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FOC Events

Upcoming Events

Past Events

Trouble in the Land of Early Childhood Education
October 26, 2016, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC.

On Wednesday, October 26, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the latest issue of The Future of Children—a journal that promotes effective, evidence-based policies and programs for children—which examines the effectiveness of pre-K education. At the event, journal co-editor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor at Columbia University, presented an overview of the volume and Ron Haskins of Brookings reviewed a policy brief about the controversy caused by the Tennessee results. Following these presentations, a panel of experts discussed the implications of the Tennessee results for preschool policy and research.

Visit the website to watch the video or listen to the audio of the event.

2016 New Jersey Sustainablity Summit
June 15, 2016, 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM, Ewing, NJ.

In New Jersey, we’re serious about achieving a sustainable state. We are setting goals for the future, and giving communities practical tools they can use to make progress. Last year, over 300 people attended the 2015 New Jersey Sustainability Summit to help us build consensus and implement the future we want.

Visit the website for more information and registration.

The Promise of Birth Control
October 14, 2015, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

The Future of Children Fall 2015 issue, "Marriage and Child Wellbeing Revisited," will be released. This issue is a ten-year update to the previous issue on marriage and child wellbeing. Please visit the Brookings Institution website for more information and to register.

View the video on CSPAN2

Policies to Promote Child Health: Ways in Which Schools and Communities Can Promote Child Wellness
May 20, 2015, Princeton, NJ

This conference presents the findings of research that uses the strongest evidence to date to assess how best to promote child health and, more specifically, what school and community interventions and strategies work best at various stages of children's development. 

More Information


Can States Improve Children's Health by Preventing Abuse and Neglect?
May 5, 2015, Brookings institution, Washington, DC, 9:00 Am - 11:00 AM

On May 5, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the spring 2015 issue of The Future of Children. The title of the issue is “Policies to Promote Child Health.” Also released on May 5 - a policy brief on improving child health by improving programs for families that have committed child abuse or neglect or are at risk for doing so. The policy brief examines whether states should be given more flexibility in spending the nearly $7.5 billion the federal government now provides to states in funds that are designated almost exclusively to pay for out-of-home care.


Childhood Food Insecurity in the U.S.: Trends, Causes, and Policy Options
September 15, 2014, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM EDT

On September 15th, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution will release the Fall 2014 research report of the Future of Children. The report's author's Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois and James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, will open the event with a review of their research, focusing on the root causes of food insecurity among children and the effectiveness of public policies designed to combat it. Following their presentation, a panel of experts will discuss the report's analyses and recommendations and offer their own.


Launch of the Child & Family Blog
July 17, 2014, Cambridge University, UK

The Jacobs Foundation, The Future of Children and the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Cambridge (UK) have jointly launched the Child & Family Blog.  The partners conduct and share research on families and children, and they look for ways to make the world a better place for them.

For more about the release.

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Exploring the Promise of Two-Generation Programs
May 22, 2014, Robertson Hall, Princeton University, 10:30 AM - 4:30 PM

This conference addressed the research using developmental science to frame the data relating to two-generation programs with a one day event bridging research and practice. Discussion highlighted what types of two-generation programs are currently on the ground as well as potential new models. Special attention was given to implementation and policy issues when creating two-generation programs.

More Information       |          Agenda

Early Stress Gets Under the Skin: Promising Initiatives to Help Children Facing Chronic Adversity
May 7, 2014, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the Spring 2014 volume and accompanying policy brief of the Future of Children. The release event featured researchers and policy experts who explained how chronic stress "gets under the skin" to disrupt normal development and how programs can provide the support so urgently needed by children who face chronic stress. 

More information and audio of the event

Military Children and Families
November 11, 2013, Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall, Princeton University

"Military Children and Families," the most recent issue of the Future of Children, was the topic of conversation of a panel of discussion on Veteran's Day, Monday, November 11, 2013. The discussion featured volume co-editor, Richard M. Lerner, the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University and Woodrow Wilson School Students who are currently serving in the military and their spouses.

Article about the event.

Keeping the Promise: Maintaining the Health of Military and Veteran Families and Children
October 1, 2013, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

Over two million Americans have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 45 percent of these service members have children. Research shows that combat deployment leads to a range of responses by military families and children that extend from risk to resilience. This continuum of reactions suggests the need for a broad intervention strategy that supports health, screens for risk, and actively engages those with poorer outcomes.

The Future of Children released it's most current issue, "Military Children and Families." For more information, please visit The Brookings Institution.

The Role of Technology in Postsecondary Education
May 22, 2013, Princeton University

The increasing use of technology in postsecondary education has transformed the educational landscape. It has enhanced and increased opportunities in education as well as provided new challenges for colleges and universities. This conference addressed some of these major issues by bridging research and practice. Presentations addressed the latest research regarding the use of technology in the classroom as well as reviewed related issues such as who is attending college and is college worth it. Practitioner panels discussed the nuts and bolts of providing technology in the classroom and specifically pinpointed some of the practical issues related to online courses and flipped classrooms. Additional panel conversations addressed the issues of offering credit for these online courses and what this means for universities and other higher institutions moving forward.

This conference was one of our outreach events for the latest Future of Children Journal, Postsecondary Education in the United States, edited by Cecilia Rouse, Thomas Brock and Lisa Barrow, released this Spring.

Fund 101
May 18, 2013, Princeton, NJ

This event was held by 101 (, a local group that provides scholarship money for Princeton kids who need it to attend college. Cecilia Rouse gave an overview of the Postsecondary Education in the United States issue and all participants were given a copy of the journal.

Postsecondary Education in the United States
May 7, 2013, Woodrow Wilson House, Washington, DC

Alumni of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs got a first look at the latest issue of the Future of Children at an event in Washington, DC.

Elisabeth Donahue, Associate Dean for Public and External Affairs
Ann D. Corwin, Director of Graduate Career Services and Alumni Relations

Postsecondary Education
May 7, 2013, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

On May 7, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the latest issue of The Future of Children—a journal that promotes effective, evidence-based policies and programs for children—which examines the state of postsecondary education in the United States. Journal co-editor Cecilia Rouse provided an overview of the issue’s contents. Ron Haskins of Brookings presented findings from an accompanying policy brief that proposes a plan to improve college preparation programs for students from disadvantaged families by consolidating them into a single grant program and requiring that funded programs be backed by rigorous evidence. Following their presentations, Harry Holzer of Georgetown University responded to the proposal from the policy brief. A panel of experts discussed the proposed reform and offered their own thoughts on the value of postsecondary education for low-income students.

Watch or listen to the event on Brookings website.

Laying the Groundwork for Advanced Literacy: Bridging Research and Practice
February 22, 2013, Princeton, NJ

This event, based on the Future of Children:  Literacy Challenges for the Twenty-First Century, featured an overview of the journal as well as practitioner perspectives, common core standards, and how the Common Core State Standards influence administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

Agenda       |        Video of the event

Children's Literacy: Raising the Bar
October 2, 2012, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC.

Good jobs in the nations's twenty-first-century economy require advanced literacy skills such as categorizing, evaluating, and drawing conclusions from written texts. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards by nearly all the states, combined with tough literacy assessments that are now under development, will soon reveal that literacy skills of average students fall below international standards and that the gap in literacy skills between students from advantaged and disadvantaged is huge.

A panel of experts gathered at The Brookings Institution discuss the findings of the Future of Chidlren's newly released journal, "Literacy Challenges for the Twenty-First Century." For more information and to listen to the audio of the event, click here.

Autism Tomorrow: The Changing Landscape
May 23, 2012, Anderson Center for Autism, Poughkeepsie, New York

Children with Disabilities author James Perrin spoke about improving care for children with autism at this event coordinated by the Anderson Center for Autism. Perrin's chapter in Children with Disabilities, "How Can Quality Improvement Enhance the Lives of Children with Disabilities?" discusses quality of care for children with disabilities more generally. FOC Children with Disabilities volumes were distributed at the day long conference, which focused on the autism spectrum. 

For more information, click here.

Working with Children with Disabilities: Tools for Parents and Schools
May 18, 2012, Princeton University

This conference targeted specific educational interventions for children with disabilities. The day bridged research and practice by highlighting certain research based methods that have been applied to schools. Panels discussed practical interventions for schools such as school wide interventions and teacher coaching. Decision making tools for identification and selecting accommodations were also addressed. The day ended with a discussion of parent and school partnerships as well as postsecondary options for students. 

This conference was organized by the Education Research Section (ERS) and co-sponsored by the Future of Children journal (FOC) and the Woodrow Wilson School (WWS). It was designed in conjunction with the latest issue of the Future of Children journal, Children with Disabilities, which was released in Spring, 2012. This conference was intended for school administrators and decision-makers as well as parents who have a vested interest in programs accommodating children with disabilities in grades k-12.

Click here for more information about the event.

Children with Disabilities
May 8, 2012, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The Future of Children hosted a press event for the release of our new volume, Children with Disabilities. Findings from this issue were presented by issue editor Janet Currie of Princeton. Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, presented a summary of the corresponding policy brief, which focuses on Supplemental Security Income for children with disabilities. A panel of practitioners and policy makers responded to the research and engaged the audience in a lively discussion about the best ways to support children with disabilities and their families.

To listen to the audio recording of the event click here.

Work and Family Events Raise Questions and Offer Solutions
October-November, 2011

The Child Support Connection: Giving Children a Brighter Future
October 20, 2011

Researchers, service providers, government officials, and other city leaders came together to discuss key child support topics centered on helping the children and families of New York City. Research from Princeton's Fragile Families Study was featured. The event was sponsored by the New York City Office of Child Support Enforcement in collaboration with Princeton University, and the CUNY School of Professional Studies.


Work and Family
October 5, 2011

The Future of Children hosted a press event for the release of our new volume, Work and Family. Findings from this issue were presented by Jane Waldfogel, Professor of Social Work at Columbia University; Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow and Co-Director, Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution; Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of the Families and Work Institute; Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, and others.

More information

Listen to the full event.

Transition to Adulthood: Roundtable Discussions on Practice and Policy
June 21, 2011, Washington, DC

This event provided attendees an opportunity to hear from leading researchers and practitioners in the field about the unique challenges that young people face as they transition to adulthood. Each roundtable session included a brief overview of the research findings, presentations from leading practitioners, and participant/presenter dialogue. For more information click here.

This event was co-sponsored by the Future of Children and the American Youth Policy Forum. There are several webcasts from the roundtable available on the AYPF website.

Supporting Immigrant Children in New Jersey
June 2, 2011, Princeton University

Immigrant Children are the fastest-growing segment of the United States population today. In New Jersey, one in five residents is foreign-born and the immigrant population is highly decentralized. Children from immigrant families face particular challenges with education, physical and mental health, poverty, and assimilation into American society. This event, sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School, the Future of Children, and the Princeton Area Community Foundation, examined the wellbeing of immigrant children in the country and in New Jersey. Attendees discovered, through conversation with greater Mercer County practitioners, what we can do collaboratively to improve immigrant children's educational attainment, health status, social and cognitive development, and long-term prospects for success.

Click here for the agenda.

Program Presentations:     Anastasia R. Mann      |       Katherine Hempstead

New Jersey Youth Development Forum: Fragile Families
May 11, 2011, Princeton University

On May 11th, the Woodrow Wilson School, the Future of Children, Rutgers' Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers' School of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General co-hosted a New Jersey Youth development Forum on Fragile Families. The event was one in a series of five Youth Development Forums examining ways to improve state and local efforts to encourage resilient youth, families, and communities. Findings from the Future of Children's Fragile Families volume, presented by issue editors Sara McLanahan and Irv Garfinkel, laid the foundation for an active discussion involving researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and the audience.

Event Agenda

To watch a video broadcast of the event, click here

English Language Learning from Pre-Kindergarten Through Third Grade
April 29, 2011, Princeton University

This conference was designed to bridge research and practice and focused on issues related to educating Early English Language Learners, providing an overview of the research specifically addressing topics of Demography, Social and Emotional Development and Instruction Models.

The conference was co-sponsored by The Education Research Section (ERS), The Future of Children journal, The Woodrow Wilson School (WWS) and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Event Brochure  |    Education Week's Summary of the Event     |     Presentations

Immigrant Children
April 20, 2011, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The Future of Children, a joint project between Princeton University and the Brookings Institution,  hosted an event to release a new journal, “Immigrant Children,” that is devoted to research and analysis of the challenges faced by immigrant children.

To watch the event, click here.

What's Going on with Young People Today? The Long and Twisting Path to Adulthood
April 13, 2011, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, New York

A discussion with Frank Furstenberg, Jr. and Cecilia Rouse about the shift and impact that the changes in youth transitions to reach economic and social maturity have for families of varying socioeconomic means, based on findings from The Future of Children's volume, Transition to Adulthood.

To watch the video of the event, click here.

Implications for Health Care Reform for Children of New Jersey
March 18, 2011, Princeton University

Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, in partnership with the Future of Children, the Center for Health & Wellbeing, Children’s Futures, and Advocates for Children of New Jersey, hosted, “Implications of Health Care Reform for Children of New Jersey,” on March 18th, 2011.  

