Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 January 2010
Over the past 30 years, public programs for poor families have moved away from cash assistance to a focus on promoting parents' self-sufficiency through employment. Improving the well-being of children is an often expressed policy goal, but the bulk of the rhetoric and the evidence driving policy debates has centered on adult employment and reductions in the welfare rolls. Both experiments and welfare-leaver studies show that many families remain in poverty even when parents are employed full time. This has resulted in a shift in policy conversation from caseload reduction to concerns about reducing poverty and improving children's well-being in low-income families with working parents.
This chapter summarizes the results of research conducted as part of the Next Generation Project, a collaborative project involving researchers at MDRC and several universities, using evidence from a diverse set of experiments to understand some of the conditions under which policyinduced increases in employment among low-income single parents can help or hurt children. Unique to this research is the synthesis of results from several random assignment experiments launched in the late 1980s and early 1990s to learn how policies designed to increase employment and reduce welfare receipt among low-income parents can affect the development of their children. This chapter goes beyond simply examining program impacts. We bring an interdisciplinary perspective to formulating and testing hypotheses about the ways in which changes in family functioning caused by the experimental programs facilitate or harm children's development.
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