BETHESDA, Md.—A new look at family structure, living conditions, and adult employment in low-income households found that the more than five million Hispanic children with families below the poverty line face both potential advantages and challenges compared with their white and black peers.
A research report issued today by the National Research Center for Hispanic Children and Families (Center) notes differences in the characteristics of low-income Hispanic children’s households headed by parents who were born in the United States and those born elsewhere– in some cases providing notable advantages to the children with at least one foreign-born parent.
The report finds that among low-income Hispanic children, children with at least one foreign-born parent are more likely to grow up in a household with married parents and to live with their biological fathers than are their low-income Hispanic peers with only U.S.-born parents. “We know from research that although children can and do flourish in any family environment, those living in stable, two-parent households often benefit from increased access to parental time and resources available in these families,” said Kimberly Turner, Ph.D., Child Trends research scientist and author of the report, The Complex and Varied Households of Low-Income Hispanic Children.
The report also finds that adult employment in low-income Hispanic children’s household is promising. The vast majority of low-income Hispanic children with at least one foreign-born parent, and almost two-thirds of low-income Hispanic children with only U.S.-born parents live in households with an employed adult (either any or full-time employment). Beyond the money that comes into a household from wages, the presence of an employed adult may offer other stabilizing benefits, such as providing regularity in schedules and routines, as well as a role model for others in the household. Conversely, the report adds, if the employment is associated with long or irregular work hours, it may also minimize opportunities for wage earners’ interaction with children or disrupt family schedules.
With larger household sizes and smaller residential units, the prevalence of crowded housing for low-income Hispanic children with at least one foreign-born parent is nearly four times that of low-income white children and twice that of their peers with only U.S.-born parents.
Research finds that crowded housing may be associated with a host of adverse outcomes for children, such as sleep deprivation, behavioral problems, and less-responsive parenting. “While policymakers and service providers may regard these conditions as a signal of greater residential instability or economic insecurity, in some cases, additional adults in the household contribute resources such as child care and other support,” added Turner.
The majority of low-income Hispanic children live in households with at least one foreign-born parent: roughly two-thirds of low-income Hispanic children live in households with at least one foreign-born parent, while only one-third live in households with only U.S.-born parents.
The nativity status of parents aligns with differences in the household composition:
Among the two-thirds of all low-income Hispanic children living with at least one foreign- born parent:
Among the one-third of all low-income Hispanic children with only U.S.-born parents:
The report stresses that a child’s family and the nature of their household can profoundly shape a family’s need for all kinds of programs and services. “The bulk of the growth of the Hispanic population is no longer due to immigration but to births in the U.S.,” said Lina Guzman, Ph.D., Center co-principal investigator and director of the Child Trends Hispanic Institute. “This will change the demographics of U.S. Latinos, the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the country, and it is critical that we understand the implications of these changes for policies and programs that support healthy child development.”
About the Center
The National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families (www.HispanicResearchCenter.org) is a hub of research to improve the lives of low-income Hispanics across three priority areas- poverty reduction and self-sufficiency, healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, and early care and education. It’s comprised of a team of national experts in Hispanic issues, led by Child Trends and Abt Associates along with university partners (University of Maryland-College Park, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Institute for Human Development and Social Change at New York University). The Center was established in 2013 by a five-year cooperative agreement from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.