Families with Children in the Great Recession
(Family and Child Policy)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Merrick II (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Natasha Pilkauskas, University of Michigan
Panel Chairs: Irwin Garfinkel, Columbia University
Discussants: Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago and Timothy Smeeding, Institute for Research on Poverty
To investigate the impact of the Great Recession on families with children, this panel includes 4 papers that utilize the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FF), a longitudinal dataset of nearly 5,000 families with young children. The papers in this panel address many wellbeing measures including measures of economic wellbeing and public transfers, intimate partner violence, child support, and children’s performance in school.
The FF follows a nationally representative birth cohort of children born between 1998 and 2001 in 20 large U.S. cities, with a large oversample of births to unmarried couples. The 9-year data collection coincided with the Great Recession (Dec. 2007- June 2009; NBER) providing data on these families prior to- and during- the Great Recession. The city level unemployment rate, and other measures of the recession (consumer sentiment, foreclosures, employment/population) were appended to the data and matched to the date of the mother’s interview.
This panel will consider the recession’s influence in several important domains:
• Economic wellbeing and public transfers. This study finds that household income declined, poverty increased and material hardships increased for families with children during the Great Recession. Both public (food stamps and unemployment insurance) and private safety net usage (financial transfers from friends and family) increased in the Great Recession. Together these transfers helped to mitigate the economic impact of the Great Recession and reduced poverty rates by about 10 percentage points.
• Intimate partner violence. Studying the relationship between poor labor market conditions and intimate partner violence, this study finds that the unemployment rate, and in particular the rate of change in the unemployment rate, is linked with more abusive behaviors. The findings suggest that the anxiety linked with the Great Recession may have led to more intimate partner violence among families with young children.
• Child support payments. Child support is an important source or economic support for many families with young children. This study finds that increases in the unemployment rate are linked not only with decreases in formal child support payments, but also deceases in informal and in-kind child support payments.
• Children’s school performance. This paper examines the association between the Great Recession and five measures of children’s school performance and engagement, including math, reading, vocabulary, and both child and parent reports of school engagement. The findings indicate that the Great Recession was linked with poorer cognitive wellbeing and lower levels of school engagement for children with more advantaged background.
Contribution of the panel to policy: By documenting how the economic downturn has affected many important family domains, this panel informs how safety net programs might be targeted to improve child and family wellbeing in recessionary periods. This panel directly investigates public program usage, and child support payments - an important public policy - and considers how effective these public programs were at mitigating the effects of the Great Recession.
Although two papers are from Columbia, these are part of a series of papers for a book on the recession and the panel includes 7 institutions.