The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families

Hispanic Center logoIn the U.S., Hispanics represent the largest, and one of the fastest-growing, minority population subgroups. To help inform how programs and policy can better serve Hispanic children and families, Child Trends and Abt Associates are pleased to announce the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families (“the Center”).

The Center is made up of a strong team of national experts in Hispanic issues, and is a hub of research to improve the lives of Hispanics across three priority areas: poverty reduction and self-sufficiency, healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, and early care and education. The Center was established by a 2013 cooperative agreement from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families to Child Trends, in partnership with Abt Associates and university partners University of Maryland – College Park, University of North Carolina – Greensboro, and New York University.

The Center is dedicated to providing timely research findings, tools, and emerging scholar opportunities to advance the capacity of the entire field serving Hispanic children and families. The Center has also launched a summer research fellowship program to attract, develop, and expand the pool of emerging scholars focused on studying issues of relevance to low-income and vulnerable Hispanic children and families. The program will provide students with the opportunity to see how rigorous research is done in a non-academic environment, and in ways that can impact both policy issues of relevance to programs serving Hispanic children and families, and the programs themselves.

Recognizing the variability in the Hispanic population, the Center has:

  • A programmatic and practice focus. Research can generate new knowledge and inform programming and policy decision-making, and can help us better support the well-being of Hispanic families.
  • An applied focus. The Center will translate emerging research into recommendations for providers, programs, policymakers, and researchers.
  • An asset-based framework. The Center will leverage strengths of the Hispanic community to provide opportunities for responsive and effective service delivery strategies.
  • An eye on both national- and local-level issues. This is critical as many services are designed, delivered, and financed at the state or local level, and because the characteristics and needs of Hispanic families vary by region.

The Center welcomes requests for more information about its work and/or partnership opportunities. Please contact either Lina Guzman, Ph.D. ( or Michael López, Ph.D. (


Priority Areas

Priority Area 1: Poverty, Employment, and Self-Sufficiency

The primary goal of Priority Area 1 is to advance the understanding of poverty and economic self-sufficiency among Hispanic families, and the implications of these conditions for the programs and policies aimed to support and promote the development of Hispanic children.

The two initial projects in this priority area will focus on measuring and characterizing the economic conditions of Hispanic families and understanding the ways those economic conditions, including decisions around early care and education, relate to child well-being. The projects will examine the range of children from birth to adolescence.

  • The first project will use panel data from the 2004 and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation and experimental data from the Opportunity New York City study to document experiences of income change, by income level, and subsequently examine how such income changes impact aspects of family and child well-being.
  • The second project (in collaboration with Priority Area 3) will use the 2012 National Survey of Early Education and Care, including a detailed time use calendar of employment and use of non-parental care, to examine employment behavior and its interactions with community characteristics and characteristics of early care and education providers related to non-parental care decision-making, search behavior, and utilization among Hispanic households.

Both projects will consider native language, nativity, and regional variation. This research aims to fill important gaps in our understanding of the economic experience of Hispanic families beyond the characterization of conventional socioeconomic indicators that map trends and experiences in the aggregate, by measuring dynamic intra-year changes in income and day-to-day patterns of employment.

Priority Area 2: Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood

The primary goals of Priority Area 2 are: (1) to advance our understanding of marriage, relationships, and fatherhood, including parenting, family stability, and family functioning among Hispanic families; and (2) to generate research-based information to inform the development of policies and programs that are culturally appropriate and responsive to the needs of Hispanic families.

Using quantitative and qualitative data, we plan three research projects for the first year:

  • Development of fact sheets/research briefs to provide a demographic portrait of Hispanic families: The first fact sheet will focus on family structure/family formation,  and the second will focus on household composition. All information will be presented separately for native-born vs. foreign-born Hispanics. Future topics include family functioning, father involvement, health status of the family, co-parenting, and healthy relationships.
  • A review of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs to identify promising practices for programs serving Hispanic fathers and families.
  • Analysis of qualitative data to provide a rich and contextual account of family processes among low-income Latino first-time unmarried parents.

Collectively, these projects aim to provide a comprehensive description of the demographic, social, cultural, and economic characteristics of Hispanic fathers, mothers, and children; shed light on how Hispanic families’ characteristics shape program needs and involvement; and identify promising practices for serving Hispanic fathers and families.

