Well-Being of Children in Working Poor and Other Families: 1997 and 2004: Research Brief. Introduction

09/01/2008

When the U.S. welfare system was reformed in 1996, two explicit objectives were increasing employment and earnings of needy families and decreasing child poverty.  It was hoped that achieving these objectives would lead to improved outcomes for children.  Outcomes measured in this brief fall into three categories: (1) measures of how well a child is developing;  (2) measures associated with how well a child will develop; and (3) measures of interaction with the community. Measures of well-being used in this study are from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and are shown in the box on the next page.

Measures of Child Well-being
Measures of How Well a Child is Developing
  • Child is overweight (1997 only)
  • Child goes to special classes for gifted students
  • Child has ever repeated a grade
  • Child has ever been suspended or expelled from school

Measures Associated with How Well a Child Will Develop

  • Rules regarding viewing television
  • Weekly number of breakfasts & dinners with mother
  • Weekly number of breakfasts & dinners with father
  • Parental aggravation index (4 items including: doing things that really bother me; makes me angry, etc.; Range: 0-12)
  • Mother involvement index (3 items: mothers interaction with, expectations for, and praises for child; Range: 0-12)
  • Father involvement index (3 items: fathers interaction with, expectations for, and praises for child; Range: 0-12)
  • Mothers educational aspirations for child (2004 only): education or training beyond college
  • Fathers educational aspirations for child (2004 only): education or training beyond college
  • Ever lived apart from parents

Measures of Interaction with the Community

  • Participation in extracurricular activities index (sports, music, dance, language, computers, religion, clubs, etc.)
  • School engagement index (3-item index: child likes to go to school, is interested in school work, and works hard in school; Range: 0-6)
  • Positive parental attitude towards community (5-item index including whether people help each other out, watch out for each others children, etc.; Range: 0-20)
  • Negative parental attitude towards community (2-item index: keeps child in due to dangers of neighborhood; people in neighborhood who might be a bad influence on child); Range: 0-8)
  • Ever attended kindergarten
  • Enrolled in private school(1)
  • Enrolled in school with religious affiliation(1)
(1) Although they are indicators of interaction with the community, these measures do not necessarily reflect child well-being.
Source:  1996 and 2004 Survey of Income and Program Participation

The twin purposes of this brief are to:

  1. Explore the changes in the well-being of children in working poor families and other families (of all income levels) between 1997 and 2004; and
  2. Compare the 2004 well-being of children in working poor families with non-working poor families.

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