Much of the variation in adult income in the United States has to
do with the family background a child has while growing up.
One-third to one-half of children who are poor for a substantial
part of their childhood will be poor as adults. The growing
income inequality in the U.S. has been accompanied by a widening
gap in school achievement between children living in high- vs.
low-income families. Welfare participation is also
substantially correlated across generations.
See below for more information on research projects and other
resources related to this topic.
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
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.
The idea that individuals can escape poverty through hard work is
a fundamental tenant of American society. Intergenerational
mobility is lower in the United States than in any other
developed country in the world. One in ten American children
spends at least half of their childhood in poverty. Understanding
the mechanisms that lie behind the intergenerational transmission
of poverty is necessary in order to design effective policies to
improve poor children’s life chances.
These briefs are short and informative analyses of our research
relating to poverty policies. Policy Briefs deliver our
cutting-edge research directly to policy makers, researchers, and
stakeholders in an accessible format.
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.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves more than one-quarter of pregnant and postpartum women in the United States. In October 2009, the WIC food package underwent revisions to improve nutritional content. In a recent quasi-experimental study of more than two million California infants, we investigated the extent to which those revisions—which increased access to whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk—resulted in improvements in maternal and infant health.
Economic hardship during childhood contributes to worse mental and physical health across the lifespan. Over the past decade, researchers have begun to highlight the behavioral and biological pathways that underlie these disparities, and to identify protective factors—supportive relationships, for example—that mitigate against their occurrence. In this brief, we summarize some of this recent research and the new challenges it presents. We also make suggestions to inform both policy and practice for youth experiencing economic hardship.
Center podcasts are a great way to keep up with today’s poverty
research and public policy. We record most of our conference
presentations and talks by our seminar speakers. We also produce
exclusive content, such as our Poverty in Focus series, as well
as expert discussions on research.
In this podcast, David Figlio and Michal Kurlaender discuss how
inequality before a child is even born can compound across a
lifetime, and the difference high-quality schools can make for
In this podcast, Kathleen Short and Center Director Ann Stevens
discuss the Supplemental Poverty Measure and other attempts to
measure poverty throughout the nation. In November, 2014, Short
visited the center to present the seminar “The Supplemental
Poverty Measure for 2013: Latest Estimates and Research.”