Vulnerable Families Research Program Resources

Resource Category Topic Type
"Not very many options for the people who are working here"
In this brief, we use interview and focus group data to describe some of the ways that restricted rural housing stock affects working families in two rural New England counties, and explore solutions proposed by rural residents and experts to make housing affordable (see Box 1 on page 2). Rural amenities and scenery make residence in certain New England regions desirable for second-home owners, vacationers, and retirees. However, the use of housing for these purposes, combined with efforts to conserve acreage and preserve scenery, serves to diminish the supply of housing, making it unaffordable for many low- and moderate-income residents. Moreover, the housing that is available varies in quality, and regional nonprofit and federal housing assistance programs lack the capacity to meet all residents’ needs.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Housing, Rural, Safety Net Publication
2012 National Child Poverty Rate Stagnates at 22.6 Percent
In this brief, authors Marybeth Mattingly, Jessica Carson, and Andrew Schaefer use American Community Survey data released on September 19, 2012, to explore patterns of child poverty across states and place types, focusing on changes both since 2011 and since the recession began in 2007.
New Hampshire, Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, New Hampshire, Poverty Publication
2014 Data Indicate That Four in Ten Children Live in Low-Income Families
In September 2015, the Census Bureau released 2014 poverty data from the American Community Survey (ACS), the only regular source for reliably estimating child poverty in geographic areas below the state level using the official poverty measure. In this brief, we use ACS data to explore child poverty rates across the United States by region, state, and place type (rural, suburban, and city). We also examine data on children who are deeply poor (those in families with incomes below half of the poverty line), as well as low-income children (those in families with incomes less than twice the poverty line). We find that while child poverty declined nationwide between 2013 and 2014, that drop was not felt uniformly across the country: several states saw declines, a few states saw increases, and others saw no change at all. We also found substantial differences in the magnitude of change across rural places, suburbs, and cities. Child Poverty Rates Vary by State While child poverty declined overall, rates still vary tremendously across states, regions, and place types (see Table 1). Nationwide, 21.7 percent of children lived in poor families in 2014 (that is, with incomes below $19,073 for a single parent with two children),1 down 0.6 percentage point since 2013. Regionally, the Northeast retains the lowest child poverty rate, at 19.0 percent, while the highest rates continue to be found in cities (28.5 percent), followed by rural places (25.2 percent), and suburbs (16.8 percent). While child poverty declined in all place types between 2013 and 2014, declines across regions were not as consistent: the Northeast’s child poverty rate remained stable between 2013 and 2014 whereas other regions experienced a decline. Child poverty remained higher than in 2009 (post-recession) in nearly every region and place type, with the sole exception of the rural Midwest, where the 2014 child poverty rate was similar to the 2009 rate. State-by-state variations in child poverty rates are illustrated in Figure 1. States with poverty rates below 15 percent included Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. At the other end of the spectrum, rates in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington DC were above 25 percent. Between 2013 and 2014, changes in child poverty were not consistent across states: while fourteen witnessed a decline in child poverty over the year, four experienced a significant increase. Looking over a longer period—from the end of the Great Recession in 2009 until 2014—twenty states had child poverty rates similar to those at the end of the Great Recession, and two states—Colorado and Montana—had rates that were lower. Worth noting, however, is that the poverty rate has not fallen below its pre-recession rate in any state (data available upon request).
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty Publication
2020 Census Faces Challenges in Rural America
The 2020 Census will have ramifications for every person in the United States, urban and rural residents alike.1 Interest in the Census is growing2 and the Census Bureau’s plans are becoming more concrete,3 but little has been written about the special challenges that will make some rural areas and populations difficult to enumerate accurately.
