America's Children

America's Children: Resources from Family, Government, and the Economy

Donald J. Hernandez
With David E. Myers
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 504
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610442862
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  • Book Info
    America's Children
    Book Description:

    America's Childrenoffers a valuable overview of the dramatic transformations in American childhood over the past fifty years, a period of historic shifts that reduced the human and material resources available to our children. Alarmingly, one fifth of all U.S. children now grow up in poverty, many are without health insurance, and about 30 percent never graduate from high school. Despite such conditions, economic, family, and educational programs for children earn low national priority and must depend on inconsistent state and local management.

    Drawing upon both historical and recent data, including census information from 1940 to 1980, Donald J. Hernandez provides a vivid portrait of children in America and puts forth a forceful case for overhauling our national child welfare policies. Hernandez shows how important revolutions in household composition and income, parental education and employment, childcare, and levels of poverty have affected children's well-being. As working wives and single mothers increasingly replace the traditional homemaker, children spend greater portions of time in educational and daycare facilities outside the home, and those with single mothers stand the greatest chance of being welfare dependent. Wider changes in society have created even greater stress for children in certain groups as they age: out-of-wedlock births are on the rise for white teenagers, half of all Hispanic youths never graduate high school, and violence accounts for nearly 90 per cent of all black teenage deaths.

    America's Childrenexplores the interaction of many trends in children's lives and the fundamental social, demographic, and economic processes that lie at their core. The book concludes with a thoughtful analysis of the ability of families and government to provide for a new age of children, with emphasis on reducing racial inequities and providing greater public support for families, comparable to the family policies of other developed countries. As the traditional "Ozzie and Harriet" family recedes into collective memory, the importance of creating strong national policies for children is amplified, particularly in the areas of financial assistance, health insurance, education, and daycare. America's Children provides a compelling guide for reassessing the forces that shape our children and the resources available to safeguard their future.

    "In this conceptually creative, methodologically rigorous, and empirically rich book, Hernandez uses census and survey data to describe several quite profound changes that have characterized the life courses of America's children and their families over the last 50 to 150 years....this erudite book is destined to be a classic." -Richard M. Lerner,Contemporary Psychology

    "America's Childrengoes a long way toward informing the debate on the causes of increasing poverty, and it challenges some widely held misperceptions....its study of resources available to children (and their families) lays a valuable foundation for surveying trends in family structure, education, and income sources....Anyone interested in the changing lives of children should read it; anyone interested in understanding the causes and patterns of poverty, and in designing a better welfare system, must read it." -Ellen B. Magenheim, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-286-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Charles F. Westoff

    America’s Childrenis one of an ambitious series of volumes aimed at converting the vast statistical yield of the 1980 census into authoritative analyses of major changes and trends in American life. This series, “The Population of the United States in the 1980s,” represents an important episode in social science research and revives a long tradition of independent census analysis. First in 1930, and then again in 1950 and 1960, teams of social scientists worked with the U.S. Bureau of the Census to investigate significant social, economic, and demographic developments revealed by the decennial censuses. These census projects produced three...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. 1 RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN: AN INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
    (pp. 1-15)

    A well-worn cliché, it is nevertheless true that the children of today are the adults—the parents, workers, and citizens—of tomorrow. Childhood is a time for learning and developing abilities that will be essential during adulthood. Yet children depend almost entirely upon adults to meet their needs and to make decisions on their behalf. Parents and families bear direct responsibility for the care and nurturing of children. But the larger public also has a stake in their development, because the kind and quality of resources available to children influence the kind of parents, workers, and citizens they will become...

  7. 2 THE FAMILY-SIZE REVOLUTION: FROM MANY TO FEW SIBLINGS
    (pp. 16-55)

    We are approaching the end of a historic, revolutionary shift toward small families. At the beginning of this century, most children grew up in families with 5 or more children, but today the overwhelming majority live in families with only 1, 2, or 3 children. In this chapter we will explore the nature, causes, and consequences this family-size revolution has for children by addressing the following questions.

    How are the welfare of children and their future life chances during adulthood influenced by growing up in a large or a small family? What family-size changes for children occurred during the long-term...

  8. 3 THE CHANGING MIX OF PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS IN CHILDHOOD HOMES
    (pp. 56-97)

    Biologically, every child has two parents, and it is a social fact that most newborns live with both of their biological parents. Yet historically a large minority of children have spent part of their childhood living with only one (or neither) biological parent, and this will increase to a majority for children born since 1980. Since most children depend primarily upon the parents in their homes for financial support and day-to-day care, children living with one (or neither) parent may experience financial difficulties, and they may also receive less parental attention than do children living with both parents. Of course,...