Additional Information and Agenda   |    Presentation by Joel Cantor, Director, Center for State Health Policy, Rutgers University  

Webcast Part 1      |        Webcast Part 2

New Research on Brain Development Informs New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System
December 10, 2010, Princeton

On Friday, December 10, 2010, the Woodrow Wilson School and Advocates for Children of New Jersey hosted a joint meeting of the New Jersey Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee to discuss the topic of Waiver of Juveniles to Adult Court. This meeting was part of a series of “Policy Forums” hosted by the Woodrow Wilson School,  in which policy makers and other stakeholders come together in an “off the record” forum to hear noted academics present research and then to discuss difficult policy issues as they are informed by the research.    

To frame the waiver conversation, Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D. of Temple University, presented recent research on adolescent brain development and raised questions about related policy implications. A panel including New Jersey judges, public defenders, and prosecutors responded to and raised questions for Dr. Steinberg, and the discussion then opened up to the more than seventy-five attendees.  To view Steinberg’s full presentation, click on the link below.


Learning from New York City's Portfolio Strategy: How Policy and Practice can Inform Research
November 18, 2010, New York

The Research Alliance, in partnership with The Future of Children hosted an invitation only meeting of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and representatives of the New York City Department of Education on November 18th to discuss key issues in high school reform and post-secondary readiness. The objective of this convening was to generate ideas for research and reform of New York City high schools. The meeting was designed to help shape the focus and priorities of the Research Alliance. While this meeting focused on New York City, it drew on research from, and developed implications for, other urban school districts across the country.

Summary Paper   |    Background Document

Culture Clash: Surprising Truths about How Families are Formed in the U.S.
A panel discussion with the authors of RED FAMILIES v BLUE FAMILIES
October 28, 2010, Princeton Club of New York

This discussion will focus on family formation decisions- ranging from marriage, divorce, abortion, out of wedlock childbearing- and how those decisions both reflect the states where the families live, and the income and education background of the parents, as well as how these decisions impact child wellbeing.

More information   |   Event Summary    |     WWS News   |   Webcast

Helping Fragile Families
October 27, 2010

The Future of Children, a joint project between Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, hosted an event and released a new issue of the journal. The issue reports that unwed parents face a host of problems that complicate their ability to get good jobs, form stable families, and perform successfully as parents. Researchers, community program operators, and an advisor to President Obama responded to the recommendations in the policy brief and commented on policies and practices that would help support fragile families.

Transcript   |     Webcast

Strengthening Families: How Can Child Support Help?
October 14, 2010,  Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY)

Given that the role of OCSE is to support families by improving the financial and emotional connection noncustodial parents have to their children, the purpose of the conference was to bring policy makers and experts together to discuss ways to collectively achieve this goal. Specifically, the conference sought to broaden the understanding within the social service community of the significant role child support plays in the effort to strengthen families and reduce child poverty. Even though child support is effective, there is considerable misinformation, lack of information, and misunderstanding concerning the child support program on the part of service providers and organizations who work with families and who are in a position to positively help families. This conference made clear the crucial role that child support plays in strengthening families.

WWS News

Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) & National Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood Grantee Meeting 2010
August 4, 2010, Washington, DC.

The goal of this meeting was to learn from the past, understand the present, and prepare for the future of the promotion of healthy families and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Participants worked toward maintaining a strong voice for promotion of healthy families and the prevention of child abuse and neglect, investing in continuous improvement, focusing on the future, and transforming surprise into innovative systems changes.


Preventing Child Abuse in an Age of Budget Deficits
A Future of Children Event
July 20, 2010, 1:00-3:00 PM, Washington, DC 

On July 20th, The Future of Children held a forum and simultaneous online webcast to discuss ways that prevention programs can both protect children and save money across a range of social programs. The event, planned in cooperation with Voices for America's Children, featured a panel of experts and practitioners that focused on both the practices and research that have been shown to be effective. Speakers also addressed the prospects that prevention services can be expanded during these difficult times.

Click here for more information           Webcast

Persistence in High School and College: Tools to Increase Persistence and Degree Attainment
April 30, 2010, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This conference was organized by the Educational Research Section and co-sponsored by the Program in Teacher Preparation and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, was designed in conjunction with the latest journal issue of The Future of Children, "Transition to Adulthood." This issue, released in Spring 2010, addresses issues on education persistence and degree attainment both in secondary and higher education. 

Agenda      |    Flyer   |    Website   |    Webcast

Transition to Adulthood
April 27, 2010, 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The Future of Children, a joint project between Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, hosted an event to release a new journal, “Transition to Adulthood,” that is devoted to research and analysis of the challenges young people face in making the transition to adulthood in modern America. The event  focused on describing and analyzing second-chance programs that aim to help high school drop-outs, and featured presentations by and discussions among researchers, community program operators and Obama administration officials.

For more information    |    Webcast

Senator Edward M. Kennedy's Legacy for Children
March 7, 2010, Boston, MA

Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senator (D), Mark Greenberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy (ACF), Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, Shirley Sagawa, a former member of Senator Kennedy's staff and expert on education, Christina Paxson, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School and Senior Editor of The Future of Children, and others will pay tribute to Senator Kennedy's commitment to improving the lives of children.

Rhetoric and Reality: a Juvenile Justice Symposium
January 21, 2010  Phoenix, AZ

Children’s Action Alliance and a panel of juvenile justice experts – featuring Elisabeth Hirschhorn Donahue –discussed policy and practices that make fiscal sense, protect the community and help teen offenders turn their lives around.

Following the panelists’ remarks, there was time for discussion and a legislative update. This symposium was sponsored by Children's Action Alliance in collaboration with the Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts and the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Press Release |  PBS Horizon Show Video

Preserving Programs that Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect During a Time of Economic Crisis: A Research & Policy Conference
November 13, 2009  Princeton, NJ

View Website  |  View Agenda

Preventing Child Maltreatment
October 1, 2009

FOC released a new journal edition, "Preventing Child Maltreatment," at an event featuring Representative Jim McDermott and former Representative Nancy Johnson. An expert panel explored how successful programs will be determined, who will decide whether programs are successful, and how the program will be financed.

View Website

The Future of Media in Children's Education: a National Conference Focused on Tweens
September 29, 2009

FOC partnered with Children Now to present this conference at Stanford University. 

View Agenda  | View Webcast

The Future of Children: Legislative Day of the Michigan Juvenile Justice Collaborative
September 22, 2009  Lansing, MI

The Future of Children executive director and CRCW associate Elisabeth Donahue spent a day with Michigan lawmakers sharing the findings of a recent FOC publication, Juvenile Justice.  Her talks with state legislators and staff, governor’s staff, and advocates focused on three key findings from the journal:  1) juvenile justice policy should recognize that adolescents often lack the mental and emotional maturity of adults, and the teen’s place on the developmental spectrum should be considered when deciding culpability and punishment; 2) adolescents released from adult facilities or boot camp are more likely to reoffend than those with similar characteristics treated in the juvenile system, and thus public safety demands a shift from current policy that transfers large numbers of juveniles to the adult criminal system; and 3) it is more cost-effective in the long run to implement evidence-based prevention and intervention programs than to emphasize incarceration as is current practice.

 Agenda   |  News Coverage   |   WKAR Radio

Future of Children Author Testifies on the Effects of Programs for First-Time Mothers
June 9, 2009

Future of Children author, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, testified before the members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support. She spoke about the evidence for the effectiveness of programs for young, first-time mothers, both in terms of their impacts on the mothers themselves and their infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

View Testimony

Future of Children Author Testifies on Home Visitation Programs
June 9, 2009

Future of Children author, Deborah Daro, testified on June 9, 2009, before the U.S. House of Representatives Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee about research that shows home visitation programs can promote early childhood learning and strengthen parent-child relationships.

View Testimony

Roundtable discussion about findings from the Juvenile Justice volume
April 24, 2009  Washington, DC

Juvenile Justice editor Laurence Steinberg and authors Jeffrey Fagan and Elizabeth Scott conducted a roundtable discussion on the findings of that volume with congressional staff.

Future of Children Advisory Board Member, Marguerite Kondracke, Testifies on Drop-Out Crisis
March 12, 2009

A quote citing The Future of Children is below followed by a link to her full testimony.

An analysis of health problems and their impact on education published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution in The Future of Children estimates that differences in health problems and maternal health and behaviors may account for a quarter of the racial gap in school readiness. A simple example of the gap in access to health services lies in the critical role played by adequate vision in the learning process. Seeing the chalkboard, being able to read the words in books, and other vision-related activities are prerequisites for learning. However, 50 percent or more poor minority and low-income children have vision problems that interfere with their academic work; and poor children have severe vision impairment at twice the normal rate.

Association for the Advancement of Evidence-Based Practice
April 15 & 16, 2009- Marina del Rey Marriott, Los Angeles

Future of Children author, Peter Greenwood, was a presenter at a conference about evidence-based programs. This two day conference was held by the Association for the Advancement of Evidence-Based Programs (AAEBP).

View Conference Agenda

View Event Flyer

Future of Children Author Testifies on Juvenile Justice
March 24, 2009- California Assembly Public Safety Committee

Future of children author, Peter Greenwood gave testimony at the California Assembly Public Safety Committee on March 24, 2009. The informal hearing was titled "California's First Gang Czar: A Legislative and Gubernatorial Partnership to combat Gang and Youth Violence." The title of Peter's testimony was "the Value and Effective Use of Evidence-Based Programs."

View Testimony

The Role of High Schools in Preparing Disadvantaged Students for College
May 14, 2009

On May 14, The Future of Children, a joint project between Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, released a policy brief discussing the steps high schools should take to help low-income students prepare for postsecondary education. The policy brief is a companion to the most recent issue, America's High Schools, which examines the reasons high schools are widely believed to be failing and proposes solutions. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the former superintendent of the Denver schools, delivered the keynote address.

View Brief

Reforming High Schools:  Tools to Help Promote Change
April 24, 2009

This free, one day conference for school administrators was held on Friday, April 24, 2009 from 8:00 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. Please see the attached flyer for more information.

View Flyer

Juvenile Justice
October 15, 2008

“Juvenile Justice” – A free event at the Brookings Institution to mark the release of the new volume of FOC was held on Wednesday, October 15 at 9:00am. Click here for more information.

PointSmart. Click Safe.
June 10, 2008. PointSmart. Click Safe. - Summit on Children's Online Safety and Literacy

Executive Director Elisabeth Donahue shares insights from Children and Electronic Media on the parenting panel of this day long forum on children and the internet. Click here to view highlights and complete video coverage.

View Children and Electronic Media Journal Issue

Vulnerable Populations in the Juvenile Justice System:
November 14, 2008, 8:30am-3:30pm at Princeton University

On November 14th, 2008, The Future of Children will present a conference, “Vulnerable Populations in the Juvenile Justice System: A Research & Policy Conference” at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

This day-long symposium, co-sponsored by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School and the Association for Children of New Jersey, is being held in conjunction with the October, 2008 release of a Future of Children volume on juvenile justice policy.

To review the agenda and RSVP, go to:

Speaker Nancy Willard Offers Helpful Information to Parents on Media and Children
Youth and the Internet: A practical guide from the May 1st forum.

Nancy Willard, Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, recently addressed the topic of internet safety at a Princeton University forum geared toward parents.

To help parents navigate cyberspace with their teens, Willard created thispractical guide. Professionals may also find this useful and may reproduce and share it. In addition, Willard plans to make a narrated presentation available next fall.

View the Guide for Parents

Children and Electronic Media
April 23, 2008

Save the date! “Children and Electronic Media” – A free event at the Brookings Institution to mark the release of the new volume of FOC. Wednesday, April 23 at 9:00am.

View Transcript

Children and Electronic Media: Parenting in the Technological Age
Children and Electronic Media: Parenting in the Technological Age. A free seminar for parents.

Children and Electronic Media: Parenting in the Technological Age.
A free seminar to provide parents with practical information on how they can help their children become cyber-savvy
Thursday, May 1st, 2008 8:00am - 3:15pm
On the campus of Princeton University

Co-sponsered by

The Education Research Section
The Future of Children
The Program in Teacher Preparation
The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs


Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Technological Age
Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Technological Age. A free one day conference for school administrators.

Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Technological Age.
A free one day conference for school administrators
Friday, May 2nd, 2008 8:00am - 3:15pm
On the campus of Princeton University

Co-sponsered by

The Education Research Section
The Future of Children
The Program in Teacher Preparation
The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs


Excellence in the Classroom: Bringing Research and Practice to Help Strengthen the Teacher Workforce
May 4, 2007

Concern about the overall quality of U.S. education--in particular, about the racial and ethnic graps in achievement--have led many educators and policymakers to examine the teacher workforce. Although almost everyone recognizes the importance of effective teachers, it is much less clear how to strengthn teacher quality.

This free, one day conference for school administrators was designed as a follow-up to the latest issue of the journal The Future of Children, "Excellence in the Classroom," released in March 2007. Both the journal issue and the conference are based upon an exhaustive review of the most compelling research done to date.

The purpose of this conference was to link the latest research regarding teacher quality to practical solutions in the field. Research panels addressed issues such as how to attract, enhance, and retain effective teachers.

Sponsored by the Princeton Education Research Section, the Future of Children, the Princeton Program in Teacher Preparation, the Policy Research Institute for the Region, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


Excellence in the Classroom: Improving the Quality of Teaching in America's Schools
March 28, 2007

This series of panel discussions on teacher quality coincided with the release of the latest Future of Children volume.

