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
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
As public-school closures have increased in number across U.S. cities, opponents have argued that the closures bring many negative consequences, such as greater local crime rates. In a recent study of the 2013 Chicago mass school closure, during which 49 elementary schools were shut, I tested this claim. Looking at each school’s status after closure (vacant, repurposed, or merged with an existing school), I found that vacancy and repurposing into a non-school were associated with decreased crime.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sought to improve access and affordability of health insurance. Most ACA policies targeted childless adults; the extent to which these policies also positively impacted families with children has been unclear. In a recent study, we aimed to examine changes in health care-related financial burden for US families with children before and after the ACA, based on income-eligibility for ACA policies. Using a difference-in-differences design in a cohort of U.S.
Children growing up in economically disadvantaged contexts are at risk of underperforming academically. Why is this? One explanation may be underdeveloped ‘executive function’, an important collection of attention-regulation skills. Executive function is malleable in childhood, indeed—interventions have been effective in improving it, especially among children facing adversity. In a recent study, we set out to examine whether early-life family income predicted long-term academic achievement, and to investigate the role of executive function in explaining this association.
When young adults (YAs) move out of the family home, they often find themselves in a neighborhood that differs considerably from the one in which they grew up. What are the implications of this kind of residential mobility during this particular phase of life? In a recent study, we examined movement in and out of disadvantaged and advantaged neighborhoods as individuals leave home and experience significant life-course events.
A person’s risk for developing psychosis-spectrum disorders such as schizophrenia in adulthood is determined by multiple factors. With this in mind, we examined the risk for the development of such disorders in a two-generation, 30-year prospective longitudinal study of 3,905 urban families in Montréal, Canada. This study took place against a sociocultural backdrop of changing economic and social conditions.
Uninsurance for young adults (YAs) was greatly reduced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But were federal health reforms since 2010 equally beneficial for all YAs? Did certain policies exacerbate, rather than resolve, preexisting disparities in health-insurance coverage? In a recent study, using a nationally representative sample of more than 350,000 participants, we investigated inequalities in YA insurance coverage before and after federal health reforms, including the expansions of dependent coverage, Marketplaces and Medicaid.
Parental divorce is generally associated with unfavorable outcomes for children, particularly with regard to education. But not every divorce is equally harmful for the children it affects. Why is this? In a recent study, we found that parental divorce does lower educational attainment, but only for children whose parents are statistically unlikely to separate. For these children, divorce is an unexpected shock to an otherwise privileged childhood.
Do mothers’ biological responses to stress transfer to her child?
This is a question addressed in a recently published study by
Leah Hibel of UC Davis and Evelyn Mercado of UCLA. Though prior
reports have shown that mothers help their children regulate
distress through calming and soothing, there are few studies that
examine the ways in which a mother facing stress might transmit
stress to her child. This study shows that mothers transmit
stress to their infants and that mothers’ emotions appear to play
a role in this transmission.
In the classroom at Kit Carson Middle School in Sacramento,
Michal Kurlaender sits at one of four small desks pushed to face
each other. The walls are papered in yellow, red and bright blue,
and wavy corrugated borders frame a flutter of papers under the
Kurlaender is interviewing a teacher as part of her evaluation of
the school’s teacher development program to improve students’
college readiness skills. The sudden, grating buzz of the class
bell startles everyone. Kurlaender smiles. “It’s nicer when it’s
the music instead,” she says.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.