Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. E.2 Overview of Fragile Families Data Set


Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study
Conducted by Princeton University’s Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Columbia University’s Social Indicators Survey Center

Principal Investigators:
Sara McLanahan, Irwin Garfinkel, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Christina Paxson

- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- Over 20 foundations including: Commonwealth Fund, Ford Foundation,  William T. Grant Foundation, William and Flora Hewitt Foundation, Hogg Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


The study is a stratified random sample of US cities with a population of 200,000 or more. The sample is representative of non-marital births in each of the 20 cities and also representative of non-marital births in US cities with populations over 200,000.

The sample is new, mostly unwed mothers approached and interviewed at the hospital within 48 hours of giving birth, and fathers were interviewed at the hospital or elsewhere as soon as possible after the birth. Hospitals were chosen over prenatal clinics because of higher response rates from the fathers and to gain a more representative sample of all non-marital births.

Baseline interviews were conducted across the United States in: Austin, TX; Pittsburgh, PA; Boston, MA; Oakland, CA; Baltimore, MD; San Antonio, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Jacksonville, FL; San Jose, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Chicago, IL; Toledo, OH; Newark, NJ; Richmond, VA; Milwaukee, WI; Corpus Christi, TX; Norfolk, VA; and Nashville, TN.

Size Baseline datasets include 4,898 completed mother interviews (1,186 marital births and 3,712 non-marital births) and 3,830 completed father interviews. One year followup dataset includes 4,365 completed mother interviews and 3,367 completed father interviews.
Timeframe Baseline collected between 1998-2000, followups conducted 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years
Data availability Baseline, one year and three-year followup currently available. Five-year followup available Spring/Summer 2007
Knowledge Gaps At-risk for homelessness factors (including, doubled-up)

Pregnant Mothers

Specific city information

Data on children from birth to 5 years

Longitudinal design that tracks risk and protective factors

Relevant Variables At-risk for Homelessness. Questions related to at-risk for homelessness predictors include whether the mother needed financial support from family or friends, whether or not there was someone who could provide the mother with a place to live, whether family lives in a house owned by another family. Other relevant questions regarding the previous 12 months, assess family hunger, eviction, inability to pay utility bills, borrowing money to pay bills, moving in with others while experiencing financial problems, staying in a shelter, abandoned building, or automobile or any other place not meant for regular housing even for one night.

Demographics. Background data on the mother includes, race, education level, and employment status (including income).

Domestic Abuse. Father and mother’s physical relationship was assessed through questions about sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, including if hospitalization was necessary from abuse.

Family Separation. If mother and child were separated, describes where child stayed during separations and why mother and child were originally separated.

Government Programs. Utilization of government programs for children including, Healthy Start nurses, Head Start, childcare referral agencies, and WIC. Other governmental programs questioned, include, TANF, SSI, energy and housing assistance, food stamps, worker’s compensation.

Housing Composition. The number of people currently living in the house
(i.e., children, husband, mother). Provides data on name, gender, age, relationship, and place of employment.

Marital. Marital status and whether the mother is currently pregnant or recently given birth.

Mental Health. The mother’s level of depression, anxiety, and general mental health.

Physical Health. The mother’s general level of physical health is assessed.

Substance Abuse. Drug use and treatment for alcohol and drug usage assessed.

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