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.
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.
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 banner “AMAZING.”
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.
In his lab by the freeway in Davis, Ross Thompson, a developmental psychologist, pulls a plush monkey puppet onto each hand and stands behind a cardboard “stage.” A red curtain hangs across a cutout in the front.
“We would normally have animated voices and all the rest,” he says. “If you do this in a way that is within the child’s capabilities, you will find that they have a much richer sense of themselves psychologically than we give them credit for.”
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.
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.
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.
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, impoverished neighborhoods.
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.
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.
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.