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's picture Rebecca M. Blank Chancellor
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ron Haskins's picture 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
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.

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.