Priority Area 3: Early Care and Education

The primary goal of Priority Area 3 is to advance understanding of ECE issues for low-income Hispanic families, including related issues such as: a) improving the quality of ECE services and coordination across ECE systems to support early learning for the heterogeneous population of Hispanic children; and, b) increasing access to and promoting informed ECE choices among Hispanic parents.

Improving the understanding of factors related to ECE access and utilization for Hispanic families motivates the three projects to be initiated in the first year of the Center.

  • The first project will use NYC IDS (integrated data systems) data to describe which ACF programs and services are used by Hispanic children and families, when and where families access these programs, and how families combine services over time.
  • The second project will collect additional information with low-income Mexican-American fathers and mothers residing in North Carolina who participated in the Unidos study, in order to better understand how employment circumstances shape mothers’ and fathers’ views of child-rearing, ECE utilization, and child development.

This research will tell a comprehensive story of different Hispanic population subgroups, attending to issues of alignment and coordination regarding ECE service delivery options.

About the Staff

Lina Guzman, Ph.D. is co-PI of the Center and co-lead of its Advancing Research efforts, both in partnership with Dr. López. She also leads the Dissemination and Communication activities. Dr. Guzman is a senior program area director and senior research scientist at Child Trends with expertise in family demography, survey research, and qualitative methods. Her substantive research focuses on reproductive health and union formation among minority teens and young adults. She has served as principal and co-principal investigator on a number of federal and foundation grants, including qualitative studies exploring reproductive health care service delivery, contraceptive decision-making, and teen pregnancy prevention among Latinas, low-income individuals, and recent immigrants. Dr. Guzman has also directed numerous national, state, and local surveys on a wide array of topics in both English and Spanish. An expert in measurement development, she has used cognitive testing to inform the design of survey items for the National Survey of Early Care and Education; Supporting Healthy Marriage; and Family Provider Relationship quality (all OPRE projects), among others. A key focus of this work has been to develop measures that are culturally and socially appropriate. As PI for OAH’s communication and website contract, she oversaw the production and dissemination of materials, development and maintenance of an award-winning website, and stakeholder outreach and engagement. Since becoming a senior program area director at Child Trends she has hired, trained, and mentored bilingual researchers focused on Latinos families. Learn more about Dr. Guzman and her research.

Michael L. López, Ph.D. is co-PI of the Center and co-lead of its Advancing Research efforts, both in partnership with Dr. Guzman. He also leads the Building Research Capacity activities. Dr. López is principal associate at Abt Associates and a national expert with over 20 years of experience conducting applied early childhood research, with an emphasis on low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Prior to joining Abt, he was executive director of the National Center for Latino Child and Family Research, where he co-authored a review of the psychometric properties of language and literacy measures with Spanish-speaking, dual-language learner preschoolers and served as the Co-PI for the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Survey Design Project, among other efforts. Before that, Dr. López directed ACF’s Child Outcomes Research and Evaluation team, where he developed and headed large-scale, national research studies, including the National Head Start Impact Study. While at ACF, he oversaw two mentoring and professional development programs: the Head Start Graduate Student Research Scholars and Society for Research in Child Development Policy Research Fellowship programs. Across his various positions, he has established numerous strategic, collaborative partnerships and leveraged coalitions with key federal and non-federal entities that share a common emphasis on early childhood and child and family well-being. Learn more about Dr. Lopez and his research.

Lisa Gennetian, Ph.D. leads Priority Area 1. Dr. Gennetian is a research affiliate at NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change, and a senior researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her current work focuses on the impact of income instability on the lives of poor families and their children, and implications for the design of social assistance programs. She has served as PI on several large multi-year federal and state funded initiatives including, most recently, the National Study of Early Care and Education, the Moving to Opportunity Study, which examines the long-term effects of housing vouchers and neighborhood poverty on adult and youth well-being, and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, which applies and pilots behavioral economic informed design in social programs. Dr. Gennetian’s research encompasses investigations of racial/ethnic differences in the economic behavior of parents and the well-being of their children, examining variations by U.S. nativity, length of residency, and English as a second language. Learn more about Dr. Gennetian and her research.

