Well-Being of Children in Working Poor and Other Families: 1997 and 2004. Background: Analyses for 1997

09/01/2008

Previous research using the Census Bureaus Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that, in 1997, several measures of the well-being of children varied substantially by both the poverty status of their families and the work status of their parents (Wertheimer, Long & Jager, 2002).  In this previous report, families were classified as working or not meeting the work standard.  To meet the work standard, total hours worked by parent(s) per year were at least 1,820 hours per year for married-couple and cohabiting families and 1,040 hours per year for single-parent families.

Measures of child well-being were then contrasted for children for four categories of parental work effort and family poverty status:

  1. Non-working poor:  children in poor families not meeting the work standard;
  2. Working poor:  children in working poor families;
  3. Children in working families with incomes between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty threshold; and
  4. Children in working families with incomes greater than 200 percent of the poverty threshold.

Measures of child well-being were divided into three broad categories:

  1. variables measuring how well the child is developing;
  2. variables measuring the home environment; and
  3. variables measuring interaction with the community. 

Variables measuring how well the child is developing included whether the child was overweight, participation in gifted programs at school, repeating a grade, or being suspended or expelled from school.  Among these variables, when compared with children in non-working poor families, children in working poor families were more likely to be overweight and less likely to have been identified as gifted.  There was no significant difference between the two groups in the likelihood of having repeated a grade or being suspended or expelled from school.

Variables measuring the home environment included frequency of childrens meals with parents, parental involvement, television rules, and living apart from parents.  Among these variables, when compared with children in non-working poor families, children in working poor families were less likely to have meals both with their father and their mother and had less maternal involvement.  For television rules, meals with mother, and living apart from parents, there was little or no difference.

Variables measuring interaction with the community included parental attitudes toward the community, participation in extracurricular activities, and school engagement.  Among these variables, parents of children in working poor families were more likely to hold positive attitudes toward the community and less likely to hold negative attitudes toward the community than non-working poor families.  There were no significant differences in participation in extracurricular activities and school engagement.

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