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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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Making Sense of Childhood Asthma: Lessons for Building a Better System of Care (Research Report)
Marla McDaniel, Susan J. Popkin, Judy Berman, Paola Barahona, Priya Saxena, Deborah Quint, Stephen J. Teach

This report highlights findings from a qualitative study about asthma care for low-income African American and Latino children ages 4-14 in Washington, DC, where nearly one in five children under age 18 has the condition. We interviewed medical providers, health administrators, policy makers and caregivers whose children had visited the IMPACT DC clinic (located in the emergency department of Children’s National Health System) about the primary barriers, challenges, and opportunities for improving asthma treatment in DC. The stakeholders each felt their school, clinic, agency, or department had a role to play in improving asthma care, and that many challenges were system-related. Three major areas where caregivers and stakeholders described system breakdowns were poor communication among caregivers, providers, and other stakeholders; inadequate access to both the quality and quantity of care needed to manage a child's asthma; and scarce long-term support to address both the social-emotional and financial burdens created by managing a chronic childhood illness.

Posted to Web: April 16, 2014Publication Date: April 16, 2014

Educational Attainment and Earnings Inequality among US-Born Men: A Lifetime Perspective (Research Report)
Josh Mitchell

This report tracks the lifetime earnings of men born in the U.S. between 1940 and 1974, focusing on how earnings differences by educational attainment, age, and year of birth have evolved. Both annual and lifetime earnings inequality increased dramatically for men born in the mid-1950s onward. That increase reflects both absolute earnings gains to highly educated workers (especially those with more than a four-year college degree) and absolute earnings losses to less educated workers. Earnings inequality also increases substantially among those with the same level of educational attainment, complicating standard assumptions about the lifetime value of a college degree.

Posted to Web: April 08, 2014Publication Date: April 08, 2014

Financial Burden of Medical Spending by State and the Implications of the 2014 Medicaid Expansions (Research Report)
Kyle Caswell, Timothy Waidmann, Linda J. Blumberg

This study is the first to offer a detailed look at medical spending burden levels, defined as total family medical out-of-pocket spending as a proportion of income, for each state. It further investigates which states have greater shares of individuals with high burden levels and no Medicaid coverage, but would be Medicaid eligible under the 2014 rules of the Affordable Care Act should their state choose to participate in the expansion. This work suggests which states have the largest populations likely to benefit, in terms of lowering medical spending burden, from participating in the 2014 adult Medicaid expansions.

Posted to Web: April 03, 2014Publication Date: April 03, 2014

Do Financial Knowledge, Behavior, and Well-Being Differ by Gender? (Research Report)
Brett Theodos, Emma Kalish, Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe

Using the National Financial Capability Survey, we examine differences among men and women in financial knowledge, behavior, and well-being. We find that women are less financially knowledgeable than men. Women are less willing than men to take financial risks and have more credit cards than men. However, women are equally likely to pay their credit cards in full every month and are equally likely to save for retirement. More differences by gender arise when we separate men and women by family type. Unmarried women with dependent children are worse-off and likely have other financial stresses.

Posted to Web: March 31, 2014Publication Date: March 31, 2014

Characteristics of Families Receiving Multiple Public Benefits (Research Report)
Sara Edelstein, Mike Pergamit, Caroline Ratcliffe

Little is known about the extent to which low-income households receive multiple public benefits and in what combinations; studies to date estimate low levels of multiple benefit receipt. This brief builds on what is known by investigating the number and types of benefits low-income families with children receive, and the characteristics of families receiving different benefit packages. We find that multiple benefit receipt is common among low-income families, but a minority of families receives benefits beyond food assistance and public health insurance, such as shelter assistance, cash assistance, or work supports.

Posted to Web: February 28, 2014Publication Date: January 22, 2014

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