Children & Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty


Children & the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

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Much of the variation in adult income in the United States is related to family background during childhood. One-third to one-half of children who are poor for a substantial part of their childhood will be poor as adults. Welfare participation is also substantially correlated across generations. Widening income inequality in the U.S.  has been accompanied by a widening achievement gap between children living in high- vs. low-income families. 

Across the social sciences, our Faculty Affiliates are engaging in projects aimed at better understanding and isolating the causal relationships between parents’ socioeconomic status and their children’s eventual ability to escape poverty. Research Affiliates are also investigating how the stressors that many poor children face affect their emotional development and behaviors.

Research Paper Hilary Hoynes Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

Research Paper Erin R. Hamilton

Assimilation and Emerging Health Disparities Among New Generations of U.S. Children
Erin R. Hamilton (Affiliate in Sociology), Jodi Berger Cardoso, Robert A. Hummer and Yolanda C. Padilla

Children of immigrants currently make up one in four of all children in the United States, and this proportion is expected to increase to one-third by 2050. On average, children of immigrants are more likely than children of natives to live in poverty, experience food insecurity, and live in crowded housing. Additionally, they are less likely than children of natives to receive public assistance or to have health insurance. In this project, investigators provide a comprehensive picture of the health of children of immigrants in comparison to children of natives using recent, nationally representative data.

Research Paper Lisa R. Pruitt

Judging Parents, Judging Place: Poverty, Rurality and Termination of Parental Rights
Lisa R. Pruitt (Affiliate in Law) and Janet L. Wallace

While parents are judged constantly, by fellow parents and by wider society, the consequences of judging parents may extend beyond community reputation and social status: one of the harshest potential consequences of parental judgement is the state’s termination of parental rights. In these cases, impoverished parents who live in rural places suffer harsher judgements as they do not have ready access to state supported parenting programs. This project calls attention to the plight of poor rural families in gaining access to state funded programs that would improve their parenting outcomes.

Research Paper Hilary Hoynes Douglas Miller

Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Infant Health
Hilary W. Hoynes (Affiliate in Economics), Douglas L. Miller (Affiliate in Economics), and David Simon (Graduate Student in Economics)

Is there a positive health impact to families receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit, a central piece in the U.S. safety net for families with children? Researchers conclude that the sizeable increase in income for eligible families significantly improved birth outcomes for both whites and African Americans, with larger impacts for births to African American mothers.

Research Paper Douglas Miller

The Effects of Housing and Neighborhood Conditions on Child Mortality
Brian A. Jacob, Jens Ludwig and Douglas L. Miller (Affiliate in Economics)

Health outcomes for children and adults vary dramatically across neighborhoods, even after statistically controlling for various individual- or family-level risk and protective factors. These patterns have generated concern among both policymakers and scientists that health outcomes may be causally affected by neighborhood attributes. In this paper, researchers estimate the causal effects on child mortality from moving into less distressed neighborhood environments.

Research Paper Douglas Miller

Caution, Drivers! Children Present: Traffic, Pollution, and Infant Health
Christopher R. Knittel, Douglas L. Miller (Affiliate in Economics) and Nicholas J. Sanders

Since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA), atmospheric concentration of local pollutants has fallen drastically. A natural question is whether further reductions will yield additional health benefits. Investigators in this project further this research by addressing two related research questions: (1) what is the impact of automobile driving (and especially congestion) on ambient air pollution levels, and (2) what is the impact of modern air pollution levels on infant health? These questions directly impact children living in congested, impoverished neighborhoods.

Research Paper Rand Conger Keith Widaman

Evaluation of the Interactionist Model of Socioeconomic Status and Problem Behavior: A Developmental Cascade Across Generations
Monica J. Martin, Rand D. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology), Thomas J. Schofield, Shannon J. Dogan, Keith F. Widaman (Affiliate in Psychology), M. Brent Donnellan and Tricia K. Neppl

Considerable evidence shows that low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with poorer physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive functioning for both children and adults. SES also appears to be an important predictor of problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence, such as delinquency, aggression, conduct problems at school, and other externalizing behaviors.

Research Paper Paul Hastings

Childhood Aggression, Withdrawal and Likeability, and the Use of Health Care Later: A Longitudinal Study
Caroline E. Temcheff, Lisa A. Serbin, Alexa Martin-Storey, Dale M. Stack, Paul Hastings (Affiliate in Psychology), Jane Ledingham and Alex E. Schwartzman

While literature suggests that early patterns of aggressive behavior in both girls and boys are predictive of a variety of health risks in adulthood, a longitudinal examination of the predictive links between childhood aggression, negative physical health outcomes in adulthood and overall use of health care has not been done. This study investigates the use of health care and a variety of physical health outcomes in adulthood in order to extend the current body of knowledge regarding the long-term negative sequelae of childhood aggression.

Research Paper Katherine Conger Rand Conger

Intergenerational Transmission of Adaptive Functioning: A Test of the Interactionist Model of SES and Human Development
Thomas J. Schofield, Monica J. Martin, Katherine J. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology), Tricia M. Neppl, M. Brent Donnellan and Rand D. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology)

After decades of studying dysfunction and maladjustment, social and behavioral scientists have begun to recognize the importance of environmental⁄ contextual and dispositional factors that promote or facilitate healthy development. Researchers consider the interface between socioeconomic status (SES) and markers of healthy functioning across multiple generations of family members, focusing on positive development in order to offer alternative pathways for interventions and programs focused on promotion of resilience under stressful conditions.