Demography, Vulnerable Families Research Program Demography, Rural, Urban Publication
A Community Schools Approach to Accessing Services and Improving Neighborhood Outcomes in Manchester, New Hampshire
In the several years since the Great Recession, New Hampshire, like the nation, has witnessed and experienced growing economic disadvantage. The state’s poverty level stands at 8.4 percent, and child poverty increased from about 8 percent in 2000 to nearly 10 percent in 2012.1 Some areas of the state have been hit harder than others. In the state’s largest city of Manchester, for instance, the poverty rate rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2012, and within Manchester some neighborhoods have become poorer than others (Figures 1 and 2).2 Increases in poverty and educational disadvantage are steepest among minorities and immigrants, the city’s fastest-growing demographic groups.3 The vulnerabilities to which people are exposed as a result of poverty can have devastating consequences. Children living in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school, and they have worse educational outcomes overall; one study found that living in a high-poverty neighborhood is equivalent to missing a year of school.4 Poverty-afflicted children are also more likely to live in poverty as adults.5 In an era when a state’s economic health depends more than ever on the physical health and educational capital of its residents, stakeholders across New Hampshire have a vested interest in alleviating the growing poverty in Manchester and the wide disparities between Manchester and the rest of the state. To engage in this challenge, the Manchester Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy Leadership Team launched the Manchester Community Schools Project (MCSP)—a partnership between the Manchester Health Department, city elementary schools, philanthropists, neighborhood residents, and several nonprofit agencies—to improve and enhance educational achievement, economic well-being, access to health care services, healthy behaviors, social connectedness, safety, and living environments.
New Hampshire, Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Community, Education, New Hampshire Publication
A Demographic and Economic Profile of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin
In this brief, we present a demographic and economic profile of Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI, with a specific focus on families with children. The cities, situated at the western point of Lake Superior (see Figure 1), share a rich economic history as major ports for coal, iron ore, and grain. Each city is also home to numerous colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Demography, Vulnerable Families Research Program Demography, Economic Development, Poverty Publication
A Profile of Youth Poverty and Opportunity in Southwestern Minnesota
Like many rural communities across the United States, Southwestern Minnesota (hereafter SW Minnesota; see Box 1) has an aging population, evidenced by a growing share of seniors and a declining share of children and young adults, particularly among the non-Hispanic white population.1 As the population ages, it is also becoming more diverse, as racial-ethnic minority population is far younger, on average, than the non-Hispanic white population and contains a disproportionate share of children and young adults. Much of the growth in diversity is driven by an expanding population of immigrants. These residents, typically in their young working-age years, often establish themselves in SW Minnesota and go on to have families of their own. Research on the rural outmigration of the young and working non-Hispanic white population indicates that it is often the most promising youth and young adults who leave and seek opportunities elsewhere.2 At the same time, the aging population puts pressure on scarce resources, and the immigrant populations often face challenges including low education, lack of English language proficiency, and the inability to garner work authorization. It is against this demographic backdrop that we explore challenges and opportunities for youth in SW Minnesota. We analyze data on various demographic, economic, educational, and social indicators to gain a better understanding of the circumstances youth face and the opportunity available in SW Minnesota. Wherever possible, we compare conditions in SW Minnesota to the state as a whole and to the entire nation.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Education, Income, Poverty Publication
After a Parent Left Employment, One in Five Children Lost Private Insurance
Parental job loss is an important trigger for a child’s loss of private health insurance.1 For example, research shows that parental loss of full-time employment doubles the odds that a child will lose private health insurance.2 Until the 1990s, substantial numbers of children lacked health insurance, but with the enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997, followed by changes to Medicaid and CHIP’s 2009 reauthorization, children’s health insurance coverage was expanded through broader eligibility, enrollment simplifications, and outreach efforts.3 From 1997 to 2012, the share of children without insurance fell from 14 percent to 7 percent.4 The growth of public coverage for children notwithstanding, private coverage is still the primary form of children’s health insurance. In 2014, 59 percent of children received coverage from private health insurance.5 But coverage has become less consistent for some children, due to an overall decline in employer-provided private-sector coverage, an increase in switching between public and private sources, and low public health insurance renewal rates.6 Even brief gaps in health insurance produce adverse consequences for children, including fewer medical provider visits over the course of a year, the loss of a primary health care provider, difficulty getting preventive and specialized medical care, and the increased use of emergency department and inpatient hospital visits.7 Loss of employer-based coverage leads to instability in health insurance, gaps in coverage, and more unmet health care needs.8 This brief focuses on children’s loss of private health insurance after a parent left his or her job voluntarily or involuntarily between May 2008 and the end of 2012 (see Box 1 for definitions). The number of uninsured children declined steadily throughout this period,9 and experts project that some of the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 will foster a continued decline in the percentages of children without health insurance over the long term.10 For most of the period under study, many ACA provisions that have likely served to expand coverage—the mandate that persons obtain health insurance, the state option to expand Medicaid to reach more families, the provision of federal subsidies to purchase coverage, and the ACA requirement for states to transition coverage of children up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line from CHIP to Medicaid—had not yet gone into effect. But since most children are still covered under private health insurance plans, the majority of which are linked to the parents’ employment, understanding the relationship and the characteristics of children who are unlikely to remain covered after a parent leaves his or her job may help identify ways to preserve consistency in coverage. For example, health care providers, administrators, and policy makers can keep watch to ensure that eligible children are quickly connected with public sources of coverage.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Employment, Health Insurance, Hispanics, Unemployment Publication