Natasha Cabrera, Ph.D. co-leads Priority Area 2 with Dr. Mindy Scott. Dr. Cabrera is associate professor of human development at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research, which had been published extensively, focuses on the role of fathers in Latino families and the links between parenting behaviors and children’s social and cognitive development. Dr. Cabrera has also conducted research on Latino fathers, theoretical aspects of fatherhood research,  methodology, the nature and frequency of father involvement, and the relationship between fathers’ activities and children’s outcomes. Her research on the influence of Latino mothers and fathers on children’s outcomes has made innovative contributions to the field. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Second Edition (Taylor & Francis, 2012) and Latina/o Child Psychology and Mental Health: Vol 1: Early to Middle Childhood: Development and Context and Vol 2: Adolescent Development (Praeger, 2011). Dr. Cabrera is the Associate Editor of Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Child Development and is the recipient of the National Council and Family Relations award for Best Research Article regarding men in families in 2009. Learn more about Dr. Cabrera and her research here and here.

Mindy Scott, Ph.D. co-leads Priority Area 2 with Dr. Cabrera. She is a senior research scientist in parenting and family dynamics at Child Trends. Her research focuses on the role of fathers and the consequences of family structure and father involvement for parents and children. She has extensive expertise in program evaluation, quantitative data analyses, evaluation, and program training and technical assistance. She is PI on a National Institute of Justice funded randomized control trial of an innovative family-strengthening program for fathers recently released from prison. She has designed and conducted several implementation and outcome evaluations of fatherhood programs funded by the Office of Family Assistance to promote fathers’ employment, education, and involvement among low-income and minority families. Dr. Scott leads Child Trends’ work on ACF/OPRE’s Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Models and Measures Project and co-leads work for the Supporting Healthy Marriage Evaluation, and is an expert in the conceptualization and analysis of measures of healthy marriage. Learn more about Dr. Scott and her research.

Julie Mendez, Ph.D. co-leads Priority Area 3 with Dr. Danielle Crosby. Dr. Mendez has extensive experience conducting intervention and longitudinal studies of ethnic minority preschool children and families. She has been PI on two multi-year, multi-site ACF-funded federal grants examining home-school relationships, family processes, and Head Start children’s academic and behavioral outcomes. She is an expert in the conduct of culturally competent research and service delivery, including the translation and validation of measures for Latino populations. Dr. Mendez also serves as a core advisor and TWG member for ACF’s Center on the Early Care and Education of Dual Language Learners. Dr. Mendez has directed three Head Start Scholar’s dissertation grant awards, was awarded mentoring recognition by Head Start and SRCD Millennium Scholar’s program, and is co-PI on a HRSA grant to teach cultural competence and prepare clinical psychologists in working with underserved populations. Learn more about Dr. Mendez and her research.

Danielle A. Crosby, Ph.D. co-leads Priority Area 3 with Dr. Mendez. She is an associate professor at UNC, Greensboro. Her research seeks to identify the social and economic factors that promote optimal development among children in low-income, ethnic minority, and immigrant families. Dr. Crosby has investigated how welfare, income, and employment policies and parents’ work conditions shape families’ access to ECE and impact children’s early academic and behavioral skills. Dr. Crosby brings experience connecting research to practice in support of quality improvements in ECE. She teaches a diversity course for ECE professionals in a birth-K teacher education program and recently served as an investigator on an ACF-funded project that involved designing, implementing, and evaluating professional development activities for Head Start teachers to promote responsive interactions with children and families in the context of cultural and linguistic diversity. Learn more about Dr. Crosby and her research.

Elizabeth Wildsmith, Ph.D. is the project director, helping  manage the day-to-day function and coordination of the Center as well as leading efforts in response to supplemental activity requests. Dr. Wildsmith, a family demographer, is a senior research scientist at Child Trends. Her research uses complex quantitative methods to examine issues related to union formation, romantic relationships, the context of childbearing, family turbulence, and the use of contraceptive services, in many cases examining ethnic and nativity differences within the Hispanic population. Dr. Wildsmith has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and research briefs and has supported mainstream media for articles related to her areas of expertise. Learn more about Dr. Wildsmith and her research.

