Ichiro Kawachi
Publisher: American Journal of Epidemiology
Date: 03/2016

We studied the health of low-income US women affected by the largest social policy change in recent US history: the 1996 welfare reforms. Using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (1993–2012), we performed 2 types of analysis. First, we used difference-in-difference-in-differences analyses to estimate associations between welfare reforms and health outcomes among the most affected women (single mothers aged 18–64 years in 1997; n = 219,469) compared with less affected women (married mothers, single nonmothers, and married nonmothers of the same age range in 1997; n = 2,422,265). We also used a synthetic control approach in which we constructed a more ideal control group for single mothers by weighting outcomes among the less affected groups to match pre-reform outcomes among single mothers. In both specifications, the group most affected by welfare reforms (single mothers) experienced worse health outcomes than comparison groups less affected by the reforms. For example, the reforms were associated with at least a 4.0-percentage-point increase in binge drinking (95% confidence interval: 0.9, 7.0) and a 2.4-percentage-point decrease in the probability of being able to afford medical care (95% confidence interval: 0.1, 4.8) after controlling for age, educational level, and health care insurance status. Although the reforms were applauded for reducing welfare dependency, they may have adversely affected health.

The nature and costs of kin support among low-income rural African American mothers Raymond Garrett-Peters, Linda Burton

The nature and costs of kin support among low-income rural African American mothers

Author: Raymond Garrett-Peters, Linda Burton
Publisher: Women, Gender, and Families of Color
Date: 03/2016

Since Stack’s (1974) landmark ethnography of kin support in a close-knit group of poor black mothers in the Midwest, there has been ample research on social support among low-income black families. While this body of work has largely painted a picture of the cohesive and supportive nature of families in black communities, recent research has highlighted the limited nature of kin support, especially the support available to low-income black mothers. Much of this work, however, has focused primarily on urban black mothers and paid less attention to the conditions that poor rural black mothers face when seeking and giving family support. Using longitudinal ethnographic data from a sample of 16 low-income black mothers in the rural South, we draw on social exchange, negotiated-order, and social capital perspectives to scrutinize the nature and costs of kin support in family networks marked by limited resources, instability, and chronic need. Our findings reveal the centrality of problematic resources and unpredictable family networks as conditions that diminish mothers’ autonomy and compromise important “side bets” as mothers seek out, manage, and repay support. Implications of this study for theories of social support and social capital are also discussed.

Consumption Inequality and Family Labor Supply Richard Blundell , Luigi Pistaferri , Itay Saporta-Eksten

Consumption Inequality and Family Labor Supply

Author: Richard Blundell , Luigi Pistaferri , Itay Saporta-Eksten
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 02/2016

We examine the link between wage and consumption inequality using a life-cycle model incorporating consumption and family labor supply decisions. We derive analytical expressions for the dynamics of consumption, hours, and earnings of two earners in the presence of correlated wage shocks, nonseparability, progressive taxation, and asset accumulation. The model is estimated using panel data for hours, earnings, assets, and consumption. We focus on family labor supply as an insurance mechanism and find strong evidence of smoothing of permanent wage shocks. Once family labor supply, assets, and taxes are properly accounted for there is little evidence of additional insurance.

Neighborhood Effect Heterogeneity by Family Income and Developmental Period Geoffrey T. Wodtke, Felix Elwert, David Harding

Neighborhood Effect Heterogeneity by Family Income and Developmental Period

Author: Geoffrey T. Wodtke, Felix Elwert, David Harding
Publisher: American Journal of Sociology
Date: 01/2016

Effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods on child educational outcomes likely depend on a family’s economic resources and the timing of neighborhood exposures during the course of child development. This study investigates how timing of exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods during childhood versus adolescence affects high school graduation and whether these effects vary across families with different income levels. It follows 6,137 children in the PSID from childhood through adolescence and overcomes methodological problems associated with the joint endogeneity of neighborhood context and family income by adapting novel counterfactual methods—a structural nested mean model estimated via two-stage regression with residuals—for time-varying treatments and time-varying effect moderators. Results indicate that exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly during adolescence, has a strong negative effect on high school graduation and that this negative effect is more severe for children from poor families.

Family - CPI Affiliates

Rebecca M. Blank Chancellor University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ron Haskins Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies; Co-Director, Center on Children and Families The Brookings Institution

Pages

Family - Other Research

Title Author Media
Children Living With Uninsured Family Members: Differences by Family Structure Sharon Bzostek, Christine Percheski

Children Living With Uninsured Family Members: Differences by Family Structure

Author: Sharon Bzostek, Christine Percheski
Publisher: Journal of Marriage and Family
Date: 05/2016

Despite increased access to insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, uninsurance rates are expected to remain relatively high. Having uninsured family members may expose children to financial hardships. Eligibility rules governing both private and public health insurance are based on outdated expectations about family structure. Using 2009–2011 data from the National Health Interview Survey (N = 65,038), the authors investigated family structure differences in family-level insurance coverage of households with children. Children living with married biological parents were the least likely to have uninsured family members and most likely to have all family members covered by private insurance. Controlling for demographic characteristics and income, children in single-mother families had the same risk of having an uninsured family member as children in married-parent families. Children with cohabiting biological parents had higher rates of family uninsurance than children with married biological parents, even accounting for other characteristics.

