American families are becoming increasingly diverse, dynamic, and dependent on labor market earnings to avoid poverty and economic distress. Children are less likely to live in families with both parents and more likely to rely on their mother’s earnings to avoid poverty. The recession has highlighted the urgent need for antipoverty programs supporting families, but the authors emphasize that the needs the programs address are longstanding, not only cyclical, and therefore require a sustained response.
In this brief, the authors review changes in family structure, the relationship between family structure and employment, and early evidence on differential impacts of the recession on families, and they explore the implications of these changes for policy. They argue that supporting resident parents’ efforts to balance work and family responsibilities and supporting and enforcing nonresident parents’ contributions to their children will help reduce poverty and economic difficulties.