Family Stability and Parenting in the Great Recession
(Family and Child Policy)
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Will Schneider, Columbia University
Panel Chairs: Caroline Danielson, Public Policy Institute of California
Discussants: Lawrence Berger, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Jenni Owen, Duke University
The Great Recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 (NBER, 2010), was the largest economic downturn in the United States since the Great Depression. The Great Recession was characterized by the collapse of the housing market, sustained levels of high unemployment, and widespread fear of a long-term economic downturn or depression. The three papers in this interdisciplinary panel estimate links between the Great Recession and changes in union dissolution, harsh and warm and supportive parenting, and child abuse and neglect. The papers draw on a number of unique sources of data and methodological approaches.
The first paper uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to investigate the effect of unemployment on parents’ decisions to separate or divorce. The study uses individual level measures of father and mother unemployment and finds that an unemployed married father with an employed wife has a higher risk of divorce or separation compared to married couples in which neither parent is unemployed. In contrast, the risk of separation increases only when both cohabiting parents are unemployed. Results further suggest that parents did not make separation decisions differently during the Great Recession compared to other periods in the 2000s.
The second and third papers take a different approach, matching macroeconomic measures of the Great Recession –local unemployment rates, consumer confidence, and local mass layoffs – to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and administrative data on child maltreatment, respectively. The second paper draws on the Fragile Families data and finds that the Great Recession was associated with increased risk for child abuse, but decreased risk for child neglect, as well as increased parenting activities and maternal warmth, but decreased monitoring. The third paper finds that the Great Recession resulted in increases in the severity of child maltreatment, and that the effect on the severity of child maltreatment was stronger and more immediate in more economically disadvantaged districts.
The papers in this panel explore the ways in which the Great Recession affected family relationships and parenting. An emerging theme from the three studies is that the Great Recession had significant adverse consequences for the wellbeing of vulnerable families. Given the magnitude of this recession and the inevitability of a future economic downturn, a greater understanding of these effects is critical. This knowledge will aid policy makers to more effectively address the continuing consequences of the recession and to design policies that support families and children in the event of a future downturn. The panel’s discussants are Jennifer Owen, Director of Policy Initiatives at Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and former senior policy advisor to the Governor of North Carolina, and Lonnie Berger, the Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.