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Families and Parenting

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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.

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What Happens to Housing Assistance Leavers? (Research Report)
Robin E. Smith, Susan J. Popkin, Taz George, Jennifer Comey

To assess whether federal housing assistance can encourage asset building and self-sufficiency, we need to know why families leave housing assistance and how they fare on their own. As a group, housing assistance leavers appear to be doing better than those still in public housing or receiving rent subsidies; they have higher incomes, are more likely to be married, and live in lower-poverty, safer communities. Dividing the unassisted highlights how those leaving assistance for negative reasons are worse off and how those leaving for positive reasons are struggling. Such findings suggest the need for targeted approaches to support both groups.

Posted to Web: September 22, 2014Publication Date: September 22, 2014

Kids' Share 2014: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2013 (Research Report)
Heather Hahn, Julia Isaacs, Sara Edelstein, Ellen Steele, C. Eugene Steuerle

Kids’ Share 2014: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2013, an eighth annual report, looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Total federal expenditures on children were up from 2012, but below spending in 2010. Broader budgetary forces will continue to restrict spending on children over the next ten years, despite an overall projected growth of over $1.4 trillion in federal spending. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 to 8 percent of the federal budget.

Posted to Web: September 18, 2014Publication Date: September 18, 2014

How Does Unemployment Affect Family Arrangements for Children? (Discussion Papers/Low Income Working Families)
Stephan Lindner, Elizabeth Peters

This study analyzes whether and how the event of a job loss in families with children changes family arrangements. Comparing outcomes for children whose parents become unemployed with children whose parents do not, we find a positive relationship between a parent’s job loss and destabilizing changes in family arrangements in subsequent months for children initially living with married parents, a single mother, or a mother cohabiting with a partner. Among single mothers, these negative consequences are concentrated among those with no high school degree.

Posted to Web: August 28, 2014Publication Date: August 28, 2014

Understanding the Implications of Raising the Minimum Wage in the District of Columbia (Research Report)
Gregory Acs, Laura Wheaton, Maria E. Enchautegui, Austin Nichols

The minimum wage establishes a lower bound on what employers must pay their workers. The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 an hour, but 22 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have established minimum wages above the federal minimum. Today, DC’s minimum wage is set one dollar higher than the federal minimum ($8.25), while the minimum wage in the neighboring jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia use the federal minimum wage. However, DC and two neighboring counties in Maryland (Prince George’s County and Montgomery County) have passed legislation raising their minimum wages to $11.50 an hour by 2016 and 2017, respectively. This report examines the potential effects of raising DC’s minimum wage on DC workers, their families, and on the government programs that serve them.

Posted to Web: August 12, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Insights on Instability and Children's Development: Commentaries from Practitioners, Policymakers, and Researchers (Commentary)
Gina Adams

Concern is growing about the damage that instability can do to children's healthy development. However it has emerged separately across different domains, with little focus on the pervasive and interconnected nature of the issue or on possible cross-cutting policy solutions. In November 2013, the Urban Institute convened policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to discuss the implications of instability for children's development, as well as what we know, need to learn, and need to do across research, policy, and practice. This paper contains essays from some of the meeting participants; a companion report includes the insights from the conference.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

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