Monday, July 25, 2011

Fragile Families

The Institute for Children Homelessness and Poverty (ICPH) sent out a research brief last month called Profiles of Risk: Characterizing Housing Instability. This brief “puts a spotlight on the characteristics that make families who experience homelessness different from poor families who consistently maintain stable housing.”

The research draws on the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS). The FFCWS was designed to understand the lives of children born to unmarried parents, so within 48 hours of birth they interviewed parents of 5,000 children and again when the children were one, three and five years old. The FFCWS showed that compared to married parents, unmarried parents were, among other things, more likely to be poor. The ICPH brief goes on to state “As a result, families in the FFCWS are and economically disadvantaged group, making it an ideal source of information for those interested in homelessness and residential instability.”

The ICPH brief states that “Families facing homelessness are also the most poor of the disadvantaged families in the FFCWS sample; on average they have incomes that are 20% lower than those of poor, stably housed families.”

It goes on to note that “Only 15% of children who experienced homelessness between ages one and five had a mother who was married at their birth. Among poor mothers who maintained stable housing, over half (53%) were married at the child’s birth.”

From the FFWCS “In conclusion, children born to unmarried parents are disadvantaged relative to children born to married parents in terms of parental capabilities and family stability. Additonally, parents’ marital status at the time of a child’s birth is a good predictor of longer-term family stability and complexity, both of which influence children’s longer-term wellbeing.”