Urban Institute experts study public policies' effects on families and parents. We analyze family-leave policies, public supports for families, and government policies aimed at strengthening marriage. Our Low-Income Working Families project explores the hardships of employed families struggling to make ends meet.
A third of all families with children (13.4 million families) have incomes less than twice the federal poverty line. A sudden job loss or health crisis could derail them. Tax credits, food stamps, child care subsidies, and other work supports help. But they don't always close the gap between earnings and basic needs. Urban Institute analysts have proposed new initiatives to protect low-income working families and help them get ahead.
In this commentary for BlogHer.com, Urban Institute fellow Olivia Golden discusses a two-generation policy agenda that can help promote young children's development and low-wage workers' economic stability, which should start with a national focus on the first year of life.
Considerable research attention has been devoted to low-income mothers disconnected from both work and welfare. This body of work has rarely highlighted disconnected mothers' roles as parents and has remained virtually silent about the experiences and well-being of their children. This paper synthesizes research findings to show that many of the circumstances disconnected mothers face pose major risks to children's development and potentially serious consequences for children. We describe potential interventions to help disconnected families by increasing and stabilizing family income, enhancing parenting skills, supporting children directly, and reaching out to disconnected mothers who are not citizens.
This brief discusses how immigration policy keeps families apart and presents national data attesting
to these family separations. Immigrants are more likely than natives to be married with spouse
absent, their households are more likely to be headed by men with no wife present, and foreign-born
children are more likely to be in nonchild relationships to the householder than natives. In a subset of
foreign-born children with at least one parent in the United States, 21 percent were separated from
their mothers and 34 percent from their fathers for 1 year or more.
Maternal depression can have severe and lasting consequences for both a mother and her child. This brief uses the National Survey of Drug Use and Health to estimate the prevalence, severity, and treatment of major depression among low-income mothers with young children (ages 0-5). We find that one out of eleven low-income mothers with young children had a major depressive episode in the past year, and nearly one-third did not report receiving any treatment. While uninsured low-income mothers had much lower treatment rates than insured low-income mothers, rates were comparable across treatment providers, suggesting that Medicaid fills an important gap.
Work Support Strategies (WSS) is a multiyear, multi-state initiative to implement reforms that help eligible low-income families get and keep a full package of work support benefits, including Medicaid, nutrition assistance (SNAP), and child care assistance. This report summarizes the lessons learned from the nine planning grant states (Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina), just one year into a four-year project. The report includes what the states did, how they overcame challenges, and how the planning year changed their strategies and capacities for the future.