After Great Recession, More Married Fathers Providing Child Care
The U.S. economy lost 8.7 million jobs between December 2007 and January 2010.1 Sixty-nine percent of the jobs lost during the recession were held by men, 2 and the employment rate of married fathers (whether working full or part time) with employed wives decreased from 92 percent in 2005 to 88 percent in 2011.3 The large job losses and persistently high unemployment from the Great Recession and its aftermath prompted families to adapt to financial hardship and reallocate fathers’ and mothers’ time spent in the labor force and in the home.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Child Care, Employment, Family, Unemployment Publication
After the Bell
Research on narrowing the academic achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth tends to focus on the inputs provided by schools. Little attention, however, is paid to extracurricular activities, both structured and unstructured, even though extracurricular participation and employment can have positive impacts similar to in-school experiences. Such activities keep adolescents engaged during high-risk hours, and consistent participation is linked to improved academic achievement and prosocial behaviors.1 Extracurricular activities are also influential in the college admissions process as well as in healthy development and academic success.2 This brief uses data from the 2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to examine involvement in activities among youth ages 12–18 across income categories and metropolitan status3 in the hopes of informing policy aimed at attenuating inequalities in participation. While not a complete profile of youth activities (time spent on homework, care of younger siblings, or housework, for example, are not included), determining participation rates helps us understand what youth are doing in their out-of-school hours and how these activities vary by income and metropolitan status. Access to extracurricular activities and employment is growing more unequal,4 and as a result lower-income youth may be increasingly disadvantaged compared to middle- and upper-income children.5 See Box 1: Definitions.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Education, Young Adults Publication
After Years of Decline, Private Health Insurance Rates Among Children Grew in 2014
Rates of private health insurance coverage for children increased between 2013 and 2014 for the first time since 2008, the first year in which the American Community Survey collected data on health insurance (see Figure 1). The rise corresponds with the implementation of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the opening of state and federal insurance exchanges, and an improving employment market. Between 2008 and 2014 (the most recent data), rates of children’s coverage grew nearly 4 percentage points; to 94 percent. Growth in public insurance, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), was largely responsible for these gains (up 10.8 percentage points since 2008), while rates of private insurance coverage fell concurrently (down 5.6 percentage points). But between 2013 and 2014, the combined rise in public coverage (0.8 percentage points) and private coverage (0.4 percentage points) produced the second-largest overall gain—1.1 percentage points—in children’s insurance rates in the seven-year span. The largest increase—1.4 percentage points—occurred between 2008 and 2009 when Congress and the Obama Administration reauthorized CHIP. Private insurance rates rose most in the rural Midwest and South as well as in Western cities in 2014, while public insurance grew most significantly in suburban places in the Northeast, South, and West.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Health Insurance Publication
Although Child Poverty Declined in 2014, Persistent Racial and Ethnic Disadvantages Remain
Poverty data from the American Community Survey were released on September 17, 2015, allowing a detailed examination of poverty in 2014 across the United States. These data reveal that child poverty has fallen slightly in the last year yet the longer term pattern of high child poverty persists. The levels of child poverty vary enormously along racial and ethnic lines though all groups have seen a recent drop. Similarly, declines are generally evident across place type and region, and for both young children (under age 6) and older children (age 12–17). In this brief, we discuss changes in child poverty between 2013 and 2014 and since 2009, just after the Great Recession ended. We next explore racial-ethnic variation in child poverty in the United States, paying particular attention to patterns by Census region as well as by child age and place type (rural, suburban, city residence). Additionally, we look at how the racial-ethnic composition of poor children compares to that of nonpoor children. Finally, we consider which racial and ethnic groups are, on average, deepest in poverty, with the biggest gap between family income and the poverty threshold. Changes Between 2013 and 2014 Child poverty declined modestly between 2013 and 2014, from 22.3 percent to 21.7 percent (see Table 1), and roughly 400,000 fewer children across the United States lived in poverty in 2014. Yet more than one in five children still live in families with incomes below the official poverty threshold: $24,008 for a family of two adults and two children in 2014 (see Box 1).1 Child poverty declined in all place types, with the largest decline in rural America, where the rate fell by a full percentage point. Poverty also declined among young children (0.9 percentage point) and in all regions except the Northeast (where child poverty remained constant), with the largest declines in the West (0.8 percentage point). Those in the other race/multiracial category experienced the largest declines (1.1 percentage points), followed by Hispanics and Asians (0.7 percentage point each), blacks and non-Hispanic whites (0.6 percentage point each).