FAQs: Summer Research Fellowship

About the fellowship:

1. What is the goal of the Summer Research Fellowship Program?

The goal of the summer research fellowship program is to attract, develop, and expand the pool of emerging scholars focused on studying issues of relevance to low-income and vulnerable Hispanic children and families. We also want to provide advanced graduate students with the opportunity to see how rigorous research is done in a nonacademic environment and in ways that can have an impact on programmatic and policy issues of relevance to Hispanic children and families.

2.  Who is eligible for the fellowship?

The summer research fellowship program is open Ph.D. students in their 3rd year or more.

3. What is the duration of the fellowship?  Are the dates of the fellowship flexible?

The Center summer research fellowship is a 12-week program from approximately June 1 to August 31. We recognize that academic schedules vary considerably from one university to another. As such, the specific dates of the fellowship can be negotiated, as necessary, to match selected applicants’ academic institution schedule, while still meeting the requirements of the fellowship program.

4. What is expected of me as a summer fellow?

The summer research fellows will:

  • Attend an orientation, media training, and regular Center meetings.
  • Participate in the 12-week intensive onsite program located in Bethesda, MD.
  • Work on small, independent research projects related to the Center’s research agenda, in conjunction with their mentor or another Center researcher (including Technical Work Group members).
    • Fellows will present an overview of this proposed research in June to the Steering Committee.
    • Fellows will present their findings to the Steering Committee at the end of their fellowship.
    • Fellows will publish their work as a Research or Policy Brief or other appropriate vehicle and submit their work to one or more professional conferences, such a APPAM, CCPRC, SRCD, the Head Start Research Conference, or WREC.
  • Contribute to other capacity building and/or research products or activities that are part of the Center’s work plan.
  • Write entries for the Hispanic VOICES blog
  • Have the opportunity to participate in webinars and research seminars, and work with Center staff on a range of other Center-related projects, including research projects, publications, and social media outreach.
  • Attend relevant legislative briefings and local conferences and meetings.

5. What type of help will be available to me as a fellow?

  • Each fellow will be assigned a supervisor and a mentor. The supervisor will help manage each fellow’s workload and provide any support needed during the course of the fellowship. The mentor will provide substantive support and feedback on the independent research projects and other Center-related work.
  • Fellows will receive feedback on their work from the Center’s Steering Committee.
  • The Center will actively facilitate the fellows’ connections to other emerging scholars (including those from prior cohorts and/or other DC-based fellowship programs), researchers in the field, key organizations, and Federal agencies that may be of interest to the fellows’ longer-term professional development.

6. Where are the fellowships located?

Center summer research fellowship positions will be located in the Child Trends or Abt Associates offices in Bethesda, Maryland, which are located in the same larger building complex. The offices are a block and a half from the Bethesda Metro station (Red line), providing convenient access to downtown Washington, DC and other nearby areas.

7. Will the Center provide assistance in finding temporary housing and/or transportation for fellows?

Upon request, the Center is able to provide fellows with information about surrounding communities and general housing and transportation options, but cannot assist in the actual procurement of housing or transportation.

8. Will the Center cover housing/transportation (including airfare) costs in addition to the stipend?

The Center cannot currently offer housing/transportation costs in addition to the stipend. Fellows are responsible for their own housing and transportation.

9. Can I complete the fellowship remotely?

No. One of the significant benefits of the summer research fellowship program is the in-person participation in Center-related research activities as well as the in-person interactions with other summer research fellows and Center staff. The fellows are encouraged to take advantage of the various resources and activities located at Child Trends and Abt Associates. In addition, the DC metro area provides multiple opportunities to meet and interact with other researchers, federal agency staff, and representatives from a network of collaborative partners interested in issues concerning Hispanic children and families.

10. What is the tenure and amount given to Center fellows?

Summer research fellows will be compensated up to $8,000 for the 12-week program. The Center anticipates awarding approximately three fellowships in 2015.

11. I have other research projects and grants underway. Will it still be possible for me to continue work on them during the fellowship?

The summer research fellowship program is intended to be a full-time experience for the 12-week period. Ideally your independent research project for the fellowship would allow you to move forward on existing research projects, as long as it is a good fit with the Center and you are able to show a finished product (which may be an intermediate product to a larger research project) at the end of the fellowship. Fellows will have limited time for outside commitments.

