Introduction and Overview, Sara McLanahan, Ron Haskins, and Elisabeth Donahue
The Emergence of Marriage as a Public Issue, Steve Nock, University of Virginia
American Marriage in the Early Twenty-First Century, Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University
The Impact of Family Formation Change on Family Income, Isabel Sawhill, Brookings Institution, and Adam Thomas, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social and Emotional Wellbeing of the next Generation, Paul Amato, Pennsylvania State University
Family Formation Choices of Low-Income and Minority Families, Kathryn Edin, University of Pennsylvania and Joanna Reed, Northwestern University
Marriage Initiatives: What Might Work?, Robin Dion, Mathematica Policy Research
Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America's Children, Jonathan Rauch, National Journal and the Brookings Institution, and William Meezan, University of Michigan
Tax and Transfer Policy", C. Eugene Steuerle, Urban Institute
For more than 30 years, researchers have seen white children outperform black and other minority children in tests of reading and math skills. Though there is evidence that the gap has narrowed somewhat, the very persistence of this "racial and ethnic gap" remains a source considerable concern for academics, policy professionals and parents. The ethnic and racial gaps appear to reach back to the preschool years. When children reach the school door, minority children exhibit lower school readiness skills, at least those measured by standardized tests, than their white counterparts. From that point forward, the achievement gap only widens.
If policy professionals are to address this disparity in academic achievement (and the consequent disparity in later opportunity), the racial and ethnic gap must be examined in the very earliest years, before students begin school with embedded inequalities. This volume critically summarizes the research on the origin and trajectory of the racial and ethnic gap in the early years from several theoretical perspectives. In particular, research is analyzed to determine when these differences start to emerge, in what areas they appear, what factors contribute to their development by the time children enter grade school and what are the long term effects.
Introducing the Issue of Test Score Ethnic and Racial Disparities, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Sara McLanahan, and Cecilia Elena Rouse Identifying Racial and Ethnic Differences in School Readiness, Donald Rock and Jack Stenner Test Score Gaps: The Contribution of Family and Neighborhood Characteristics, Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson Genetic Differences and School Readiness, William T. Dickens Neuroscience Perspectives on Disparities in School Readiness, Kim Noble, B. J. Casey, and Nim Tottenham Low Birth Weight and School Readiness, Nancy Reichman The Impact of Health on School Readiness, Janet Currie Parenting, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Lisa Markman Childcare and Early Education, Katherine Magnuson and Jane Waldfogel
This book presents a new set of social policies designed to alleviate these problems and to help satisfy the needs of all children. The policies deal with the seven critical domains affecting children from birth through the passage to adulthood: child care, schooling, transition to work, health care, income security, physical security, and child abuse.
While nearly everyone agrees that children are in trouble, there is considerable debate over what kind of trouble they are in, why this is so, and whether government can or should more actively seek to solve these problems. Americans are evenly divided on the question of whether children's problems are more economic or moral in origin. The seven proposals in this volume both reflect and cut across ideological disagreements. Some call for more government, others call for less, and all call for different government methods for achieving socially agreed upon goals.
Recommendations include: replacing major welfare programs and tax subsidies with a set of universal policies, including national health insurance, child support assurance, and universal child care; offering publicly funded vouchers to allow poor children in inner-city neighborhoods to choose their own schools; using both private and governmental resources to get tough on crime through more stringent criminal justice policies and dramatic social measures; and expanding apprenticeship programs for non-college bound youths.
In addition to the editors, the contributors are Barbara R. Bergmann and Robert I. Lerman, American University; Douglas J. Besharov, American Enterprise Institute; John J. DiIulio, Jr., Princeton University; Julia Graham Lear, George Washington University; and Diane Ravitch, New York University.
Several contributors examine the recession’s impact on the economic well-being of families, including changes to income, poverty levels, and economic insecurity. Irwin Garfinkel and Natasha Pilkauskas find that in cities with high unemployment rates during the recession, incomes for families with a college-educated mother fell by only about 5 percent, whereas families without college degrees experienced income losses three to four times greater. Garfinkel and Pilkauskas also show that the number of non-college-educated families enrolled in federal safety net programs—including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps)—grew rapidly in response to the Great Recession.
Other researchers examine how parents’ physical and emotional health, relationship stability, and parenting behavior changed over the course of the recession. Janet Currie and Valentina Duque find that while mothers and fathers across all education groups experienced more health problems as a result of the downturn, health disparities by education widened. Daniel Schneider, Sara McLanahan and Kristin Harknett find decreases in marriage and cohabitation rates among less-educated families, and Ronald Mincy and Elia de la Cruz-Toledo show that as unemployment rates increased, nonresident fathers’ child support payments decreased. William Schneider, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Jane Waldfogel show that fluctuations in unemployment rates negatively affected parenting quality and child well-being, particularly for families where the mother did not have a four-year college degree.
Although the recession affected most Americans, Children of the Great Recession reveals how vulnerable parents and children paid a higher price. The research in this volume suggests that policies that boost college access and reinforce the safety net could help protect disadvantaged families in times of economic crisis.