Vulnerable Families Research Program African Americans, Children, Poverty Publication
As Opioid Use Climbs, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Rises in New Hampshire
The opioid crisis besetting every region of the United States directly affects more than just those who use substances. For a pregnant woman, a consequence of substance use can be neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)—withdrawal symptoms experienced by the newborn (see Box 1).
Vulnerable Families Research Program Drugs, Family, Health, New Hampshire, Substance Abuse Publication
Beginning Teachers Are More Common in Rural, High-Poverty, and Racially Diverse Schools
This brief considers whether the concentration of beginning teachers in a district is associated with the district's poverty rate, racial composition, or urbanicity.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Education, Poverty, Rural Publication
Behind at the Starting Line
Hispanics are driving U.S. population growth. Representing just 16 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, Hispanics accounted for the majority of U.S. population growth over the past decade. The current emphasis on immigration in public discourse and policy reflects the commonplace assumption that Hispanic population growth is driven largely by new immigration. Yet, most Hispanic growth today is due to Hispanic births, not immigration.1 Fertility represents a large second-order effect of past and current immigration. The often unappreciated impact of U.S.-born Hispanic infants on population growth raises an important policy question: Do Hispanic infants start life’s race behind the starting line, poor and disadvantaged? The question of whether Hispanic infants start life at an economic disadvantage has broad policy implications. Poverty at birth threatens childhood development trajectories, later academic achievement, transitions to productive adult roles, and, ultimately, incorporation into the economic, social, and political mainstream.2 Nor is this just a highly localized concern in a few traditional Hispanic settlement areas, because Hispanics are now widely distributed geographically. America’s Hispanic population has dispersed from established gateways in the Southwest and a few large urban cores to new destinations throughout the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, and the agricultural heartland.3 Most Hispanics continue to reside in metropolitan areas, where they accounted for nearly 55 percent of recent population gains. Yet, Hispanic growth has had even greater impacts in rural America. A burgeoning Hispanic population accounted for two-thirds of the rural population gain, though Hispanics represented less than 7 percent of the population in 2010. In many rural areas, Hispanics provide a demographic lifeline to dying small towns. Births account for a growing share of the Hispanic population increase: nearly 25 percent of all U.S. births are now to Hispanics. Our focus here is on the question of how many Hispanic infants begin their lives in poverty. In our previous research, we demonstrated that the growing proportion of U.S. births that are Hispanic is causing America to become more diverse from youngest to oldest.4 Diversity as well as economic incorporation are occurring from the “bottom up”—beginning with infants and children. Here we examine the comparative economic circumstances of Hispanics but, unlike previous studies, we place the emphasis squarely on infants. The period in utero and during early infancy is especially critical for brain development and later cognitive, emotional, and physical outcomes. Poor infants also face clear developmental disadvantages that persist into adulthood.5 In the absence of upward socioeconomic mobility, childhood poverty contributes to poverty in adulthood, a statistical fact that will take on special significance if intergenerational mobility declines and inequality grows.6
Vulnerable Families Research Program Birth Rates, Children, Demography, Hispanics Publication
Carsey Perspective: Is the Poverty Rate 1.1 Percent?