12. Who should apply for a summer research fellowship?

Advanced graduate students who demonstrate: (1) a significant interest in conducting policy-relevant research with low-income Hispanic populations; (2) an understanding of issues of cultural and linguistic diversity; and (3) an interest in contributing to improving the capacity of the field to produce more rigorous and valid research with low-income Hispanic populations.

13. Can post-docs apply for the fellowship?

The summer research fellowships are intended for advanced PhD students, but if a post-doc’s work clearly fits within the context of one or more of the 3 priority areas, and he/she meets the other criteria and can fulfill the requirements of the fellowship, then he/she is welcome to apply.

14. Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for the fellowship?

The position does not have citizenship requirements. However, all fellows must be authorized to work in the United States and will be asked to complete USCIS form I-9 on their first day.

15. How do I know if my research is a good fit with the Center?

Please see the description of the Center and the priority areas to determine if your work is a good fit.

16. Who do I contact if I have additional questions about the fellowship?

If you have any questions, please contact, referencing the position in the subject line, or Shelby Hickman, Research Analyst at Child Trends ( No phone calls please.

About the research proposal:

1. Must my research proposal cover a policy area in which the Center works?

Yes. The priority areas of the Center are (1) poverty reduction and self-sufficiency, (2) healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, and (3) early care and education. One of the selection criteria will be the fit of each applicant’s research proposal with at least one of the three priority areas.

2. What data sets can I use for my research project?

There are no restrictions on the data that my be used provided that the data contains the appropriate information to properly address the research questions of the proposal.  Examples of data sets that may be used include the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) or the Supporting Health Marriage (SHM) data set.

3. May I use Center data sets for my study?

Yes, applicants can propose independent projects that may utilize some of the data available at the Center. However, we cannot guarantee access to all Center data sets, due to varying data access limitations or restrictions that may be placed on each particular data set.  Fellows should check with Center staff to see if the data they want to use are available.  Applicants should keep in mind that one of the selection criteria is the feasibility of completion of the proposed project within the 12-week fellowship period.

4. I still have not identified a research topic. Do you have a list of research areas I should consider?

Applicants are encouraged to propose a small, independent research and/or policy project that is closely aligned with the Center’s mission. The proposed project could either be a research project based on the applicant’s own work (but aligned with the Center’s research agenda), or one that is developed as a discrete activity connected to one of the Center’s current research activities within the three priority areas.

About the application:

1. What is the submission deadline for applications for the Center summer research fellowship?

The due date for applications has been extended to February 6, 2015.

2. What must be included in a complete online application?

Interested applicants are required to submit their applications with the following components through our web application system.  The application is now available.

  • Cover letter which includes the applicant’s contact information (e.g., name, address, phone number(s), email address), and information about their graduate institution.
  • A current curriculum vitae (CV) providing information about educational background, publications, presentations, and any relevant professional or public policy experience related to the work of the Center (4 page maximum).
  • A personal statement (up to two pages) that includes 1) the applicant’s interest in and what they hope to learn from the fellowship experience, 2) why they are interested in research concerning Hispanic children and families, 3) a brief proposal for the applicant’s independent research project that will advance one (or a cross-section) of the Center’s priority areas[1], and 4) a proposed timeline for the independent research project which lists the anticipated milestones necessary to complete the project within the 12-week period.
  • Official or unofficial transcript from current or most recent academic institution.
  • Two letters of recommendation that specifically address the applicant’s educational background, training, and research experience(s) relevant to the work of the Center.

The first four items (cover letter, CV, personal statement, and transcript) must be combined into one pdf document to be uploaded to the system. Letters of recommendation should be emailed directly to (Attn: Hispanic Center). Incomplete applications, including those without letters of recommendation, will not be considered. If you have any issues with the submission process, please email the combined pdf, referencing the position in the subject line. No phone calls please.

3. How should I contact the Center?

If you have any questions please contact Shelby Hickman, research analyst at Child Trends ( No phone calls please.

4. When will applicants be notified about the status of their application and candidacy for an interview?

Applicants will be notified about the status of their application in early to mid-March 2015.


[1] If the proposed independent project is based on the applicant’s ongoing work, then the application should discuss the current status of the project, availability of data, and steps that will be taken to enable the active dissemination of the resulting work via the Center’s dissemination activities (including any necessary approvals of the applicant’s advisor, collaborators, or other relevant persons involved in the existing work).