Parents Lack Resources to Ensure Their Families Thrive, Study Finds

Parents Lack Resources to Ensure Their Families Thrive, Study Finds

With limited access to educational opportunities and family-sustaining jobs, young parents in the United States face significant barriers to supporting their children and fulfilling their own potential, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.

The report, Opening Doors for Young Parents (24 pages, PDF), found that roughly 70 percent of children with young adult parents live in families with household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The report also found that more than half the young parents (55 percent) in the country are people of color who face challenges exacerbated by discrimination and systemic inequities, and that their children stand to suffer the most. The fifty-state analysis was based on a population of more than 6 million, including 2.9 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 3.4 million children living with young parents.

According to the report, the key to success for young parents is education. Single mothers with associate degrees, for instance, earn an average of $152,927 more over their lifetimes than single mothers with no more than a high school diploma and $296,044 more if they have a bachelor's degree. Young parents are less likely to be in school than non-parents their age, however, and are more likely to be working full-time. What's more, family-sustaining jobs increasingly require postsecondary education and specialized skills, and young parents who have limited resources, education, and time find it difficult to stay competitive in today's job market. In addition, just 5 percent of young parents receive subsidies for child care, even though 63 percent require some sort of child care and 41 percent attributed one or more jobless spells to childcare challenges.

According to the report, Oklahoma has the largest share (18 percent) of young adult parents (ages 18-24) as a percentage of population, followed by Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico (all with 16 percent). The report also found that in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, at least three-quarters of the children of young adult parents live in a family with household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level; that Vermont has the lowest such percentage (53 percent); and that no state is below 50 percent.

To help equip young adult parents for success, the foundation recommends that states augment their workforce training and education programs with support services tailored to the barriers young parents face; that Congress lower the age of Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility for childless workers to 21; that states expand the EITC to all workers between the ages of 18 and 25 and enact measures to ensure that young parents and children have health insurance; and that they prioritize evidence-based approaches to child development and healthy parenting such as home visits while improving access to high-quality, affordable infant and toddler care.

"If we don't support young people when they become parents, we are cheating two generations out of having a positive future," said AECF president and CEO Patrick McCarthy. "We can help young adult parents develop the skills they need to raise their children, contribute to their communities, and drive our national economy forward."