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.
Systemic oppression renders the Latinx community particularly vulnerable to the economic and health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with psychological consequences for parents and their children. In a recent study, we sought to understand how financial cutbacks and fears of contracting COVID-19 contributed to children’s externalizing behaviors due to increases in maternal stress among low-income Latina mothers. Data were collected from mothers approximately once a month across the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has been shown to improve birth outcomes. When they reach the age of five, however, children become ineligible to receive it. In a recent study, we examined, for both adults and children, the nutritional and laboratory outcomes of this age-related loss of eligibility. We found little impact on children who aged out of the program, but adult women experienced reduced caloric intake and increased food insecurity.
The potential ramifications of food insecurity for the development of children with disabilities are often overlooked in broader policy discussions, despite the fact that such ramifications are likely more significant for these children. In a recent study, I investigated how food insecurity relates to the behavioral outcomes of young school-aged children with disabilities across the first two years of their elementary education. Overall, I found that household food insecurity was related to a significant decline in children’s attentional focus.
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.”