Poverty in the United States is a multifaceted problem with causes as diverse as the 46.7 million people who live in it and solvable only through a suite of solutions.1 Those 46.7 million people constituted 14.8 percent of the population of the United States in 2014,2 which both shocks the conscience for such a wealthy country and suggests a challenge of intimidating magnitude. On the other hand, while the number of people is daunting, the dollar amount involved is less so. We estimate that those living in poverty in 2014 in the United States were $192 billion short of the poverty line. In other words, the sum total it would take to raise all poor families to the poverty line is $192 billion. That isn’t a small sum, of course. But it is only 1.1 percent of our nation’s $17.3 trillion of national income in 2014.3 Thus, while 14.8 percent of the population lives in poverty, to raise them out of poverty would require raising their income by only 1.1 percent of total national income. Figure 1 and 2 That’s not to say that there’s a magic wand to make this happen. Proposals to address poverty have been put forward from many quarters. They all deserve consideration on their merits, but resignation to the inevitability of poverty because of the magnitude of the problem is not a reason for inaction. After all, most other economically advanced countries have lower rates of poverty than the United States.4 So poverty in otherwise well-off nations is not a foregone conclusion. One additional note: of the $192 billion in income increase that’s needed, $160 billion is needed in metropolitan areas, $30 billion in rural areas. Methodology Data for this project are from the 2015 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS). All income questions in the ASEC refer to 2014, the most recent year for which data are available. The ASEC is conducted every March and is the source of the U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty estimates. The official poverty measure (OPM) is a family-level construct. Total family income is compared to a poverty threshold based on family size and number of children. Families with total incomes below their assigned threshold are considered poor, or in poverty. If a family is categorized as poor, then all people in the family are considered poor.5
Vulnerable Families Research Program Poverty Publication
Carsey Perspectives: Children in United States, Both White and Black, Are Growing Up in Dramatically Smaller Families
African American children are growing up in dramatically smaller families than they were 50 years ago.1 At a postwar peak in 1960, the average black child was one of 6.53 siblings, but today he or she is one of 3.18 (see Box 1). This measure has also dropped, but less dramatically, for the average white child, for whom “sibsize” was 4.1 in 1960 and today is 2.93.2 When we compare children of poorly educated and well-educated mothers, whatever their race, we find a similar pattern of falling sibsize and reduced differences in sibsize over the past 50 years.3 Because large families must spread their resources among their children, these declines, especially among the less well-off, enable families to devote more resources to each child and are likely to have transformed children’s lives in a positive and egalitarian direction.4 This change is also likely to have had important implications for trends in poverty, though these implications have not been examined. Children in small families benefit simply by virtue of having limited resources divided fewer ways. As such, declining average sibsize since the mid-20th century is an important development in the United States. The drop in the number of siblings also raises a key question: is falling sibsize offsetting some of the harmful effects on children of the transition from two-parent families to single-parent families? This latter change has been widely noted and has caused great concern.5 The share of 8- and 9-year-old children whose father is absent from the family home has risen from 6 percent in 1960 to 22 percent in 2012 among whites and from 24 percent to 59 percent among blacks (see Box 2). At the same time, however, the share of 8- and 9-year-olds with sibsizes of five or more has fallen from 60 percent to 18 percent among blacks and from 27 percent to 9 percent among whites. Was it more challenging for children in the 1960s to grow up with two resident parents and many siblings than it is for children today to grow up with one resident parent and fewer siblings? This is a key question to ask in assessing what role family change has played in shaping the course of social inequality in America over the past half-century. Note: In this brief, Hispanics may be of either race, and we have not analyzed Hispanic sibsize trends separately. See the discussion in the concluding paragraphs.
Demography, Vulnerable Families Research Program African Americans, Demography Publication
Cause for Optimism? Child Poverty Declines for the First Time Since Before the Great Recession
New data released on September 18, 2014, by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that child poverty fell by 0.4 percentage point between 2012 and 2013, to 22.2 percent. Though still significantly higher than in 2007 when the Great Recession hit (18.0 percent), and higher than at its conclusion (20.0 percent) in 2009, the decline from 2012 may be cause for optimism. Estimates suggest the number of poor children declined by roughly 300,000 between 2012 and 2013.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty Publication
Challenges in Serving Rural American Children through the Summer Food Service Program
When the school year ends, many low-income children rely on the USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to supplement their diet. But less than one-third of SFSP sites are located in rural communities and rural children participate at a lower rate than those in more urban areas.
Socioeconomic Indicators and Datasets, Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Food Assistance, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net Publication
Changing Church in the South: Religion and Politics in Elba, Alabama
Conventional wisdom and statistical evidence show Southerners to be considerably more conservative on social issues like gay marriage and abortion than others in the U.S. But in shifting one's vantage point from the aerial view of statistics to the streets of Elba, Alabama, the relationships among faith, politics and social values become far more nuanced and dynamic. In this Southern Baptist stronghold, the roles and expectations of women are changing, non-Baptists are moving here and looking for a church home, and a new faith community has emerged, disaffected with the established orthodoxy. While the Southern Baptist Convention dominates the rural South and is likely to shape political thinking here in the near future, recent experience in Elba suggests that within “the solid South” there are striations of questioning and even defiance.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Politics and Elections, Religion Publication