As Congress considers reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, policymakers, advocates, and parents are concerned about how to meet the requirement that states provide every student with high-quality teachers. To address these concerns, Brookings and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School release the latest volume of The Future of Children journal, “Excellence in the Classroom.”

On March 28 a slate of panelists including members of Congress, journal contributors, and other researchers and administrators, discuss options for improving teacher quality including in-service training, mentoring, and the recruitment of new, high-quality teachers.

View Event Transcript


Future of Children Senior Editor Testifies on the Earned Income Tax Credit
February 22, 2007

Ron Haskins, Future of Children senior editor, testifies before the Maryland State House of Delegates on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Dear Chairman Hixson and Members of the Committee:

My name is Ron Haskins and I am a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In a previous life, I was a senior staffer at the Committee on Ways and Means in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this capacity, I worked on the 1996 welfare reform law, several pieces of child support legislation, and legislation that expanded the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I am testifying in support of Bill 534, the EITC legislation introduced by Delegates Sandy Rosenberg and Anne Kaiser.

Let me begin with a bit of history. The 1990s saw an unprecedented explosion in the number of previously poor single mothers who entered the labor force and found jobs. As shown in Figure 1, never-married mothers, the group with the least education and job experience, showed the steepest increase in employment. Not surprisingly, there was a simultaneous decline in the number of single mothers receiving welfare payments. Around 2.5 million mothers left the welfare rolls in the 1990s, mostly after the federal welfare reform law passed in 1996. Several state studies show that approximately 70 percent of these mothers found jobs at some time after leaving welfare and that at any given moment about 60 percent of them were working. As a result of this increased employment, Census Bureau records show that the income of single mothers shifted dramatically over the latter half of the 1990s. Specifically, single mothers with incomes under roughly $21,000 increased their earnings every year while their income from welfare (including cash, food stamps, and housing) declined every year. But because the amount they earned from employment greatly exceeded the amount they lost from welfare, by the end of the decade they were better off by about 25 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars (Figure 2). Their greater earnings and income, in turn, led to an impressive 30 percent decline in child poverty. Indeed poverty among both black children and children in female-headed families reached their lowest level ever (Figures 3 and 4).

These results are generally attributed to the interaction of three major forces at play during the 1990s; namely, a strong economy, welfare reform, and various federal and state programs that support low-income working families. It is notable that the work support programs, especially the EITC, had been greatly expanded in the decade or so before the 1996 welfare reform law. Many researchers believe the welfare reform law provided a kind of stick that encouraged, cajoled, and pushed mothers off the welfare rolls and into the labor force while the work support system served as a carrot that made work, even low-wage work, pay.

One of the major flaws in the 1996 welfare reform law was that fathers were generally excluded from the work provisions because they do not live with the child. Another section of the 1996 law, however, greatly strengthened the child support enforcement program so that fathers would have an even more difficult time if they tried to evade child support payments. Although these strong child support reforms were fully justified, the combination of doing little or nothing to help poor fathers work while squeezing them relentlessly for child support payments drove many of them underground. Child support payments have increased since passage of the 1996 law (Figure 5), but many fathers have not been able to meet their child support obligation because they have little or no earnings.

This brief history leads me to believe that, although welfare reform has been successful in increasing work and reducing poverty among female-headed families, we will not be able to reduce child poverty much more unless we have new approaches. States need to continue aggressive implementation of the 1996 reforms – and the new work requirements passed by Congress in 2006 – in order to keep the welfare rolls low and to help mothers enter or remain in the labor force. If states follow this agenda, most low-income mothers will continue to work and their earnings, when combined with work supports such as the EITC, Medicaid, child care, and food stamps, will stabilize the remarkable reductions in poverty achieved so far.

But I doubt that poverty will continue to fall until we can help mothers boost their income. A potential additional source of income for mother-headed families is child support payments. But as Census Bureau records show, there has been only a modest increase in child support payments to poor and low-income mothers since the 1996 reforms (most of the increased collections shown in Figure 5 have gone to families above the poverty line). Many researchers who study child support believe the poor payment record that characterizes many low-income fathers is caused by their poor employment record and low wages.

In a broader context, it is easy enough to see that federal and state policy have few provisions designed to help poor and low-income fathers. It is almost as if we believe that because custodial parents are responsible for the children, we can ignore the problems of poor noncustodial parents. Although it is wise to provide the bulk of support to custodial parents (almost always the mothers) and children, good arguments can be made for providing some support for noncustodial fathers. Hence, the Rosenberg/Kaiser bill fills a void in both federal and state social policy. The bill is particularly timely because it holds great promise for not just helping poor fathers, but for helping poor and low-income mothers and their children, the group that is now least likely to have their income supplemented by child support payments. The Rosenberg/Kaiser bill is drafted so that fathers would receive the EITC benefit only if they are current on payment of child support, thereby augmenting the mother's efforts to increase family income and reduce child poverty.

Before further examination of the likely effects of the bill, I turn to a brief summary of what the bill would do. Section (a) of the bill provides for certain individuals to claim a credit against state and, under some circumstances, county income taxes. Section (b) defines noncustodial parents as eligible for the credit if they are at least 18 years old, are current in their payment of child support, and meet a few other provisions. This section also defines the size of the credit against state income taxes, setting a maximum payment of about $1,400 in 2006 and capping the amount at the level of the state income tax owed by the individual. However, fathers who have no state income tax liability or very low liability may still claim a credit of a maximum of $550 in 2006. Section (c) of the bill allows counties to provide a similar tax credit to these low-income noncustodial parents.

I believe this bill could have at least four important effects, all of which would be good for Maryland children. First, as outlined above, paying a wage subsidy based, in effect, on hours of work will encourage poor and low-income fathers to join the labor force and, once in the labor force, to work more hours. There is strong evidence that the federal EITC, on which this bill is modeled, has increased the work effort of millions of low-wage workers and contributed to reduced poverty rates.

Second, because the EITC payment is contingent on the father's payment of child support, the bill will result in higher child support payments by fathers. Third, because child support payments can be expected to increase, the income of mother-headed families will also increase, which in turn would remove some of these families from poverty. Fourth, there is some suggestion that fathers who pay child support will also be more engaged with their children.

This last point about fathers and their children deserves elaboration. We at Brookings, along with our colleagues at Princeton University, publish a journal called The Future of Children. A recent issue was devoted entirely to the effects of marriage on children.

There was unanimous agreement among the scholars writing for the volume that the best rearing environment for children is living with their married parents. Children reared by their married parents are less likely to live in poverty, perform better in school, are less likely to be arrested, are less likely to have mental health problems (including suicide), and are more likely to go to college. Children, adults, and society (not to mention federal, state, and local budgets) would be better off if more of our children lived with their married parents.

I raise the issue of marriage and children's living arrangements to make two points about the Rosenberg/Kaiser bill. First, I believe the bill could be greatly strengthened by allowing both parents to receive the EITC payment if they both work, regardless of their marital status. As written, the bill contains a disincentive to marriage because the father would lose his EITC if he married the mother. Second, if the parents choose not to marry, the EITC could still have a positive impact on family relationships because a father that pays child support is more likely to maintain contact with his children. The Rosenberg/Kaiser EITC payment will provide fathers with a powerful incentive to stay current on their child support. Though a visiting relationship between fathers and children is not a full substitute for parents living together in marriage, it is better than the infrequent visits or lack of contact that now characterizes the relationship between most of these poor fathers and their children.

In short, research and experience suggest, with varying degrees of certainty, that the Rosenberg/Kaiser proposal would lead to increased work by poor fathers, increased child support payments, increased contact between fathers and their children, and reduced poverty levels among mothers and children. Further, if modified to allow both parents to be eligible for the EITC even if they marry, the bill could lead to increased marriage rates. I cannot think of any other social policy that would have this pervasive set of positive impacts on children, parents, government, and society. Yes, the bill will be expensive, but tax dollars spent on a program that produces so many positive outcomes should be considered an investment in the public good – and might well produce effects that are more valuable than its costs.

1. Ron Haskins, Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 2006), Chapter 15.
2. Steve Holt, “The Earned Income Tax Credit at 30: What We Know,” Metropolitan Policy Program Research Brief (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, February 2006).
3. Wendy Sigle Rushton and Irwin Garfinkel, “The Effects of Welfare, Child Support, and Labor Markets on Father Involvement,” in Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda and Natasha Cabrera, eds, Handbook of Father Involvement (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002).
4. Sara McLanahan, Elisabeth Donahue, and Ron Haskins, “Introducing the Issue,” The Future of Children, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 3-12.

Early Childhood Education: Effective Use of Public Dollars
March 12, 2007

This discussion of early childhood education featured W. Steven Barnett and Ellen Frede as researcher and policymaker.

Speaker Series, "Researcher Meets Policymaker"
The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School. Twice a semester, CRCW brings in speakers to address a topic about child wellbeing. The format of the talks involves bringing together an expert in child policy with an expert in research on a given child-related topic

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Teen Relationships, Pregnancy and Marriage
February 28, 2007 at 4:30pm in Robertson Hall, Princeton University.

This discussion of teen pregnancy featured Rebecca Maynard and Sarah Brown as researcher and policymaker.

Speaker Series, "Researcher Meets Policymaker"
The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School. Twice a semester, CRCW brings in speakers to address a topic about child wellbeing. The format of the talks involves bringing together an expert in child policy with an expert in research on a given child-related topic.

Reforming the Juvenile Justice System
December 6, 2006, 4:30pm in Robertson Hall, Princeton University.

This discussion of child support policy research and implementation featured Laurence Steinberg and Donald Devore.

Speaker Series, "Researcher Meets Policymaker"
The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School. Twice a semester, CRCW brings in speakers to address a topic about child wellbeing. The format of the talks involves bringing together an expert in child policy with an expert in research on a given child-related topic.

Getting Dads to Work AND Pay: A New Fathers' Agenda
October 11, 2006, 4:30pm in Robertson Hall, Princeton University.

This discussion of child support policy research and implementation featured Lawrence Mead and Robert Doar.

Speaker Series, "Researcher Meets Policymaker"
The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School. Twice a semester, CRCW brings in speakers to address a topic about child wellbeing. The format of the talks involves bringing together an expert in child policy with an expert in research on a given child-related topic.


Opportunity in America: Does Education Promote Social Mobility?
September 19, 2006 from 10:00am to 12:00pm in Falk Auditorium at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. This program featured a panel of journalists who have written extensively on social mobility and inequality.

America has long been viewed as "the land of opportunity," a place where, with hard work, most people can succeed, regardless of their family background. However, opportunity has not been available to all. Because education is usually thought to be an important force for promoting upward mobility, we will critically examine the role of preschool education, K-12 education, and higher education in promoting mobility. The program will also feature a panel of journalists who have written extensively on social mobility and inequality. After the program, panelists will take audience questions.

This event is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, in conjunction with the release of the latest Future of Children journal volume "Opportunity in America."

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Childhood Obesity Photo Exhibit at RWJF
Summer and fall 2006 in the atrium of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Built Environment and Childhood Obesity is on display summer and fall 2006 in the atrium of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Originally featured at Princeton University's Bernstein Gallery, the exhibit was sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School in conjunction with the release of The Future of Children “Childhood Obesity” volume, co-edited by Christina Paxson, Elisabeth Donahue, Tracy Orleans and JA Grisso.

The exhibit highlights factors in the built and social environments that are likely strong contributors to the high rates of childhood obesity our nation currently faces. The factors, such as lack of access to safe places to play and fresh produce, disproportionately impact populations especially at risk for obesity. These populations include those living in low-income neighborhoods and those from certain racial and ethnic groups such as African American and Latino populations.

The exhibit is a powerful reminder that there is still much work to be done to create healthy environments for our nation's children to live, learn and play.

Testimony of Ron Haskins
July 19, 2006 - Ron Haskins, Future of Children senior editor, testifies before the Committee on Ways and Means about welfare reform's 10 year anniversary.

Chairman Thomas and Members of the Committee:

It has been ten years since the welfare reform law was signed by President Clinton amid predictions of disaster from the left. Thanks to provisions in the legislation itself that provided millions of dollars for research, to an unprecedented level of research sponsored by foundations, to data reported by states to the federal government, and to national data collected and reported on a routine basis by the Census Bureau, a tremendous volume of information bearing on the effects of the legislation has been produced. In fact, there is probably more information about the effects of the 1996 welfare reform law than any other piece of social legislation enacted in recent decades.

The most important reform was the replacement of the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The research on TANF yields a coherent picture that will almost certainly stand the test of time. With its emphasis on work, time limits, and sanctions against states that did not place a large fraction of its caseload in work programs and against individuals who refused to meet state work requirements, TANF was a historic reversal of the entitlement welfare represented by AFDC. If the 1996 reforms had their intended effect of reducing welfare dependency, a leading indicator of success would be a declining welfare caseload. TANF administrative data reported by states to the federal government show that caseloads began declining in the spring of 1994 and fell even more rapidly after the federal legislation was enacted in 1996. Between 1994 and 2005, the caseload declined about 60 percent. The number of families receiving cash welfare is now the lowest it has been since 1969, and the percentage of children on welfare is lower than it has been since 1966. Although it is often reported in the media that cash welfare caseloads increase during economic recessions and decline during recoveries, this claim is mostly false. In the forty-one years between 1953 and 1994, the number of families on AFDC declined in only five. Only once – between 1977 and 1979 – did the caseload decline (by about 2 percent) two years in a row. By contrast, 2005 was the eleventh year in a row that the caseload declined. Clearly, we are in a new era of welfare use.

