Low-income Hispanic parents often face multiple stressful working conditions

November 29, 2018

New research from The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families finds that a substantial proportion of working low-income Latino parents face low wages, involuntary part-time work, nonstandard work schedules, a lack of employer-provided health insurance, and other working conditions with the potential to negatively impact their children. Among working low-income Hispanic parents, 33 percent of foreign-born fathers, 26 percent of U.S.-born fathers, and 25 percent of mothers (both foreign- and U.S.-born) faced three or more of these working conditions, all of which can have a negative effect on parental well-being, increase family conflict, and limit the amount of time parents have to spend with their children.

“We know that characteristics of a parent’s job—beyond how much money they earn—affect their child’s development and later social mobility,” said Elizabeth Wildsmith, a family demographer with the Hispanic Center and Child Trends, and lead author of the report. “The amount of time parents spend at work, when those hours are worked, and the benefits they receive through their job all affect a parent’s time, energy, health, and relationships, which have a direct impact on children.”

In the report, Wildsmith, senior research scientist Maria Ramos-Olazagasti, and senior research analyst Marta Alvira-Hammond analyzed data from the 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation to describe the job characteristics of low-income Hispanic families across four domains: job security, work schedule, earnings, and employer-provided health insurance. The majority of low-income Hispanic fathers (61 percent of U.S.-born and 83 percent of foreign-born) held a job in any given month of 2013, while 49 percent of U.S.-born and 38 percent of foreign-born Hispanic mothers reported the same. Among these working low-income Hispanic parents:

  • Forty-five percent of U.S.-born and 51 percent of foreign-born working low-income Hispanic fathers reported working a nonstandard schedule (i.e., outside of a regular Monday to Friday daytime schedule). Among working low-income Hispanic mothers, these numbers were 56 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
  • Fifty percent of U.S.-born and 35 percent of foreign-born working low-income Hispanic fathers held jobs with employer-sponsored health insurance. Among working low-income Hispanic mothers, these numbers were 56 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

The brief also compares the work conditions of low-income Hispanic parents to their white and black counterparts. Low-income foreign-born Hispanic fathers are more likely to be employed than their U.S.-born, black, and white counterparts, while foreign-born Hispanic mothers are the least likely to be employed. Among working mothers, U.S.-born Hispanics were more likely to report having an involuntary part-time job than low-income white mothers. Additionally, foreign-born Hispanic fathers and mothers were less likely than other working low-income parents to have access to employer-sponsored health insurance.

“Low-income Hispanic families face many of the same challenges other low-income families face,” added Wildsmith. “Policies that focus on better aligning work conditions with family needs—including higher wages, flexible work schedules, and more comprehensive benefits—can help support these families and their children. Additional supports, such as access to affordable, high-quality child care, for example, can also help alleviate some of the stressors associated with work.”