  9. 4 PARENTS’ WORK AND THE FAMILY ECONOMY TWICE TRANSFORMED
    (pp. 98-142)

    Not only did the past century and a half bring a revolutionary decline in children’s family size and a large increase in their experience with one-parent family living, it also brought two distinct transformations in parents’ work and hence in the economic foundation of family life.

    When the United States was primarily an agricultural country, parenting, child care, and economic production were combined. Children and their parents lived and worked together on the family farm to support themselves. This changed during the Industrial Revolution. Fathers became breadwinners who worked at jobs away from the family home in order to earn...

  10. 5 TWO CHILD-CARE REVOLUTIONS
    (pp. 143-188)

    Children experienced two revolutionary increases in nonparental care during the past 120 years. The total time that children aged 5–17 spend in school, and hence away from the family, nearly quadrupled, as more and more fathers took jobs away from home, as school attendance became compulsory, and as affluence increased and advanced formal education became increasingly necessary for many jobs. Within the past 50 years, the proportion of younger children aged 0–5 who have had no specific parent at home on a full-time basis has also nearly quadrupled as more and more mothers work away from home. As...

  11. 6 PARENTS’ EDUCATION, OTHER FAMILY ORIGINS, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM
    (pp. 189-233)

    The american dream promises each new generation of children the opportunity to rise above their social and economic origins, no matter how humble, through initiative and hard work. Yet family origins continue to act as important steppingstones for some children and as stumbling blocks for others along the road to success. Opportunities to achieve educational success, and hence occupational and economic success, have tended to become more equal during the twentieth century, because family origins have become less influential in determining children’s educational attainments. The overall increase in the equality of educational opportunities was restricted, however, to the opportunity to...

  12. 7 CHILDREN OF POVERTY AND LUXURY
    (pp. 234-274)

    In the United States it is family income that determines whether children live in material deprivation, comfort, or luxury. Children in low-income families may experience marked deprivation in such basic areas as nutrition, clothing, housing, and healthcare, while children in middle-income families generally live in material comfort and those in high-income families have access to the many luxuries that are available in the U.S. marketplace. Differences in family income also influence a child’s chances of achieving economic success during adulthood: Children from low-income families are less likely to earn high incomes when they reach adulthood than are children from low-income...

  13. 8 THE WORKING POOR, WELFARE DEPENDENCE, AND MOTHER-ONLY FAMILIES
    (pp. 275-327)

    In the last chapter we saw that the sharp decline in poverty among children after the Great Depression was followed by smaller declines during the 1950s and the 1960s, and then by a turnaround and substantial increase between 1969 and 1988. Despite the large long-term decline, however, we also saw that poverty remained comparatively high for children even at its low point in 1969. In this chapter we will focus on children who lived in poverty between 1939 and 1988, and on the extent to which they lived in working-poor or welfare-dependent families, by addressing the following four questions.

    First,...

  14. 9 FAMILY INCOME SOURCES, FAMILY SIZE, AND CHILDHOOD POVERTY
    (pp. 328-384)

    In chapter 7 we saw that the large decline in childhood poverty that occurred after the Great Depression was followed by smaller declines between 1949 and 1969, then by an increase in childhood poverty between 1969 and 1988. We also saw that the childhood poverty rate remained comparatively high throughout the era. Then in Chapter 8 we saw that most poor children in 1988 would have been poor even if the remarkable post-1959 rise in mother-only families had not occurred. In this chapter we will further explore the reasons for these historic levels and trends in childhood poverty by focusing...

  15. 10 FATHERS’ INCOMES, MOTHERS’ INCOMES, AND MOTHER-ONLY FAMILIES
    (pp. 385-416)

    Earlier chapters discussed profound changes in the lives of children that were associated with major trends in (1) family size and composition, (2) parents’ education, work, and income, and (3) child care arrangements and childhood poverty. We also sometimes identified the important relationships that link these trends. In this chapter we will focus broadly on the ways in which these and other trends are related by exploring the reasons for changes in fathers’ incomes, reasons for the rise of mothers’ labor-force participation, and reasons for the rise in mother-only families. Our goal is to make sense of these trends from...

  16. 11 RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
    (pp. 417-448)

    Revolutionary changes in the life course, the economy, and society have transformed childhood, and the resources available to children, during the past 150 years. A revolutionary decline in the number of siblings in the families of children occurred during the past 100 years. Historically, a substantial minority of children did not spend their entire childhood in a two-parent family, but this will expand to a majority for children born during the past decade. The role of grandparents in the home, as surrogate parents filling the gap left by absent parents, has been important but limited during at least the past...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 449-460)
  18. Name Index
    (pp. 461-464)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 465-482)