Making It Work

Making It Work: Low-Wage Employment, Family Life, and Child Development

Hirokazu Yoshikawa
Thomas S. Weisner
Edward D. Lowe
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Making It Work
    Book Description:

    Low-skilled women in the 1990s took widely different paths in trying to support their children. Some held good jobs with growth potential, some cycled in and out of low-paying jobs, some worked part time, and others stayed out of the labor force entirely. Scholars have closely analyzed the economic consequences of these varied trajectories, but little research has focused on the consequences of a mother's career path on her children's development.Making It Work, edited by Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Thomas Weisner, and Edward Lowe, looks past the economic statistics to illustrate how different employment trajectories affect the social and emotional lives of poor women and their children.

    Making It Workexamines Milwaukee's New Hope program, an experiment testing the effectiveness of an anti-poverty initiative that provided health and child care subsidies, wage supplements, and other services to full-time low-wage workers. Employing parent surveys, teacher reports, child assessment measures, ethnographic studies, and state administrative records,Making It Workprovides a detailed picture of how a mother's work trajectory affects her, her family, and her children's school performance, social behavior, and expectations for the future. Rashmita Mistry and Edward D. Lowe find that increases in a mother's income were linked to higher school performance in her children. Without large financial worries, mothers gained extra confidence in their ability to parent, which translated into better test scores and higher teacher appraisals for their children. JoAnn Hsueh finds that the children of women with erratic work schedules and non-standard hours-conditions endemic to the low-skilled labor market-exhibited higher levels of anxiety and depression. Conversely, Noemi Enchautegui-de-Jesus, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Vonnie McLoyd discover that better job quality predicted lower levels of acting-out and withdrawal among children. Perhaps most surprisingly, Anna Gassman-Pines, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Sandra Nay note that as wages for these workers rose, so did their marriage rates, suggesting that those worried about family values should also be concerned with alleviating poverty in America.

    It is too simplistic to say that parental work is either "good" or "bad" for children.Making It Workgives a nuanced view of how job quality, flexibility, and wages are of the utmost importance for the well-being of low-income parents and children.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-565-8
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Chapter One Introduction: Raising Children Where Work Has Disappeared
    (pp. 1-24)
    Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Thomas S. Weisner and Edward D. Lowe

    Take a walk on North Avenue east across the Milwaukee border, from the suburb of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. It is late summer, a beautiful, cloudless day in the city with a hint of fall in the air. On the Wauwatosa side, you walk down a busy commercial street lined with a Chinese restaurant, a CD store, fast-food joints, eyeglass, clothing, and flower shops, and the occasional restaurant serving breakfast specials. Although nothing on the street indicates luxury, the street is well paved, traffic lines are clearly painted, and banners line the street, proudly drawing attention to the neighborhood (“East Town Tosa”)....

    • Chapter Two Pathways Through Low-Wage Work
      (pp. 27-53)
      Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Edward D. Lowe, Thomas S. Weisner, JoAnn Hsueh, Noemí Enchautegui-de-Jesús, Anna Gassman-Pines, Erin B. Godfrey, Eboni C. Howard, Rashmita S. Mistry and Amanda L. Roy

      What are the pathways that mothers experience in the low-wage labor markets of Milwaukee? How do particular combinations of job characteristics — hours, wages, entries and exits — unfold over time in these women’s lives? Few researchers have attempted to uncover diversity in the pathways — also called longitudinal trajectories — of low-wage work, that is, the subgroups of the working poor who experience different combinations of wages, job length, and hours. Instead, most research has focused on particular job characteristics in isolation and at one point in time. And few studies have utilized both longitudinal survey and ethnographic data to examine how parents’...