What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents’ Views of Intelligence but Their Parents’ Views of Failure Kyla Haimovitz, Carol S. Dweck

What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents’ Views of Intelligence but Their Parents’ Views of Failure

Author: Kyla Haimovitz, Carol S. Dweck
Publisher: Psychological Science
Date: 04/2016

Children’s intelligence mind-sets (i.e., their beliefs about whether intelligence is fixed or malleable) robustly influence their motivation and learning. Yet, surprisingly, research has not linked parents’ intelligence mind-sets to their children’s. We tested the hypothesis that a different belief of parents—their failure mind-sets—may be more visible to children and therefore more prominent in shaping their beliefs. In Study 1, we found that parents can view failure as debilitating or enhancing, and that these failure mind-sets predict parenting practices and, in turn, children’s intelligence mind-sets. Study 2 probed more deeply into how parents display failure mind-sets. In Study 3a, we found that children can indeed accurately perceive their parents’ failure mind-sets but not their parents’ intelligence mind-sets. Study 3b showed that children’s perceptions of their parents’ failure mind-sets also predicted their own intelligence mind-sets. Finally, Study 4 showed a causal effect of parents’ failure mind-sets on their responses to their children’s hypothetical failure. Overall, parents who see failure as debilitating focus on their children’s performance and ability rather than on their children’s learning, and their children, in turn, tend to believe that intelligence is fixed rather than malleable.

A Most Egalitarian Profession: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz

A Most Egalitarian Profession: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation

Author: Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics
Date: 04/2016

Pharmacy today is a highly remunerated female-majority profession with a small gender earnings gap and low earnings dispersion. Using extensive surveys of pharmacists, as well as the US Census, American Community Surveys, and Current Population Surveys, we explore the gender earnings gap, penalty to part-time work, demographics of pharmacists relative to other college graduates, and evolution of the profession during the last half-century. Technological changes increasing substitutability among pharmacists, growth of pharmacy employment in retail chains and hospitals, and related decline of independent pharmacies reduced the penalty to part-time work and contribute to the narrow gender earnings gap in pharmacy.

Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions With Family Immigration History and Income Slopen N, Shonkoff JP, Albert MA, Yoshikawa H, Jacobs A, Stoltz R, Williams DR

Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions With Family Immigration History and Income

Author: Slopen N, Shonkoff JP, Albert MA, Yoshikawa H, Jacobs A, Stoltz R, Williams DR
Publisher: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Date: 01/2016

INTRODUCTION:

Childhood adversity is an under-addressed dimension of primary prevention of disease in children and adults. Evidence shows racial/ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of childhood adversity in the U.S., yet data on the interaction of race/ethnicity and SES for exposure risk is limited, particularly with consideration of immigration history. This study examined racial/ethnic differences in nine adversities among children (from birth to age 17 years) in the National Survey of Child Health (2011-2012) and determined how differences vary by immigration history and income (N=84,837).

METHODS:

We estimated cumulative adversity and individual adversity prevalences among white, black, and Hispanic children of U.S.-born and immigrant parents. We examined whether family income mediated the relationship between race/ethnicity and exposure to adversities, and tested interactions (analyses conducted in 2014-2015).

RESULTS:

Across all groups, black and Hispanic children were exposed to more adversities compared with white children, and income disparities in exposure were larger than racial/ethnic disparities. For children of U.S.-born parents, these patterns of racial/ethnic and income differences were present for most individual adversities. Among children of immigrant parents, there were few racial/ethnic differences for individual adversities and income gradients were inconsistent. Among children of U.S.-born parents, the Hispanic-white disparity in exposure to adversities persisted after adjustment for income, and racial/ethnic disparities in adversity were largest among children from high-income families.

CONCLUSIONS:

Simultaneous consideration of multiple social statuses offers promising frameworks for fresh thinking about the distribution of disease and the design of targeted interventions to reduce preventable health disparities.

Changing Family Structures Play a Major Role in the Fight Against Poverty Lawrence Aber, Stuart Butler, Sheldon Danziger, Robert Doar, David T. Ellwood, Judith M. Gueron, Jonathan Haidt, Ron Haskins, Harry J. Holzer, Kay Hymowitz, Lawrence Mead, Ronald Mincy, Richard V. Reeves, Michael R. Strain, Jane Waldfogel

Changing Family Structures Play a Major Role in the Fight Against Poverty

Author: Lawrence Aber, Stuart Butler, Sheldon Danziger, Robert Doar, David T. Ellwood, Judith M. Gueron, Jonathan Haidt, Ron Haskins, Harry J. Holzer, Kay Hymowitz, Lawrence Mead, Ronald Mincy, Richard V. Reeves, Michael R. Strain, Jane Waldfogel
Publisher: AEI-Brookings Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity
Date: 12/2015

Improving the family environment in which children are raised is vital to any serious effort to reduce poverty and expand opportunity.  Twenty-five years of extensive and rigorous research has shown that children raised in stable, secure families have a better chance to flourish.

The family structure in and of itself is an important factor in reducing poverty: children raised in single-parent families are nearly five times as likely to be poor as those in married-couple families.

In Chapter 3 of a new report from the AEI-Brookings Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity, the Working Group recommends policies that:

  1. Promote marriage as the most reliable route to family stability and resources;
  2. Promote delayed, responsible childbearing;
  3. Promote parenting skills and practices, especially among low-income parents; and
  4. Promote skill development, family involvement, and employment among young men as well as women.