Although caseload decline is an important outcome measure of the 1996 reforms, how families fare after leaving welfare is of great importance. The next reasonable test of welfare reform, then, is whether mothers leaving welfare are working. Again, there is abundant information to answer this question. In fact, three lines of evidence can be aligned to produce a consistent story. The first set of evidence is dozens of welfare-to-work studies conducted since the 1980s. These gold-standard studies almost uniformly show reductions in caseloads and increases in employment attributable to work requirements, as long as the programs included job search requirements. The second line of evidence comes from more than forty state studies conducted since 1996 of adults who left welfare. On average, these studies show that a little less than 60 percent of the adults leaving welfare were employed at any given moment and that over a period of several months or longer about 70 percent held at least one job (although there is good evidence that the share of leavers who were working declined somewhat since the recession of 2001).

A third line of evidence, and the most definitive, is statistics on female employment for the nation as a whole. Census data shows historic changes in employment (defined as any earnings during the year) by single mothers, especially low-income single mothers (Figure 1). From 1993 to 2000 the portion of single mothers who were employed grew from 58 percent to nearly 75 percent, an increase of almost 30 percent. Even more pertinent to assessing the effects of welfare reform, employment among never-married mothers, most of whom join the welfare ranks within a year or two of giving birth, grew from 44 percent to 66 percent. Before 1996 never-married mothers were the ones most likely to be school dropouts, to go on welfare, and to stay on welfare for a decade or more. Yet their employment over this period grew by 50 percent. Employment changes of this magnitude over such a short period for an entire demographic group are unprecedented in Census Bureau records.

So employment of poor mothers heading families has increased dramatically. But what about their income? One of the most frequent criticisms of the 1996 reforms was that mothers and children would be destitute. Members of the House of Representatives and the editorial boards of many of the nation's leading newspapers who opposed the welfare reform bill, used exceptionally colorful language to describe the afflictions to which the legislation would subject poor families and children.

Census Bureau data for female-headed families in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution for female-headed families (those below about $21,000 in 2000) show that their pattern of income shifted dramatically between 1993 and 2000. In 1993 earnings accounted for about 30 percent of the income of low-income, female-headed families, while welfare payments, including cash, food stamps, housing, and school lunch, accounted for nearly 55 percent. By 2000 this pattern had reversed: earnings had leaped by an astounding 136 percent, to constitute nearly 60 percent of income, while welfare income had plummeted by over half, to constitute only about 23 percent of income (Figure 2). As a result of the growth in earnings and legislated expansions of the EITC, income from the EITC more than tripled. Thus with earnings and EITC payments leading the way, the total income of these low-income families increased by about 25 percent over the period (in dollars adjusted for inflation). Even after the recession of 2001, earnings remained above their 1993 level. The predictions of doom turned out to be wrong.

The pattern is clear: earnings up, welfare down. This is the very definition of reducing welfare dependency. Most low-income mothers heading families appear to be financially better off, although work expenses and Social Security taxes consume part of their earnings, because the mothers earn more money than they received from welfare. Taxpayers continue making a contribution to the well-being of these families through the EITC and other work support programs, but the families earn a majority of their income. This explosion of employment and earnings constitutes an enormous achievement for the mothers themselves and for the nation's social policy.

Members of this committee will recall that one of the most frequently used arguments against the welfare reform legislation was that it would throw over a million children into poverty. This claim was based on a study conducted by the Urban Institute at the request of the President Clinton's Department of Health and Human Services. It is doubtful that any measure of the condition of the nation's children receives more attention than the poverty rate. Thus, the impact of welfare reform on poverty has great substantive and political importance.

Although child poverty dropped during the 1960s, after the early 1970s it gradually drifted upward, primarily because an increasing percentage of American children were being reared in female-headed families, the family type with the lowest work output and the highest poverty rate. However, between 1994 and 2000, child poverty fell every year and reached levels not seen since 1978 (Figure 3). In addition, by 2000 the poverty rate of black children and of children in female-headed families was the lowest it had ever been. The percentage of families in deep poverty, defined as half the poverty level (about $7,000 for a mother and two children in 2000), also declined until 2000, falling about 35 percent during the period. Even after four consecutive years of increasing child poverty between 2001 and 2004, poverty was still 20 percent below it 1993 peak.

A special analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Congressional Budget Office provides a clear understanding of the impact of work on poverty rates among families headed by poor mothers. The analysis examined the changing impact of earnings and government taxes and transfer payments on poverty during the 1990s. In 1990 the poverty rate among children in households with an unmarried female head before any taxes or government transfers was 50 percent. But in 1999 this poverty rate (which might be thought of as the market poverty rate, because it is computed without regard to government taxes or benefits) fell by 20 percent, to a little over 39 percent. Virtually all this decline in poverty is attributable to increased employment and earnings by mothers during the 1990s.

The analysis then added various combinations of government transfers and taxes to market income among these unmarried mothers. One of the analyses shows that in 1990, before welfare reform, the combination of all government non-tax transfers such as cash welfare and food stamps reduced poverty by about 12 percentage points, from around 50 percent to a little more than 37 percent. Although the market poverty rate in 1999 was 11 percentage points lower than in 1990, government cash and in-kind transfers in 1999 still reduced poverty by almost an additional 10 percentage points, to a little under 30 percent.

The final step in the analysis was to examine the effect on poverty when income from the EITC was added and federal tax payments were subtracted from income. Not surprisingly, given the relatively low level of work and earnings in 1990, adding the EITC increased income only enough to reduce poverty by less than 1 percentage point. By contrast, in 1999 adding the EITC to income and subtracting federal taxes reduced the poverty rate by 4.50 percentage points. Based on total income, including both market earnings and all government taxes and transfers, poverty among single mothers and children was therefore 36.8 percent in 1990, compared with 25.1 percent in 1999, a decline of nearly one-third. If the 1999 poverty rate had been the same as the 1990 rate, nearly 4.2 million more single mothers and children would have been poor. The prediction that welfare reform would lead to major increases in child poverty was flawed.

Promoting child well-being was a major goal of all participants in the 1995-96 welfare reform debate. Republicans argued that increased work by mothers on welfare would lead to positive impacts on children because mothers would be setting an example of personal responsibility, would impose schedules and order on chaotic households, and would increase family income. By contrast, many Democrats thought that welfare reform would be disastrous for children. They believed that mothers would not be able to find and maintain work, would hit time limits or be hit by sanctions, and would experience serious declines in family income, driving them into destitution. Perhaps the most frequent charge, based on a reputable study by the Urban Institute, was that welfare reform would throw a million children into poverty. There were also predictions that more children would be removed from their parents and placed in the child protection system.

Several types of research evidence are now available to make informed judgments about which predictions have come true. A reasonable place to begin is with broad survey data on the well-being of American children. As we have seen, poverty not only did not increase but actually declined every year between 1994 and 2000, with black child poverty reaching its lowest level ever. Although poverty increased after 2000, it remained well below its 1994 level. So great was the decline in poverty that, as Paul Jargowsky and Isabel Sawhill show, the number of neighborhoods with concentrated poverty fell precipitously, as did the number of neighborhoods classified as underclass because of the concentration of poverty and the high frequency of problems such as school dropout, female-headed families, welfare dependency, and labor force dropout by adult males. The authors conclude that the 1990s were a “remarkable decade in which substantial progress was made.”

Besides measures of poverty and underclass neighborhoods, a host of additional measures of child well-being is available. One of the best collections of national indicators is the Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI), published annually by Ken Land of Duke University with support from the Foundation for Child Development. The Land index reports twenty-eight key indicators of child well-being; these indicators are based on nationally-representative surveys, most of which have been administered annually since 1975. The overall index shows a clear pattern of changes over the past three decades. After a few years of modest changes in no clear direction, in 1982 the index showed a decline in well-being that lasted almost continuously until 1995. Since 1995, the index shows an improvement in well-being in almost every year, more than recovering the ground lost in the 1980s and early 1990s. Using 1975 as the base year, the index descended to about 75 percent of its original level by 1995. Since then, it has increased by about 30 percentage points, to about 5 percent above its 1975 level. The CWI is organized into seven domains, each of which measures an important dimension of child well-being such as economic, health, safety, and emotional and spiritual well-being. Most of these domains reflect the overall CWI pattern of continuous increases since 1995. Only the health domain shows a decline, and this only because child obesity increased dramatically. Other measures of child health showed improvement. As Land concludes, “Children are faring better in recent years.”

A similar conclusion is reached by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The forum presents many of its indicators separately for various income and ethnic groups. In nearly every case in which indicators are presented in this way, low-income and minority children reflect the pattern of general improvement, often showing even greater improvement than white children and children from wealthier families. Similarly, Donald Hernandez of the State University of New York has studied ethnic differences in the Land index. Compared with the huge differences in the early 1990s between white children and both black and Hispanic children, both minority groups closed the gap with whites by about one-third over the last decade, both groups narrowing the gap on six of the seven index domains.

Another feared effect of welfare reform was an increase in the number of children taken from their destitute families by the foster care system. By the mid-1990s, the national foster care caseload had increased every year for fourteen consecutive years, rising from 262,000 in 1982 to 507,000 in 1996. The caseload then increased over the next three years at approximately the same rate as in previous years. Then in 2000, for the first time in two decades, the foster care caseload began to decline and has declined every year since then, falling from 567,000 in 1999 to 518,000 in 2004, a fall of almost 10 percent. Similarly, the incidence of child maltreatment of all types has declined in most years since 1993, falling by over 20 percent between 1993 and 1999, before rising somewhat beginning in 2000. However, the rate in 2001 was still well below the rate of the early 1990s.

In addition to these broad indicators of child well-being, there is a growing body of scientific research on the direct effects of welfare reform on children, including gold standard studies based on random assignment. Most of these studies were initiated before the 1996 legislation, but nonetheless examined the effects of work programs similar to those mounted by states both before and after the 1996 reforms. Pamela Morris of MDRC and her colleagues have reviewed the impacts on young children of seven random-assignment demonstrations, including thirteen employment programs in the United States and two in Canada, yielding data on 30,000 low-income children. Morris and her colleagues confined their review to children who were between the ages of two and nine when the programs began (between four and fifteen at the point of final data collection). Five results are notable: positive impacts on school achievement were evident among children whose mothers were in certain work programs; impacts were confined to children age five and under at the beginning of the studies; impacts were confined to work programs that increased family income by providing earnings supplements; impacts faded after three years; and positive impacts on school achievement were related to attendance at center-based child care programs during the preschool years. These results are broadly consistent with the large literature on effects of maternal employment, including the finding that when mothers' work leads to increased family income, young children often show modest improvement on measures of social and intellectual development.

A similar review by Lisa Gennetian of MDRC and her colleagues on the effects of work programs on adolescents complements the Morris review. The Gennetian review is based on pooled data from seventeen random-assignment programs. The nearly 6,600 participating children were between ages ten and sixteen at the beginning of the studies; at the point of final data collection they were between twelve and eighteen. Averaged across all the experiments, mothers participating in work programs, compared with mothers in the control programs, rated their children as performing below average in school. In addition, children in the experimental programs were slightly more likely to repeat a grade and to be enrolled in special education classes. They were not, however, more likely to be expelled from school, to drop out, or to have had (or have fathered) a baby. Data from the individual studies provide some evidence that the negative effects on school performance seemed to be concentrated in adolescents with younger siblings, suggesting that the poor school outcomes might be associated with early assumption of adult responsibilities because working mothers shared child care with their older children. Similar negative effects of maternal employment on adolescents have been noted by several other researchers and reviewers. Although these effects are modest and were not found in all of the individual studies, there is nonetheless reason for concern. Gennetian and her colleagues call for “more investigation rather than . . . an immediate policy response.”

Taken together, the survey and experimental information available on the well-being of poor, low-income, and minority children in the decade following welfare reform does not justify the fears expressed by liberals. With some exceptions, measures of child well-being show that children, and especially poor and minority children, have generally lived under improved conditions and have shown modest gains on indicators of development since 1996. On the other hand, the hopes of conservatives about the impact of welfare reform on children have not been vindicated either. High-quality studies of welfare reform show that preschool children of families participating in welfare-to-work studies may experience modest gains in their development and behavior, but equally good studies show that adolescents experience modest problems in school performance. From the perspective of one decade, it does not seem likely that welfare reform will alleviate the serious lags in development and performance shown by children from poor and minority families. Direct interventions with these children will be necessary if the nation is to close the ability and education gaps between them and more advantaged children.

Although welfare reform is a major cause of the dramatic rise in earnings and the decline in welfare dependency and child poverty, at least two other factors account for the improving financial well-being of female-headed families. First, the economy of the 1990s was exceptionally strong. By 2000 almost 137 million Americans had jobs, up by more than 16 million since 1993. Before the recession hit in 2001, 64.4 percent of all noninstitutionalized adults in the United States were working, the highest share ever. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate fell from 6.9 percent in 1993 to 4.0 percent in 2000, the lowest in several decades. Sophisticated statistical studies have been conducted by economists to determine the relative contribution of the economy, of welfare reform, and of other factors to the dramatic rise of work and earnings by low-income mothers heading families. These studies all show that both welfare reform and the booming economy are important, but there is little agreement about the relative contributions of each factor. However, previous economic booms did not lead to either the reduction in welfare rolls or the increase in work by low-income mothers heading families that were seen in the 1990s. Without welfare reform cajoling and where necessary pushing mothers into the labor force, a growing economy would have had a more modest effect on the employment and earnings of these mothers, as was in fact the case during all previous economic expansions.

