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

Pages

Family - Other Research

Title Author Media
Is There Still Son Preference in the United States? Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn, Peter Brummund, Jason Cook, Miriam Larson-Koester

Is There Still Son Preference in the United States?

Author: Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn, Peter Brummund, Jason Cook, Miriam Larson-Koester
Publisher: NBER
Date: 09/2017

In this paper, we use 2008-2013 American Community Survey data to update and further probe Dahl and Moretti’s (2008) son preference results, which found evidence that having a female first child increased the probability of single female headship and raised fertility. In light of the substantial increase in immigration, we examine this question separately for immigrants and natives. Among the population in the aggregate, as well as among the native-born separately, consistent with Dahl and Moretti (2008), we find that having a female first child raises the likelihood that the mother is a single parent. However, in sharp contrast to Dahl and Moretti (2008), we find that having a female first child is actually associated with lower fertility. Thus, by the 2008-2013 period, any apparent son preference among natives in their fertility decisions appears to be outweighed by factors such as cost concerns in raising girls. This change may be plausible in light of the reversal of the gender gap in college attendance beginning in the 1980s (Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko 2006), making girls more costly. For immigrants, we also find evidence that having a female first child contributes to female headship, with an effect that has the same magnitude as that for natives although is not statistically significant. However, in contrast to natives, we do find a positive fertility effect, suggesting son preference in fertility among this group. This interpretation is further supported by evidence that, for both first and second generation immigrants (second generation immigrants were examined using the Current Population Surveys) having a girl has a more positive effect on fertility for those whose source countries have lower values of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equity Index, or lower female labor force participation rates and higher sex (boy-to-girl) ratios among births. We also examine sex selection and find no evidence that sex selection has spread beyond the race groups identified in previous work (e.g., Almond and Edlund 2008).

The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze

The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries

Author: Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

This paper documents the evolving impact of childbearing on the work activity of mothers. Based on a compiled dataset of 441 censuses and surveys between 1787 and 2015, representing 103 countries and 48.4 million mothers, we document three main findings: (1) the effect of fertility on labor supply is small and typically indistinguishable from zero at low levels of development and economically large and negative at higher levels of development; (2) this negative gradient is remarkably consistent across histories of currently developed countries and contemporary cross-sections of countries; and (3) the results are strikingly robust to identification strategies, model specification, data construction, and rescaling. We explain our results within a standard labor-leisure model and attribute the negative labor supply gradient to changes in the sectoral and occupational structure of female jobs as countries develop.

Women, Work, and Family Francine D. Blau, Anne E. Winkler

Women, Work, and Family

Author: Francine D. Blau, Anne E. Winkler
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

This chapter focuses on women, work, and family, with a particular focus on differences by educational attainment. First, we review long-term trends regarding family structure, participation in the labor market, and time spent in household production, including time with children. In looking at family, we focus on mothers with children. Next we examine key challenges faced by mothers as they seek to combine motherhood and paid work: workforce interruptions associated with childbearing, the impact of home and family responsibilities, and constraints posed by workplace culture. We also consider the role that gendered norms play in shaping outcomes for mothers. We conclude by discussing policies that have the potential to increase gender equality in the workplace and mitigate the considerable conflicts faced by many women as they seek to balance work and family.

An Analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership Program James J. Heckman, Margaret L. Holland, Kevin K. Makino, Rodrigo Pinto, Maria Rosales-Rueda

An Analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership Program

Author: James J. Heckman, Margaret L. Holland, Kevin K. Makino, Rodrigo Pinto, Maria Rosales-Rueda
Publisher: NBER
Date: 07/2017

This paper evaluates a randomized controlled trial of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program conducted in Memphis, TN in 1990. NFP offers home visits conducted by nurses for disadvantaged first-time mothers during pregnancy and early childhood. We test NFP treatment effects using permutation-based inference that accounts for the NFP randomization protocol. Our methodology is valid for small samples and corrects for multiple-hypothesis testing. We also analyze the underlying mechanisms generating these treatment effects. We decompose NFP treatment effects into components associated with the intervention-enhanced parenting and early childhood skills. The NFP improves home investments, parenting attitudes and mental health for mothers of infants at age 2. At age 6, the NFP boosts cognitive skills for both genders and socio-emotional skills for females. These treatment effects are explained by program-induced improvements in maternal traits and early-life family investments. At age 12, the treatment effects for males (but not for females) persist in the form of enhanced achievement test scores. Treatment effects are largely explained by enhanced cognitive skills at age 6. Our evidence of pronounced gender differences in response to early childhood interventions contributes to a growing literature on this topic.

Family Investments in Education during Periods of Economic Uncertainty: Evidence from the Great Recession Anna Lunn, Sabino Kornrich

Family Investments in Education during Periods of Economic Uncertainty: Evidence from the Great Recession

Author: Anna Lunn, Sabino Kornrich
Publisher: Sociological Perspectives
Date: 07/2017

At the beginning of the Great Recession, household spending on education across the income distribution was highly unequal. We examined how different income groups altered their spending on education for children under 18 during this economic crisis. As national and local economic conditions deteriorated during the recession, the difference in odds that a high-income household spent on education relative to a low-income family increased by 20 percent, and the difference in the amounts that high-income families spent on education relative to low-income families also increased by 20 percent. As state unemployment rates climbed and consumer confidence fell, high-income families’ educational spending increased relative to low-income families’ spending. Decreases in local housing prices were also associated with lower spending for low-income families. Given the importance of educational enrichment for children’s learning outcomes, increasing inequality in families’ educational investments during the Great Recession may contribute to future educational and social inequality.