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
State of the Union 2018: Policy Marianne Cooper, Shelley J. Correll

State of the Union 2018: Policy

Author: Marianne Cooper, Shelley J. Correll
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 03/2018

The ongoing decline in the gender wage gap and many other types of gender inequality slowed down or stalled entirely in the 1990s. Amid inaction by the federal government, some state and local governments have pursued policies to reduce gender inequality, such as raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing paid leave. Efforts by private organizations to address gender inequality often focus on reducing stereotypic biases, delivering unconscious or implicit bias training, or formalizing the employee evaluation process.

Marriage, Labor Supply and the Dynamics of the Social Safety Net Hamish Low, Costas Meghir, Luigi Pistaferri, Alessandra Voena

Marriage, Labor Supply and the Dynamics of the Social Safety Net

Author: Hamish Low, Costas Meghir, Luigi Pistaferri, Alessandra Voena
Publisher: NBER
Date: 02/2018

The 1996 PRWORA reform introduced time limits on the receipt of welfare in the United States. We use variation by state and across demographic groups to provide reduced form evidence showing that such limits led to a fall in welfare claims (partly due to “banking” benefits for future use), a rise in employment, and a decline in divorce rates. We then specify and estimate a life-cycle model of marriage, labor supply and divorce under limited commitment to better understand the mechanisms behind these behavioral responses, carry out counterfactual analysis with longer run impacts and evaluate the welfare effects of the program. Based on the model, which reproduces the reduced form estimates, we show that among low educated women, instead of relying on TANF, single mothers work more, more mothers remain married, some move to relying only on food stamps and, in ex-ante welfare terms, women are worse off.

The Kids Are All Right Janet M. Currie

The Kids Are All Right

Author: Janet M. Currie
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 01/2018

In this article, we pose the following question: Has the overall set of changes to the safety net since PRWORA improved outcomes for children? To answer that question, we look at several measures of child well-being—mortality rates, teen pregnancy, drug use, and high school graduation rates—and find that across all these measures, poor children are much better off today.

The Unsuccessful Family Experiment Daniel T. Lichter

The Unsuccessful Family Experiment

Author: Daniel T. Lichter
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 01/2018

For those who believe that the 1996 welfare reform bill was mainly oriented toward promoting work, it might be surprising to learn that the bill begins with this line: “Marriage is the foundation of a successful society.” The law provided money for states to implement initiatives promoting healthy marriages. The specifics were left to the states, but possibilities included public advertising campaigns on the value of healthy marriages, marital skills training, and divorce reduction programs. My question in this article is simple: Did this social experiment work? Did the law promote marriage, foster healthy relationships, and reduce nonmarital fertility? To answer this question, I look at trends in marriage, cohabitation, and nonmarital fertility.

Children, Time Allocation and Consumption Insurance Richard Blundell, Luigi Pistaferri, Itay Saporta-Eksten

Children, Time Allocation and Consumption Insurance

Author: Richard Blundell, Luigi Pistaferri, Itay Saporta-Eksten
Publisher: NBER
Date: 11/2017

We consider the life cycle choices of a household that in each period decides how much to consume and how to allocate spouses' time to work, leisure, and childcare. In an environment with uncertainty, the allocation of goods and time over the life cycle also serves the purpose of smoothing marginal utility in response to shocks. We combine data on consumption, spouses' wages, hours of work, and time spent with children to estimate the sensitivity of consumption and time allocation to transitory and permanent wage shocks. These structural parameters describe the ability of household to self-insure in response to shocks. We find that behavioral responses to wage shocks depend on the presence of young children. We also find that labor supply cross-responses depend on three counteracting forces: complementarity of leisure time, substitutability of time in the production of child services, and added worker effects.

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
Subsidized Housing and the Transition to Adulthood Yana Kucheva

Subsidized Housing and the Transition to Adulthood

Author: Yana Kucheva
Publisher: Demography
Date: 04/2018

Despite abundant evidence about the effect of children’s socioeconomic circumstances on their transition to adulthood, we know much less about the effect of social policy programs aimed at poor families with children in facilitating how and when children become adults. This issue is particularly important for the U.S. federal subsidized housing program given its long history of placing subsidized units in some of the poorest and most racially segregated neighborhoods. Using counterfactual causal methods that adjust for the length of receipt of subsidized housing, I estimate the effect of subsidized housing on teenage parenthood, household formation, and educational attainment. I find that the subsidized housing program has either null or positive effects on the transition to adulthood and that these effects vary by both race and gender. These results underscore the importance of considering whether social programs have differential effects on the life chances of individuals based on both race and gender.

Marriage, Family Structure, and Maternal Employment Trajectories Christine Percheski

Marriage, Family Structure, and Maternal Employment Trajectories

Author: Christine Percheski
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 03/2018

Previous studies of maternal employment have focused on marital status differences, but the rise in nonmarital cohabiting parenthood problematizes the simple dichotomy between married and unmarried mothers. Theory and previous research yield mixed predictions as to whether cohabiting mothers’ employment will more closely resemble that of married mothers or lone unmarried mothers. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, I examine how maternal employment varies across family structures (married parents, cohabiting unmarried parents, and lone unmarried mothers) in the five years after a birth for mothers living in urban areas in the United States. Descriptive statistics show few differences in maternal employment patterns by family structure. Controlling for human capital, however, I find that cohabiting mothers return to work earlier and work more than married mothers. Cohabiting mothers and lone mothers show very similar employment patterns. Additionally, cohabiting mothers who later marry have employment trajectories that are similar to married mothers, whereas married mothers who divorce increase their employment hours. Family characteristics, partner characteristics, and gender attitudes do not explain employment differences between married and cohabiting mothers. I speculate that cohabiting mothers work more than married mothers as a hedge against economic deprivation given high union dissolution rates for cohabiting couples.

Dinner Table Human Capital and Entrepreneurship Hans K. Hvide, Paul Oyer

Dinner Table Human Capital and Entrepreneurship

Author: Hans K. Hvide, Paul Oyer
Publisher: NBER
Date: 01/2018

We document three new facts about entrepreneurship. First, a majority of male entrepreneurs start a firm in the same or a closely related industry as their fathers’ industry of employment. Second, this tendency is correlated with intelligence: higher-IQ entrepreneurs are less likely to follow their fathers. Third, an entrepreneur that starts a firm in the same 5-digit industry as where his father was employed tends to outperform entrepreneurs in the same industry whose fathers did not work in that industry. We consider various explanations for these facts and conclude that “dinner table human capital”, where children obtain industry knowledge through their parents, is an important factor behind what type of firm is started and how well it performs.

The Promise and Perils of Population Research on Same-Sex Families Corinne Reczek, Russell Spiker, Hui Liu, Robert Crosnoe

The Promise and Perils of Population Research on Same-Sex Families

Author: Corinne Reczek, Russell Spiker, Hui Liu, Robert Crosnoe
Publisher: Demography
Date: 11/2017

As a follow-up to our 2016 study, this article presents new findings examining the relationship between same-sex family structure and child health using the 2008–2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). After discussing NIHS data problems, we examine the relationship between family structure and a broad range of child well-being outcomes, including school days lost, behavior, parent-rated health, emotional difficulties, and activity limitations. We find both similarities (school days lost, behavior, parent-rated health) and differences (emotional difficulties and activity limitations) across our two studies using different survey years, but our overall conclusions are robust. We further discuss the implications of our findings for future research on this topic, including how to account for biological relatedness in a study on child health in same-sex families.

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).