Second, beginning more than a decade before the 1996 reforms, the federal government made existing benefit programs friendlier to low-income working families and created entirely new programs designed to help working families. These actions include expansions of child care, creation of the child tax credit, changes in the standard deduction and the personal exemption in the income tax code, changes in Medicaid, and above all several expansions of the EITC. Two studies by nonpartisan and highly respected congressional agencies – the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) – provide an idea of the magnitude of these changes.

At the request of the Ways and Means Committee in 1997, CBO undertook a study to determine whether federal policy changes between 1984 and 1998 had resulted in more support for low-income working families. CBO examined several major entitlement programs that help working families, including child care, the EITC, Medicaid, and the child tax credit. Taken together, we can label these and similar programs the nation's work support system, because the programs provide financial and in-kind support to poor and low-income working families. CBO calculated the benefits that would have accrued to low-income working families from the work support system under 1984 law and compared that level of support to the level under 1999 law. Because every work support program examined by CBO had been expanded or created since 1984, the analysis was expected to show an increased commitment by federal policymakers to low-income working families. But it is fair to say that even experts were surprised by the finding that if the work support system had remained as it had been in 1984, working families in 1999 would have received only around $6 billion in government work support benefits (Figure 5). By contrast, the 1999 version of the work support system – that is, the one that actually existed in 1999 – provided nearly $52 billion in support to working families. In other words, the expansions in the work support system after 1984 resulted in working families receiving $46 billion more in cash and other benefits than they would have received if Congress and a series of presidents had not expanded the work support programs. It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which the nation's social policy to help low-income families has shifted from one that provided most of its benefits to families dependent on welfare to one that provides enormous benefits to working families.

The second study, based on information computed by CRS, strengthens the CBO conclusion. Whereas the CBO study provides an estimate of changes in aggregate federal spending on work support programs, the CRS data can be used to compare the financial work incentive for a typical mother with two children on welfare in a typical state (Pennsylvania) in 1986 and 1997. For years, a major charge against the welfare system was that it posed a substantial disincentive to work because families that accepted jobs could be worse off working than on welfare. A mother and two children in a typical state in 1986 received about $8,970 in cash welfare and Food Stamps (all figures are in constant 1997 dollars). If the mother worked and earned $8,000, her welfare income would fall drastically, to $1,900. She would also pay nearly $1,200 in federal taxes but would gain about $540 from the EITC. Thus for working full-time she would have net income of about $9,275, or about $350 more than if she had stayed on welfare. In addition, both the mother and children would lose their Medicaid coverage, the insurance value of which would be around $3,000, after nine months, and the mother would get very modest if any government help paying for child care. Clearly, a mother who elected to stay on welfare rather than accept a low-wage job in 1986 would be making a financially rational decision. By contrast, because of the broadening of the work support system and changes in welfare laws, by 1997 this same mother with a $10,000-a-year job (roughly equivalent to $8,000 in 1986) would have net income of around $15,350, or $7,550 more than the $7,800 she would have received if she had stayed on welfare. The EITC alone was worth an additional $3,000 in cash, and changes in federal income tax law had removed the mother entirely from paying income tax. Further, the mother would have Medicaid coverage for one year, and the children would be covered as long as the mother had low income. Finally, there was much more money available for child care in 1997 than in 1986. All in all, the work support system had made work a more attractive option for welfare mothers in 1997 than in 1986. Given that the EITC is pegged to inflation, that funds for child care have expanded dramatically since 1996, and that the child tax credit was made partially refundable in 2001, it seems likely that the work support system is even more generous today than it was in 1997. In any case, at the time the 1996 reforms were enacted, as well as today, the work support system provides compelling financial incentives for mothers to leave welfare even for low-wage jobs.

The positive impacts of the 1996 reforms on income, earnings, and poverty have been pervasive and, in some cases, profound. However, no policy produces all benefits and no costs. Although the 1996 law did not produce the failures predicted by its critics, it nonetheless has created challenges that states and the federal government should address. In my view, the most important of these challenges is the finding that there is a group of mothers at the bottom of the income distribution who appear to be floundering under the new and more demanding welfare system. Generally, these are mothers who live without another adult in their household and who do not have income from cash welfare, from employment, or from unemployment insurance. In the past, these troubled parents could stay on welfare for many years. Under the old AFDC program, the average length of spells for adults on the rolls at any given moment was twelve years. It would be naïve to believe that all these welfare-dependent parents were suddenly capable of finding and retaining jobs for $7 or $8 an hour. A demanding welfare system requires at least some minimum level of competence and motivation, and not all parents have these minimum levels.

There are several types of evidence that a number of mothers are in fact floundering. Surveys show that about 60 percent of the mothers who leave welfare are working at any given moment and that around 70 percent have held at least one job since leaving welfare. The 40 percent who do not work regularly raise some concern, but the 30 percent who have not worked at all since leaving welfare raise even more serious concern. States frequently use sanctions and thirty-six states have policy that allows them to completely terminate cash benefits for rule infractions. At least one study found that mothers who were sanctioned off the rolls had characteristics that make it less likely they will be able to get and hold a job. More specifically, they are less likely to have a high school degree or job experience and more likely to have substance addictions, mental health problems, or three or more children than other welfare mothers. Also of concern are poor mothers heading families who are financially worse off since welfare reform passed. Kasia Murray and Wendell Primus have compared Census income data for mothers for the 1993-96 and the 1996-2000 periods and found that that mothers in the bottom 10 percent of single earners actually lost income during the latter period. These findings are placed in a broader context by Rebecca Blank and Robert Schoeni from the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. Blank and Schoeni, using data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, compared the change in income between the 1992-95 period (before TANF) and the 1997-2000 period (after TANF). Controlling for factors such as family size and inflation, they plotted income for two groups: all families with children and families with children without both parents present. Blank and Schoeni find that all but the bottom 2 percent of families with children had improved their income in the late 1990s relative to the mid-1990s. Even in the case of children living outside a two-parent family, 92 percent of families improved their income. However, the bottom 8 percent declined.

Blank and Schoeni explicitly tied their analysis to welfare reform by comparing states with strong cash work incentives (which allowed mothers who went to work to retain relatively more of their welfare benefit) and strong penalty incentives (strict time limits and strong sanctions) and found that both cash and penalty incentives were associated with higher income. The authors conclude that “it is the more lenient states with softer penalties where children's income seems to have grown the least.” Although the authors interpret their findings as “good news,” their work is similar to Murray and Primus's in showing that there is a group of mothers at the bottom – in this case about 8 percent of the distribution of female-headed families – that is worse off now than before welfare reform. This finding is reinforced by Census Bureau data analyzed by Richard Bavier of the Office of Management and Budget. Bavier finds a disconcerting increase in the number of mothers in the bottom fifth of income for female heads of families who report zero earnings and zero income from cash welfare (ignoring SSI). The number of mothers in this category increased in every year between 2000 and 2004, jumping by 60 percent over the period.

Several other researchers, including Robert Moffitt and Katie Winder at Johns Hopkins; Pamela Loprest, Sheila Zedlewski, and others at the Urban Institute; Sandra Danziger and Sheldon Danziger of the University of Michigan; and Robert G. Wood and Anu Rangarajan at Mathematica Policy Research report similar findings on increased hardship among mothers who leave welfare, live in a household without another adult, and do not have earnings. The studies by Wood and Rangarajan and the Danzigers and their colleagues are especially interesting because they both have many years of longitudinal data (data collected on the same subjects over time) on mothers who had been on welfare. Wood and Rangarajan followed a representative group of 2,000 recipients who had received welfare in 1997 or 1998 in New Jersey. Although the group that was off welfare and employed increased from about one-third to one-half over the fifty-four-month follow-up period, the group of greatest concern – those who were off welfare but without a job – was consistently a little more than one quarter of the sample. Of this group, about 60 percent had other sources of income, including SSI, unemployment compensation, a working spouse or partner, or recent employment. Thus the mothers who were the least financially stable constituted about 40 percent of those who were off welfare and unemployed, or around 11 percent of the total sample.

All the evidence reviewed above, showing that mothers and children at the bottom of the distribution experience hardship, is based on income data. Surprisingly, consumption data provide a different picture. In studies using two nationally representative data sets, Bruce Meyer and James Sullivan show that the material conditions of low-income mothers, as measured by their consumption, improved somewhat after welfare reform. On the other hand, a large part of the additional consumption in the late 1990s appears to be related to work. More specifically, the mothers spent more on housing, food away from home, and transportation. Additional housing costs could well be explained by the fact that the federal housing programs in which many of these mothers participate charge families 30 percent of their income, with the remainder of the family's rent being paid by the government. If mothers earn additional money, they must pay 30 percent of it on housing: in effect, federal housing policy all by itself imposes a 30 percent tax on increased earnings. Additional spending on food away from home and transportation could also be associated with mothers working and needing to use some of their increased earnings to get to work and to eat out because of time pressures.

Evidence on the well-being of mothers and children can also be gleaned from information on food consumption. Christopher Jencks, one of the major critics of the 1996 reforms, and his colleague Scott Winship conducted extensive analyses on the Food Security Supplement to the Current Population Survey for the years 1995-2001. Based on twenty-eight questions related to food security, Jencks and Winship conclude that single mothers had fewer problems related to food in 2001 than in 1995, the last year before welfare reform. Further analyses shows that, although the number of low-income mothers receiving welfare between 1995 and 1999 fell from 58 percent to 29 percent, food-related problems dropped dramatically. The decline in food problems leveled off in the 1999-2001 period, but food problems in 2001 were still substantially below the level of problems reported in 1995. Similarly, based on the Department of Agriculture's definition of food security, the percentage of food-insecure female-headed families declined from around 31 percent in 1995 to about 27 percent in 1999, as the welfare rolls were declining rapidly. Even during the period following the mild recession of 2001, the percentage of food-insecure families did not increase significantly, remaining below the 1995 level. The authors conclude that “single mothers' material standard of living probably improved more during [the economic expansion of the 1990s] than during earlier ones.” In an op-ed piece published in the Christian Science Monitor, the authors state flatly that their study of food problems led them to conclude that “welfare reform worked.”

Income data thus suggest that there was a group of single mothers, comprising perhaps 10 percent of all single-mother families that had been on welfare, who were worse off following welfare reform. Data based on consumption and on food insecurity tend to offset this conclusion, although even here there is some evidence of problems at the bottom of the distribution. On balance, it seems prudent to conclude that scholars should examine this problem in much greater detail and search for solutions that will help mothers hold jobs. Given the research reviewed above showing an increase in the number of poor mothers with no obvious sources of income, more public and private funds should be devoted to conducting research and demonstration programs to determine how these floundering mothers can be helped. The trick will be to maintain a demanding welfare system that strongly discourages welfare dependency while simultaneously allowing states, counties, and cities enough flexibility to identify and help these mothers. Some mothers may never be able to achieve steady employment. Welfare programs should figure out how to help them without reducing the pressure on more capable mothers to leave welfare for work or to avoid welfare in the first place.

Compared to any major change in social policy in the last several decades, I think it fair to conclude that welfare reform stands out as federal legislation that actually met its goals. The entire political spectrum was in agreement that mothers on welfare should become self-sufficient. All but the left-most part of the spectrum agreed to support legislation that terminated entitlement cash welfare and replaced it with a system that required work. The data summarized above show that poor mothers on welfare responded exactly as they were expected to do – they went to work in droves. In addition, as Republicans predicted, they increased their family income and reduced the poverty rate of their children in the process. They left welfare for work, but government continues to support their efforts through child care subsidies, health insurance, food stamps, and above all, the Earned Income Tax Credit. There's something here for everybody to like: both more work and lots of government support – except now the bulk of government support is for those working, not those avoiding work. The results of major changes in public policy rarely work out this well.

Now the question is: What's next? The obvious part of the answer is that states must continue to aggressively implement the work requirements in the TANF program. This Committee wisely led the way to fixing a glitch in the 1996 legislation that weakened the work requirement in the 1996 law. The first priority of this committee should be to ensure that states aggressively implement the new requirements. A second priority should be for this committee to work with the Agriculture Committee and the Banking Committee to strengthen the work requirements in the Food Stamp program and create strong work requirements for able-bodied adults in housing programs. If work requirements are successful in one program, I can see no reason why they cannot be successful in other programs.

