Two-Generation Approach

Two-generation approaches target low-income children and parents from the same household, combining parent and child interventions to interrupt the cycle of poverty.

These approaches emphasize education, economic supports, social capital, and health and well-being to create a legacy of economic security that passes from one generation to the next.

HOST uses a two-generation strategy to support and empower families living in public and subsidized housing. This whole-family wraparound approach combines intensive case management and supplemental supports and services for adults and for children. HOST case managers and motivational coaches think about family goals and strategic targeting and attention to individuals within families. 

One of the most compelling rationales for an integrated two-generation approach to service delivery is the multiplier effects for parents and children. Having both parent and child participate in coordinated services should lead to multiplier effects that could not be achieved when parents and children are enrolled in separate and uncoordinated programs. Spurred on by their children’s success, parents may pursue more education and obtain a better job. Further improvement in children’s development might follow, for example, in school success and social competence. Ultimately, the benefits of these multiplier effects would accrue not only to the parent or child participating in an intervention, but to the whole family.


Two-generation models target low-income children and their parents in hopes of interrupting the cycle of poverty. These models vary widely, and policymakers and practitioners need guidance on how best to design them. This brief uses insights from the Housing Opportunities and Services Together Demonstration to present an updated theoretical framework for these models. The framework emphasizes the importance of using family goals to target individual family members, setting individual goals, and aligning tailored and appropriate solutions. This lens also emphasizes prioritizing relationship-building over programs and designing flexible evaluation approaches, while working for systems change to support families in their efforts.

A Theoretical Framework for Two-Generation Models

In 2010, the Urban Institute launched the one-year planning phase for the Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST) Demonstration, an effort to test two-generation strategies to improve the life chances of vulnerable youth and adults in public and subsidized housing. Over three years, housing authorities in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, Illinois, adopted these strategies. At the end of the demonstration, Urban interviewed all the program staff to gather their reflections. This brief synthesizes these insights to provide practitioners guidance on what it takes to implement an effective, truly integrated two-generation model.

Making a Two-Generation Model Work in the Real World

Place matters in the lives of families; homes are the anchor for family life, and the quality of one’s housing is an important determinant of health and economic outcomes. This joint publication by the Urban Institute and the Aspen Institute offers a set of recommendations on how to harness public and assisted housing and public-private housing partnerships to promote better outcomes for families. Read the full report on the Aspen Institute's website.

Place Matters: A Two-Generation Approach to Housing