Beyond these obvious next steps, I think this committee has already taken the most important action that holds great promise for further reductions in poverty and improvements in child development and well-being; namely, stimulating a national marriage movement. Years of research on poverty have convinced me that there are only three ways to reliably reduce poverty: economic growth, increased work, and increased marriage rates. Unfortunately, primarily because of low and often declining wages at the bottom of the income distribution, economic growth is less effective than in the past at reducing poverty. However, the nation's experience with increasing work levels following the 1996 welfare reforms shows unequivocally that increased work by mothers heading families drives down the poverty rate. Now comes marriage. Work that we have undertaken at Brookings provides solid evidence that increasing marriage rates to the level the nation enjoyed in 1970 would reduce poverty by almost 30 percent. In addition, as shown in a recent volume of the Future of Children, published by Brookings and Princeton University, the academic world is in almost unanimous agreement that increasing marriage rates would be good for children. This committee should provide strong oversight of its recent legislation that provides $150 million per year to stimulate healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs around the nation. In addition, the Committee should keep a close eye on the ground-breaking experimental research the Department of Health and Human Services is funding to test marriage education and other approaches to strengthening marriage. If some of these programs are successful, the Committee should make funds available to expand them throughout the nation. I believe the evidence strongly supports the view that if we can increase the nation's marriage rates, especially among poor and minority parents, the parents themselves, children, and the nation will greatly benefit. Not least among these benefits will be a declining need for government welfare programs.

A Brookings-Princeton Briefing
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in the Falk Auditorium at The Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC.

The Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs both mark important anniversaries this year. To celebrate the public policy efforts of both institutions and the ongoing partnership between these organizations, a Washington, DC event will examine some of the nation's most critical problems at home and abroad. Brookings President Strobe Talbott will open the session and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, will provide closing thoughts at the end of the three panel discussions.

Carlos Pascual, former Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the State Department and now Vice President of the Foreign Policy Studies program at Brookings, will join Jennifer Widner, Professor of Politics and International Affairs the Woodrow Wilson School and director of Princeton's Reconstruction Partnership, to discuss lessons and best practices in post-conflict settings and fragile states.

Brookings senior fellow Ron Haskins will moderate a second panel discussion on children. He will be joined by Isabel Sawhill, Vice President of Economic Studies at Brookings; and Sara McLanahan, professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University; who will discuss policy options for encouraging marriage, reducing poverty and inequality, and improving the future of children.

This third panel discussion brings together Princeton's Larry Bartels and Brookings senior fellow Thomas Mann on American electoral politics. Bartels and Mann will discuss how the current political environment and the structure of competition are likely to effect the November midterm elections and the extent to which the polarized political climate will shape the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.


Our Families, Our Country, Our World

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
9:00 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.
The Brookings Institution
Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

Opening Remarks:
Strobe Talbott
President, The Brookings Institution

Panel One: Post Conflict Reconstruction 9:10 a.m. - 10:10 a.m Carlos Pascual
Vice President, Foreign Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution

Jennifer Widner
Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Panel Two: The Future of Children 10:20 a.m. - 11:20 a.m. Ron Haskins
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution Isabel V. Sawhill
Vice President, Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution
Sara McLanahan
Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Princeton University

Panel Three: Electoral Politics and the President 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Thomas Mann
Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
Larry Bartels
Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Princeton University

Closing Remarks:
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Princeton University

Testimony of Ron Haskins
May 3, 2006 - Ron Haskins, Future of Children senior editor, testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia about marriage.

Testimony of Ron Haskins
Senior Fellow, Brookings
Institution Senior Consultant, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
May 3, 2006

Chairman Brownback and Members of the Subcommittee:

I have been asked to testify on three issues that are related to this Subcommittee's goal of promoting an environment conducive to marriage in the District of Columbia. These issues include a review of trends in family composition, a summary of research on the importance of marriage to children, and evidence on marriage bonuses and penalties in government programs.

Trends in Family Composition

Children do best when reared by their married parents. From this perspective, the trends in family composition in recent decades have been disastrous for children. Although most of the trends have stabilized in recent years, in previous decades marriage rates fell, divorce rates rose, and nonmarital birth rates soared. The basic building block of married-couple families, of course, is marriage rates. As shown in Chart 1, in the three decades between the 1960s and 1990s, marriage rates fell dramatically, especially for blacks. Over this period, the marriage rate for whites and blacks fell by 11 percent and 33 percent respectively. Since then, both rates have been relatively stable, although both continue to decline slowly.

[see Chart 1 - Marriage Rates for White and Black Females 15 Years and Older]

Especially during the 1970s and 1980s, while marriage rates were falling, divorce rates were rising. After doubling between 1965 and 1975, the rate increased slightly until 1980 but has been stable or falling since then (Chart 2).

[see Chart 2 - Trends in Divorce, 1950-1995]

A third important trend in understanding the living arrangements of children is the nonmarital birth rate. Hollywood couples that have babies outside marriage, such as the recent case of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, get widespread attention in the media. This attention to celebrity births outside marriage has led many people to believe that “everyone is doing it.” But this conclusion is largely incorrect. Nonmarital births occur primarily among poor and minority women. In fact, children born to unmarried mothers are likely to live in poverty and to require support from the welfare system. Mothers who give birth outside marriage are also more likely to be high school dropouts, to live in poverty, and to be unemployed, all of which are correlated with poor developmental outcomes for children.1. Given the consequences of nonmarital births, it is alarming to review statistics showing that until recently the nonmarital birth rate has been rising relentlessly since roughly the 1950s. Chart 3 shows that the percentage of babies born outside marriage rose from under 5 percent in the 1950 to about 33 percent in 1995 before falling for the first time in decades. Since 1995, the rate has been rising again, but at a greatly reduced pace as compared with previous decades. There are enormous differences between ethnic groups in the incidence of nomarital births. In 2000, for example, the share of babies born outside marriage for whites, Hispanics, and African Americans were 22 percent, 43 percent, and 69 percent respectively. There is no doubt that the negative consequences of nonmarital births fall most heavily on minority groups. Indeed, to the extent that marriage rates could be increased, minority groups are likely to reap disproportionate advantages.

[see Chart 3 - Birth Rate and Percent of Births to Unmarried Women, 1940 to 2004]

The outcome of all these trends is that a historically high percentage of our children live with a single parent. As shown in Chart 4, the share of children in single-parent families has more than doubled since 1970, from 12 percent to about 28 percent. As was the case with the trends in marriage and nonmarital births, the trend toward single-parent families stopped rising in the mid-1990s and actually fell in some years. However, in recent years the trend has been rising again, although not as rapidly as during previous decades. The bottom line is that the nation is at a historic high in the share of our children being reared by single mothers.

[see Chart 4 - Percent of Children Living in Single-Parent Families, 1970 - 2004]

Marriage and Child Well-Being

These trends are of great importance to policymakers and the public because social science research now shows strong links between child well-being and family composition. A recent issue of the Future of Children, published jointly by Brookings and Princeton University, was devoted entirely to marriage and child well-being. The editors' overview of several decades of social science research on marriage is notable:

In the early 1970s the prevailing view among scholars was that, aside from the problems of low income, single motherhood was an acceptable alternative to marriage. But the empirical evidence compiled during the 1980s and 1990s suggested otherwise.2

The editors then go on to point out that the “multiple benefits for adults and children [include] better health and greater socioeconomic attainment.”

One effect of marriage has never been doubted. Marriage reduces poverty and increases financial stability. In 2002, the median income of married-couple households was about $61,000 as compared with less than $26,500 for female-headed households.3 Even more important for policymakers interested in policy for poor and low-income families, as shown in Chart 5 children in female-headed families have much higher poverty rates than children in married-couple families. In most years, children in female-headed families have poverty rates that exceed those of children in married-couple families by a factor of five or more.

[see Chart 5 - Poverty in Female-Headed Households and Married-Couple Households, 1974-2004]

Economists Isabel Sawhill of Brookings and Adam Thomas of Harvard have conducted a fascinating analysis of whether higher marriage rates would reduce poverty in the United States.4 Employing statistical modeling, they analyzed data from the Census Bureau to determine how poverty would be affected if poor people behaved differently. In particular, they modeled the effect on poverty rates of more work, more marriage, more education, and fewer children by poor adults. In the case of marriage, they simply matched unmarried people by age, education, and race until the marriage rate for the nation equaled the marriage rate in 1970. This exercise showed that if we could turn back the clock and achieve the marriage rate that prevailed in 1970, poverty would be reduced by well over 25 percent. This remarkable reduction of the national poverty rate by one-quarter would be achieved without any government action and without the expenditure of any public funds. In the Sawhill and Thomas analysis, only work was more effective in reducing poverty than marriage. By way of comparison, doubling cash welfare would reduce poverty by less than one-third as much as increasing marriage rates.

But the effects of marriage on children go beyond just reducing their poverty rate. Although a host of studies, reviewed in several of the chapters in the Future of Children volume referred to above, show that children reared by one parent have high levels of problems related to growth and development, an analysis by Professor Paul Amato of Pennsylvania State University illustrates marriage effects in an especially graphic way. Using data from the National Study of Adolescent Health, Amato examined the number of adolescents that had one or more of eight behavioral problems and then, based on a comparison of the occurrence of each problem in married-parent and single-parent families, calculated the number that would have the problem if marriage rates were increased.5 As shown in Chart 6, adolescent well-being would be greatly improved if more children were living with their married parents. If the same share of adolescents were living with their married parents in 2002 as in 1980, nearly 300,000 fewer would have repeated a grade in school, 216,000 fewer would have been delinquents, and nearly 29,000 fewer would have attempted suicide. Again, it is worth emphasizing that these highly desirable effects would be achieved without government action and without use of tax dollars. Indeed, a moment's reflection on the numbers in Chart 6 shows that reducing the incidence of these problems among adolescents would have the effect of substantially reducing public expenditures.

Marriage and Public Policy

Given the benefits of marriage to children, adults, and society, it would seem wise for policymakers to focus their attention on the impact of public policy on the troubling trends in family composition. In this regard, passage of the 1996 welfare reform law was something of a landmark. Prior to 1996, the design of both tax provisions and welfare programs contained incentives that rewarded and punished marriage. But as Gene Steuerle and Adam Carasso of the Urban Institute have pointed out, these incentives were unintentional and occurred primarily because policymakers enacted both tax laws and transfer programs in piecemeal fashion and seldom stopped to determine whether the programs were creating incentives or disincentives for marriage.6 On the other hand, there was nothing unintentional about the pro-marriage goals of the 1996 welfare reform law. The centerpiece of the law was the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provided states with a block grant of $16.5 billion per year to achieve four goals. One of the goals was to provide financial support to needy families to rear their children at home, but the other three goals addressed family composition. More specifically, states were to spend block grant funds to reduce nonmarital births, encourage marriage, and increase the share of children in families headed by married parents.

[see Chart 6 - Well-Being of Adolescents If More Lived with Their Married ParentsIf More Lived with Their Married Parents]

Thus, as a nation, we are already a decade into an era in which policymakers and administrators at the federal, state, and local level have been encouraged by federal policy to search for ways to increase the share of children in married-couple families. Moreover, the TANF block grant provides states and localities with the resources to implement policy initiatives to achieve the family composition goals. Although several states have taken advantage of these resources to launch marriage initiatives,7 some might wish that policymakers and administrators had been more aggressive in taking up the federal challenge to reduce nonmarital births and promote marriage. But if the gradual move toward work rather than welfare, which was initiated by the federal Work Incentive (WIN) program in 1967, is taken as an example, it may take decades before the goal of promoting marriage is widely accepted and practiced.

For federal policymakers who wish to push the envelope and take actions to promote marriage, I would say that three broad types of policies should be their focus. First, as pointed out above, they should attempt to reduce the negative incentives for marriage in federal tax and transfer policy. Second, they should provide states with funds to experiment with a wide variety of programs that could reduce nonmarital births,promote marriage, and increase the involvement of fathers with their children. Third, they should provide funds to evaluate programs that show promise. In recent years, federal policymakers have taken actions in all three of these areas.

As Adam Carasso and Gene Steuerle of the Urban Institute point out in a recent article, marriage penalties and subsidies arise in the tax code because tax rates vary in accord with income and because married couples file jointly for both transfer programs and taxes.8 Pursuing the worthy goal of promoting equity, policymakers enact higher income tax rates for workers with higher incomes and provide welfare benefits for destitute families. Thus, as income rises, taxpayers often move into higher tax brackets and are subjected to a higher tax rate. Similarly, as income rises families on welfare see their benefits reduced and eventually terminated. If the tax code had a single rate and if all transfer programs were universal, there would be no marriage penalties. But in the real world created by the nation's tax and transfer system, marriage requires couples to combine their income, thereby occasionally moving them into a higher tax bracket. Further, combining income can cause low-income families to lose cash from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to experience reduced or even terminated benefits from transfer programs. Consider an extreme case. If a mother with two children earning $15,000 lives with a man who earns $25,000, she would lose her entire EITC of over $4,500 if she married the man. With combined income of $40,000, the couple would be beyond the phase-out range of the EITC. Similarly, if this mother earned just $5,000 and still qualified for welfare benefits and food stamps of $3,000, her marriage to the $25,000 earner would eliminate all her welfare benefits, and would be close to losing Medicaid for the parents in some states. By contrast, if the mother had no earnings and married the man with $25,000 in earning, she would lose welfare benefits but would gain over $4,500 in cash from the EITC.

As these examples suggest, the actual marriage penalties in the tax code and the transfer system depend on the particulars of each family's or couple's situation. Moreover, unless we know how many couples have characteristics that would result in specific levels of penalties and incentives, we cannot make judgments about the extent of these penalties and incentives nor can we make judgments about needed policies. Fortunately, the Urban Institute, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other sources, has collected data from a nationally-representative sample of households that contains this information plus extensive information on taxes and transfers.9 The 2002 sample from the Urban Institute survey contained 744 cohabiting couples with income below 200 percent of poverty (about $40,000 for a family of four in 2005), most of whom were participating in either transfer programs or the EITC or both. Economists Gregory Acs and Elaine Maag conducted extensive analyses on these couples to determine the extent to which they would be subject to tax or transfer penalties or incentives if they decided to marry.10 They conducted their analyses separately for families receiving and not receiving benefits from the TANF cash welfare program.

The Acs and Maag results are summarized in Chart 7. A first surprise is that so few cohabiting couples with children are on TANF. But for the 14 percent that are on TANF (see top panel of Chart 7), virtually all suffer a steep penalty from TANF transfer payments. As shown in the second column of figures, regardless of whether the couples receive a tax penalty or tax bonus, on average they lose considerable sums in TANF cash payments ($1,800 for those with tax penalties; $2,096 for those with tax bonuses). By contrast with the predominance of TANF penalties, notice the prevalence of tax bonuses. Only 3.7 percent of families receiving TANF experience a tax penalty; the penalties average $1,511. But over 71 percent of families receiving TANF experience a tax bonus, and the average bonus is a whopping $3,390. Similarly, most couples not receiving TANF (see bottom panel of Chart 7) also enjoy a tax bonus. In this case, only a little under 12 percent of families experience a loss (averaging $1,754) while more than 75 percent of families experience a tax bonus that averages $2,271.

[see Chart 7 - Marriage Penalties and Bonuses from the Tax and Transfer Systems for Low-Income Cohabitating Couples with Children]

The Acs and Maag work is one of the first studies to estimate tax and transfer incentives for low-income couples based on a nationally-representative sample. Two obvious conclusions from the study are that TANF marriage penalties are substantial but occur infrequently because so few families receive TANF and that the EITC is much more likely to provide marriage bonuses than penalties for this group of families. Given that cohabiting couples with children are a major target group for marriage initiatives, we can take heart from the frequent and substantial bonuses provided by the EITC.

A related lesson for policymakers is that in the case of low-income couples contemplating marriage, the most serious marriage penalties are likely to occur in transfer programs. Although there are exceptions to almost any generalization, for couples with combined earnings of around $30,000 or so, it seems clear that the biggest problem is penalties in transfer programs and not the tax system. For higher-income couples, the opposite is likely to be true.

To the extent that the most serious penalties for low-income couples are in the transfer programs, and that a major goal of public policy is now to encourage marriage among precisely this group of young couples, it follows that policymakers intent on increasing marriage rates among this group should focus their attention on transfer programs. The Urban Institute has examined the effects of the TANF program as a disincentive to marriage, but other transfer programs undoubtedly provide disincentives as well. Three of the important transfer programs that need further study are food stamps, housing, and Medicaid. Millions of families participate in these programs, with single mothers overrepresented. Even without carrying around a calculator to compute the precise impacts of marriage on her transfer benefits, a young mother receiving food stamps, housing, and Medicaid can know that marrying a man with even a modest income of $15,000 or $20,000 can have substantial impacts on her benefits. The housing program alone would impose an immediate 30 percent “tax” on the earnings of a potential spouse for this mother because the family would be required to pay 30 percent of its income toward the cost of rent.

The marriage calculator that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to release today will provide every state with a reliable method of calculating marriage penalties in their transfer programs. Given that both Medicaid and TANF vary substantially from state to state, a method of calculating marriage penalties that accounts for the specifics of the transfer programs in each state is a must. My guess is that by using the marriage calculator, states are going to discover what the Acs and Maag research showed so clearly; namely, that their transfer programs create substantial disincentives to marriage. Thus, an important goal of both federal and state policymakers should be to reduce these marriage penalties in transfer programs. This goal can be achieved in at least three ways: making all transfer programs universal, increasing the income at which the phase out range begins, and reducing the rate at which payments phase out. The first approach I take to be impractical because taxpayers would not support, nor can the government afford, making all transfer payments universal. The annual cost of providing TANF cash, food stamps, housing, Medicaid and so forth to every family would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. It follows that policymakers should focus their attention on raising the point at phase outs begin and reducing the rate at which transfers phase out for couples who marry. Costs could be somewhat contained by allowing couples who marry to enjoy the more generous phase out for a year or two after they marry.

Even so, the costs of these changes in transfer programs are likely to be great. The Congressional Budget Office can provide the Subcommittee with estimates of costs of various approaches to reducing the marriage penalty in transfer programs, but I believe that with the information at hand their estimates might be somewhat rough. In this regard, I would recommend that the committee encourage HHS to fund research like that conducted by Acs and Maag of the Urban Institute to provide better estimates of how many couples who are contemplating marriage would experience penalties in food stamps, housing, Medicaid, and perhaps other programs. This research would provide a basis for producing much more accurate estimates of the costs of various approaches to reducing marriage penalties in the nation's transfer programs. The research would also provide a basis for examining the nature and extent of marriage penalties in the various transfer programs as well as the cumulative penalties in families receiving benefits from more than one program.

In addition to reducing marriage disincentives in transfer programs, a second approach policymakers can take to encouraging marriage is to invest funds in demonstration programs aimed at increasing marriage rates, especially among low-income couples. Last year, Congress took two commendable actions to advance this agenda. The first was the provision in the budget reconciliation bill that appropriated $100 million a year for five years to fund programs designed to encouraging healthy marriage. HHS is now writing the regulations for a competitive grants program that will ultimately award most of this money to model healthy marriage programs. It is anticipated that state and local governments, private non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations will compete for these funds. The result will be a mosaic of innovative programs conducted by a wide range of organizations that, taken together, hold promise to greatly increase our knowledge about marriage promotion.

The second important provision enacted last year to advance the marriage agenda was the marriage encouragement program established in the District of Columbia by this subcommittee. I have had the opportunity to meet with the fine team of program operators that planned and is now implementing this program. In effect, the team is conducting three intervention programs designed to encourage healthy marriage. These include a community-wide initiative that attempts to make citizens of the District aware of the importance of marriage, especially for the healthy development of children; a marriage education program that aims to equip married couples and couples contemplating marriage with the skills necessary to negotiate a permanent and loving relationship; and a highly innovative program that provides couples with matching funds to encourage savings. In the case of participating couples who are engaged, the matched savings program serves as a marriage incentive because the couple does not get the accumulated matching funds unless they marry. In addition to these three distinct programs, the planners are taking the wise step of working directly with fathers on a host of issues – including employment problems and child support – having to do with meeting their commitments to their family.

These new programs promise to augment what I see as a growing nation-wide movement to encourage and support marriage. But if we are to reap the full benefit of what these various programs can achieve, we must conduct careful evaluations of as many of the programs as possible. HHS has already set a high standard with its funding of gold standard evaluations, being conducted by the leading program evaluation organizations in the nation, on a wide variety of marriage education and community-wide programs. Similarly, I know the team running the marriage programs in the District has devoted a great deal of attention to evaluation and anticipates hiring a first-rate organization to conduct its evaluation in the near future. I hope that the subcommittee will continue to encourage strong evaluation of its remarkable marriage program for the District. 11

As a nation, we are at the beginning of a growing movement to reduce nonmarital births, encourage marriage, and increase the share of our children being reared by their married parents. The goals of Congress now should be to study and then take action to reduce marriage penalties, to ensure the aggressive implementation of the marriage programs being supported by the money from this subcommittee and from last year's reconciliation bill, and to insist that as many of these programs as possible be subjected to the kind of gold standard evaluations that will increase our knowledge of what works. Nothing on the public agenda will contribute more to the nation's future than ensuring that more and more of our children live with their married parents.

  1. Elizabeth Terry-Hunen, Jennifer Manlove, and Kristin A. Moore, Playing Catch-Up: How Children Born to Teen Mothers Fare (Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, January 2005).
  2. Sara McLanahan, Elisabeth Donahue, and Ron Haskins, “Introducing the Issue,” The Future of Children, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 3-12.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2005-2005, 124th edition (Washington, D.C.: Author, 2004), p. 448, No. 674.
  4. Adam Thomas and Isabel V. Sawhill, “For Richer or for Poorer: Marriage as an Antipoverty Strategy,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 21, no. 4 (2002): 587-599; and Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, “Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare,” Welfare Reform & Beyond Policy Brief, Brookings Institution, 2003.
  5. Paul R. Amato, “The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation,” The Future of Children, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 89, Table 2.
  6. Adam Carasso and C. Eugene Steuerle, “The Hefty Penalty on Marriage Facing Many Households with Children,” The Future of Children, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 157-175.
  7. Theodora Ooms, Stacey Bouchet, and Mary Parke, Beyond Marriage Licenses: Efforts in States to Strengthen Marriage and Two-Parent Families (Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy, April 2004).
  8. Carasso and Steuerle, “The Hefty Penalty on Marriage.”
  9. Alan Weil and Kenneth Finegold, editors, Welfare Reform: The Next Act (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 2002).
  10. Gregory Acs and Elaine Maag, “Irreconcilable Differences? The Conflict between Marriage Promotion Initiatives for Cohabiting Couples with Children and Marriage Penalties in Tax and Transfer Programs” Series B, No. B-66, (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, April 2005).

Childhood Wellness and Obesity - Tools to Help Schools Take Action
March 31, 2006 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm in Robertson Hall at Princeton University.

The Education Research Section, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Future of Children and the Woodrow Wilson School, sponsored a one day conference on Childhood Obesity.

This conference explored the growing problem of obesity in children facing policymakers and educators by linking the latest research to potential school strategies and public policy. Obesity of children in America has more than doubled in the past 20 years. The conference featured Keynote speaker: Jim Marks, Senior Vice President of the Health Group, Robert Wood Johnson and Panels highlighted easy to implement strategies in schools and focused on enhancing nutrition and increased physical activity.

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Childhood Obesity Epidemic Can Be Addressed, Reports Brookings, Princeton
March 14, 2006 from 9:00 a.m to 11:30 a.m. in the Falk Auditorium at the Brookings Institution

Over the past three decades, the share of children who are overweight or obese has doubled to nearly 30 percent. This rapidly increasing incidence of obesity among American children poses significant public health hazards, and medical costs as a result of this obesity epidemic are rising. Researchers have identified many possible causes of increasing obesity among children, but they have found few solutions on how to prevent obesity. Nonetheless, national, state, and local policymakers—along with parents, schools, the medical community, and others—are implementing a variety of policies to help our children have healthier and more productive futures. The Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School are sponsoring a forum in conjunction with the release of the latest Future of Children volume “Childhood Obesity.” Panelists will examine federal, state, and local initiatives—particularly in public schools—designed to address childhood obesity. Panelists will take questions from the audience.

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Diet in Decline: Can America's Over-nutrition Crisis be Reversed?
March 13, 2006 at 4:30 p.m. in Robertson Hall at Princeton University - The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School.

Kelly Brownell and Roger Platt

Kelly Brownell will discuss the topic of childhood overweight and obesity. Professor Brownell is the director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. He is the author of multiple books, including "Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis, and What We Can do About It." Roger Platt, M.D. is Director of School Health for New York City. In this role he reports to both the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The Office is responsible for all health services and health policy issues for a public school system with over one million students.

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Speaker Series, "Researcher Meets Policymaker"
The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University offers a speaker series, "Researcher Meets Policy Maker," in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson School. Twice a semester, CRCW brings in speakers to address a topic about child wellbeing. The format of the talks involves bringing together an expert in child policy with an expert in research on a given child-related topic.

School Readiness Roadshow Conference
March 8, 2006, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Brown University Faculty Club, Providence, RI

Over 100 early childhood and K-12 policymakers and practitioners from Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts will gather at a conference entitled, School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps to discuss and act upon the findings of the recent Princeton University/Brookings Institution Future of Children journal by the same title.

The meeting is sponsored by the Princeton University / Brookings Institution, Future of Children, the Center for Human Development at Brown University, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families, the Education Research Section and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and the Kauffman Foundation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Brown University Faculty Club
One Magee Street
Providence, RI

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, author and co-editor of the Princeton University/Brookings Institution Future of Children journal, and a leading expert on child development.

Additional remarks will be provided by:
Dr. Rosa Smith, President, Schott Foundation for Public Education
Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll, Education Department, Brown University
Mayor David Cicilline
Dr. Donnie W. Evans, Superintendent of Providence Public Schools
Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
Stephanie McGencey, Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families

Contact Wendy Lawton, Brown University, at (401) 863-1862 or Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, at (401) 351-9400 ext. 12


The Future of Children: Childhood Obesity
February 6 to March 31, 2006 - art exhibit will hang in the Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University

An art exhibit will hang in the Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University, displaying original work by two photographers, Joan Liftin and Craig Terry. The exhibit documents the changed environments that have aided the increase in childhood obesity. The show runs from February 6, 2006 to March 31, 2006. A shorter version of the show can be seen on this website.

Marriage Education Initiatives
January 27, 2006

The Brookings Institution, in cooperation with the Center for Fathers, Families, and Workforce Development in Baltimore and the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, will hold a forum on marriage education programs. This forum builds on research published in the Fall 2005 issue of The Future of Children, “Marriage and Child Wellbeing,” published by Brookings and Princeton University. The forum will feature staff who run marriage education programs in Baltimore and Oklahoma as well as couples who have participated in the two programs. Baltimore is one of the sites for the Building Strong Families research initiative sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is known as one of the most comprehensive marriage programs in the nation.

Congress is poised to authorize $100 million per year for programs to encourage marriage. Research shows that the rise of female-headed families—especially those created through non-marital births—is a major cause of child poverty. If marriage rates could be increased, poverty would decline and child well-being would be enhanced. But can marriage rates be increased? Most existing marriage education programs, with content differing from program to program, work with five to eight couples in weekly sessions that feature discussions and exercises to build trust, improve communication, create rules for resolving conflict and disagreement, and build competent parenting practices.

The forum will discuss the content of several marriage education programs, from the perspectives of program operators, participants, and researchers. Following their remarks, the panel and presenters will take questions from the audience.

Welcome and Introduction
RON HASKINS, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families, Brookings Institution

Overview of “Loving Couples, Loving Children” Marriage Education Curriculum
JULIE GOTTMAN, Co-Founder and Clinical Director, Gottman Institute
(featuring a video of marriage education sessions)

Panel Discussion: Marriage Education Professionals and Participants
Moderator: JOE JONES, President, Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development
WILLIE BARBER, Group Facilitator, Baltimore Building Strong Families Program
STEPHEN LAWRENCE, Family Coordinator, Baltimore Building Strong Families Program
TERRY BROWN and NAKIA STATON, Participants in the Baltimore Building Strong Families Program
PETRA HUTCHISON, Family Coordinator, Oklahoma Marriage Initiative
GREG MITCHELL and TABITHA CATES, Participants in the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative

"Low-Income Marriage and Child Wellbeing" by Kathryn Edin and Robert Doar
September 27, 2005 - Speaker Series "Researcher Meets Policy Maker"

This event took place on September 27, 2005 at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. The panel included Kathryn Edin, an author who contributed to The Future of Children: Marriage and Child Wellbeing, and Robert Doar, the Commissioner of the New York state agency that oversees low income marriage and programs.

Kathryn Edin is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate at the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on poverty and social inequality, urban and community sociology, family and gender, public housing, child support, and nonmarital childbearing. Professor Edin is the author or coauthor of three books, There's a Lot of Month Left at the End of the Money: How Low Income Single Mothers Make Ends Meet in Chicago; Making Ends Meet: How Low Income Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low Wage Work (with Laura Lein); and Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage (with Maria J. Kefalas). She is currently writing a fourth book, tentatively titled Marginal Men: Fatherhood and the Lives Low Income Unmarried Men (with Timothy Nelson and Laura Lein).

Robert Doar is the Commissioner of New York States's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the New York state agency that administers welfare and other assistance programs. Prior to this appointment Commissioner Doar served as Executive Deputy Commissioner of OTDA since May 2000. Commissioner Doar previously was Deputy Commissioner of Child Support, a position he held for nearly five years. His work in child support enforcement earned him a “Golden Heart Award” from the Association for Children for the Enforcement of Support, a child support advocacy group. In 2000 the American Society for Public Administration recognized Commissioner Doar with its New Administrator Award.

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“Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America's Children,” by William Meezan and Jonathon Rauch"
November 15, 2005 - Speaker Series "Researcher Meets Policy Maker"

This event took place on November 15, 2005 at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. The panel included Jonathon Rauch, an author who contributed to The Future of Children: Marriage and Child Wellbeing, and Reed Gusciora, a New Jersey Assemblyman who has worked on gay marriage issues in the state legislature.

Jonathon Rauch is a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution, senior writer and biweekly columnist for the National Journal, correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, and vice president of the Independent Gay Forum. His work has appeared in the New Republic, the Economist, Harper's, Reason, Fortune magazine, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to his most recent book, Gay Marriage: Why it is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, Mr. Rauch is the author of several books including The Outnation, Kindly Inquisitors, and Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working.

Reed Gusciora is the Democrat Assemblyman for the legislative district of Princeton, NJ. He has served in the New Jersey General Assembly since 1996, and served as Assistant Minority Leader from 1998 to 2001. Assemblyman Gusciora is the Federal Relations Committee Chair and also serves on the New Jersey Legislature's Environmental and Solid Waste and Judiciary Committees, and as member of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

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Brookings-Princeton Panel Focuses on Ways to Promote Marriage to Reduce Poverty
September 13, 2005 - A Brookings Institution Public Event

In conjunction with the release of the fall issue of the Future of Children journal, on "Marriage and Child Well-Being," the Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School hosted a public forum at the Brookings Institution's Falk Auditorium on barriers to marriage among low-income couples and strategies and programs which may strengthen marriages in this population.

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Audio Conference - Hear experts discuss findings from; School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps
May 11, 2005 - Audio Conference School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps

Hear experts discuss findings from the most recent issue, "School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps," and ways that health, child care and parenting contribute to this gap.

Listen to the Audio Conference

Meeting on Coordination of State Preschool Programs
April 21, 2005—Meeting on Coordination of State Preschool Programs: The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

At this meeting, early-childhood educators, advocates, Congressional staff, and scholars discussed the experience of state preschool programs in several states, including Oregon, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, and focused on ways to enhance collaboration between state programs and Head Start.

Oregon's Head Start PreKindergarten Program, launched in 1987, serves about 60 percent of three- and four-year-olds below poverty. In Oregon's program, which coordinates state and Head Start activities and funding, any organization can apply, but they must meet the same performance standards and pay the same cost per child as Head Start. The Head Start performance standards require comprehensive services such as physical and mental health, and the aim is to employ teachers with at least an AA degree. Twenty-one of 31 grantees are Head Start programs, and at least 63 percent of funding is federal. In the wake of 18 percent budget cuts resulting in fewer children being served, advocates successfully pushed for partial restoration of prior funding. More information:

North Carolina's “More at Four” preschool program is designed to provide at-risk four-year-olds from families at 75 percent of the state median income with 6-6 ½ hours of high-quality pre-K education. A voluntary program that is now in its fourth year, it has grown from serving 1,200 to serving 12,000 children, and the governor has proposed expanding the number of slots by 3,200 every two years; however, an estimated 10,000 high-risk four-year-old are receiving no services. About half of the children are in public school settings, 9 percent in Head Start programs, and the remainder in private child-care settings. The state pays about $3,770 per child, with localities required to pay an equal amount. Although the state program offers fewer ancillary services than Head Start, organizations receiving its funds must use one of five research-based curricula that focus on health and physical development, social and emotional development, language and intellectual development, and general knowledge.

More information:

Oklahoma's universal preschool program is a voluntary program that provides full- and half-day education to 70 percent of the state's four-year-olds regardless of family income. Curricula are focused on intellectual, language, physical, and social/emotional development, and the program requires that teachers have a BA and receive commensurate pay. The state opted for universal, rather than means-tested, coverage as a way to expand the program's benefits to children and families at all income levels as well as broaden the program's political appeal. The program spends about $3,600 for each of the 30,000 enrolled children. Although it does not provide the health and other comprehensive services offered by Head Start, it coordinates with the state's Head Start grantees, which have used available funds to begin to serve some 3 ½-year-olds. More information:

Representatives of several other states with preschool initiatives described their experiences in trying to coordinate Head Start and state preschool programs, noting that both Wisconsin and Washington state programs adhere to Head Start standards. In addition, Wisconsin pre-K programs seek teachers with BA degrees and two years of additional early-childhood training.

Participants in the meeting raised a number of issues concerning how to better ensure that the nation's preschool population is more academically and socially ready for elementary school, and how state-run programs can better coordinate with the federal Head Start program. Adequate funding, high performance standards, accountability, and defining basic goals and priorities were key concerns.

Although state collaboration grants were initiated during the 1990s, many practitioners and congressional staff expressed concern at the poor coordination between many state preschool programs and Head Start programs. Suggestions were made for better HHS monitoring of state collaboration grants, providing incentives for better collaboration, offering technical assistance for collaboration, and defunding or closing programs that do not adequately collaborate.

Head Start's high performance standards were seen as essential to providing quality educational services to at-risk and other preschool children.

Conclusions include:
1. The discussion showed that some states have been successful in coordinating closely with Head Start as the state implements and expands its state preschool program. Other states have had more difficulty coordinating with Head Start.

2. A key to successful cooperation seemed to be reasonable people representing both the state preschool program and the state Head Start Association as well as individual Head Start programs. Another key to success appears to be the willingness of the state to allow Head Start to compete with other providers for state preschool dollars. In this regard, it is important to have the state preschool quality standards at least equal to Head Start standards, both to ensure that Head Start programs can compete on a level playing field and because the Head Start standards are widely regarded as appropriate and necessary to ensure child development and school readiness.

3. The proposal to allow a few states to have control of Head Start funds as a way of ensuring coordination is controversial. Some states believe it is unnecessary; others think it should be tried in a few states.

4. By contrast, there appeared to be complete agreement that state offices of Head Start Collaboration are a potential force for better coordination. HHS should do everything possible to help these offices aggressively promote coordination between the state preschool program and Head Start. The role of the governor's office may be important in this regard.

5. There was some agreement that Head Start programs were required by federal rules to cooperate with state preschool programs. If programs refuse to cooperate, their funding should be withdrawn.

6. Issues raised during the discussions which require coordination include:

  • Teacher qualifications
  • Integration with public schools
  • Eligibility standards
  • How to provide child care wrap-around services
  • How to provide comprehensive services, especially mental health and behavioral services

    Webcast - School Readiness: Closing the Racial and Ethnic Gaps
    March 15, 2005 - A Brookings Public Event Webcast: School Readiness: Closing the Racial and Ethnic Gaps

    At this event, panelists discussed the latest issue of The Future of Children journal, "School Readiness: Closing the Racial and Ethnic Gaps," which focuses on sources of these racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness among preschoolers. Speakers focused especially on policies that might close the gap and improve educational outcomes for all children.

    The School Readiness public event of March 15th can be viewed on your computer with a Windows Media Player.

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    Conference - "School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps"
    March 11, 2005 - conference at Princeton University for those working with kindergarten and pre-school students

    Racial and ethnic differences in school readiness is an issue confronting educators across the country. Although these gaps in educational achievement have narrowed over the past thirty years, test score disparities among American students remain significant. Further, these sizable gaps already exist by the time children enter kindergarten. Research suggests that what happens to children early in life has a profound impact on their later achievement.

    This conference is designed as a follow-up to the latest journal issue of The Future of Children, “School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps.” This issue, released in February 2005, shines a spotlight on school readiness, focusing mainly on the social, emotional, and academic skills of children, and the factors that determine them.

    The purpose of the conference is to link the latest research regarding school readiness to real life applications. The morning will consist of a panel of experts who will review current literature and provide their “best assessment” of the factors that lead to ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The afternoon will consist of breakout sessions highlighting model programs and practices that aim to reduce the gaps. Each breakout will run twice, allowing each participant to attend two sessions.

    Breakout Session Topics:
    Implementing Pre-School Programs That Meet the Promise: Tools and Methods to Improve Effectiveness
    Panelists: Maria Benejan, Director, Center for Universal Pre-K, Division of Continuing Education, Bank Street College of Education, Ellen Frede, Ph.D., Assistant to the Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood Education, New Jersey Department of Education
    Moderator: Stephanie Rubin, J.D.,State Program Director, Pre-K Now

    Transition to Kindergarten: Linking Children, Schools, Families, and Communities
    Panelists: Beverly Lynn, Executive Director, Newark Preschool Council, Inc., Head Start Program, Newark, NJ Sara Rimm-Kaufman, Assistant Professor, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia Susan K. Saravalli, Ph.D., Supervisor, Newark Public Schools, Office of Early Childhood, Newark, NJ
    Moderator: Anna Lovejoy, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governor's Association Center for Best Practices, Washington, DC

    Health in Schools: Putting Programs into Practice
    Panelists: John B. Brunetti, M.D., Director of Health and Nutrition, Manager Team II, Administration for Children's Services – Head Start Ellen Kramer-Lambert, Esq., Executive Director, Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey
    Moderator: Ana I. Berdecia M.Ed, Fellow/Director, Abbott Preschool Initiatives, John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, Thomas Edison State College

    The "How To" of positive Behavior Support: Coach the Teacher, Support the Family, Teach the Child
    Panelists: Amy Goerl, Director or Early Education, Keansburg, NJ Kathleen Priestley, Supervisor of Early Childhood Education, Orange School District, Orange, NJ
    Moderator: Sharon Wien, MA, Executive Director, Center for Family Resources

    The ABC's of Starting a Quality Pre-School Program
    Panelists: Joseph Della Fave, Executive Director, Ironbound Community Cooperation Cynthia Rice, Senior Policy Analyst, Association for Children of New Jersey
    Moderator: Catherine B. Walsh, Deputy Director, Rhode Island Kids Count

    Promoting School Readiness in the 0-3 Child: The Parent-Child Relationship in the Early Years
    Panelists: Martha Edwards, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Developing Child and Family, Ackerman Institute for the Family Melinda W. Green, Vice President, Children's Futures, New Jersey
    Moderator: Marsha Gerdes, Director, School Readiness Specialist Program Early to Learn: Partners for School Readiness, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

    Early Childhood Education and Family Partnerships: Fostering Positive Social and Emotional Growth in Young Children
    Panelists: Marian Detelj, M.S.Ed., Director of Youth and Family Services, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, New York, NY Eve Robinson, Ms.Ed., Executive Director, Montclair Community Pre-K, Montclair, NJ
    Moderator: Clay Yeager, President and CEO, Nurse-Family Partnership, Denver, CO