    • Chapter Three Do Pathways Through Low-Wage Work Matter for Children’s Development?
      (pp. 54-74)
      Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Edward D. Lowe, Johannes M. Bos, Thomas S. Weisner, Valentina Nikulina and JoAnn Hsueh

      What difference do the clearly varied pathways through work make for the children of the working poor? Concerns about how their work might be affecting their children were central to many of the parents in New Hope. In this chapter, we relate how mothers’ work lives were often preoccupied with concerns or hopes about their children’s prospects. Their worries (we heard mostly worries) ranged from concerns about their children’s whereabouts or behavior after school and the quality of the attention they could provide to their children after long, often evening work hours, to worries that their work did not provide...

    • Chapter Four Job Quality Among Low-Income Mothers: Experiences and Associations with Children’s Development
      (pp. 75-96)
      Noemí Enchautegui-de-Jesús, Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Vonnie C. McLoyd

      Nancy, one of the mothers in the New Hope Ethnographic Study, expressed that there is more to a job than its wages when she said she was looking for “work that makes me happy, not just the money.” Thus far in this book, we have examined job characteristics mainly in terms of hours, wages, and stability or instability of work over time. In this chapter, we turn to job quality. Policymakers, researchers, and the public as a whole all have notions of what job quality is and why it matters, and scholarly and lay discussions on the topic of job...

    • Chapter Five Mothers at Work in a 24/7 Economy: Exploring Implications for Family and Child Well-Being
      (pp. 97-123)
      JoAnn Hsueh

      In the United States, according to data from the 1997 Current Population Survey (CPS), approximately 46 percent of all employed adults regularly work variable shifts (different hours on different days) or at nonstandard times, defined as work mostly in the evening, at night, or on the weekend (Presser 2003). Estimates from the 1991 CPS show that, because the demographic portrait of these workers is strikingly similar to that of low-income parents, working-poor parents are overrepresented among American workers who are employed on alternative schedules (Presser and Cox 1997). Fifty-five percent of New Hope parents worked schedules with nonstandard hours or...

    • Chapter Six Discrimination in the Low-Wage Workplace: The Unspoken Barrier to Employment
      (pp. 124-144)
      Amanda L. Roy, Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Sandra Nay

      We turn in this chapter from the dynamic nature of work trajectories and overall job quality to a more specific domain of work experience: discrimination. We were struck by the scope and depth of workplace discrimination experienced by the New Hope mothers. Again and again they spoke of being treated unfairly at work owing to their race, ethnicity, or sex. These experiences affected their well-being not only as workers but as parents.

      Discrimination in the workplace is important not only because of its harmful effects on well-being and health (Krieger 2003; Krieger, Sidney, and Coakley 1998; Schneider, Hitlan, and Radhakrishnan...

    • Chapter Seven “I Want What Everybody Wants”: Goals, Values, and Work in the Lives of New Hope Families
      (pp. 147-172)
      Thomas S. Weisner, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Edward D. Lowe and Faye Carter

      In the first part of this book, we considered New Hope mothers’ experiences of work over time and the associations between those experiences and their children’s development. In the second part, we turn to the relationship between work and family. Since the 1950s, aspects of the work-family interface have been considered important mechanisms that link parental employment to children’s schooling and social development (Hoffman 1961). In part 2, we examine work and family from relatively understudied perspectives—goals and values, household budgeting and what earnings buy for children, and marriage and relationships. In this chapter, we consider an important—and...

    • Chapter Eight What Earnings and Income Buy—The “Basics” Plus “a Little Extra”: Implications for Family and Child Well-Being
      (pp. 173-205)
      Rashmita S. Mistry and Edward D. Lowe

      A fundamental way in which work and family are linked is economic—through the income and resources that earnings bring to families and children. Chapters 2 and 3 demonstrated that the dynamics of work across time predicted parents’ psychological well-being and children’s school and social outcomes. However, those chapters did not investigate whether in fact work resulted in higher income and improved financial standing. Nor did the earlier chapters examine how families negotiated across competing expenditure demands to make ends meet and the impact of negotiations related to income and expenditures for family and child functioning. These questions are central...

    • Chapter Nine Can Money Buy You Love? Dynamic Employment Characteristics, the New Hope Project, and Entry into Marriage
      (pp. 206-232)
      Anna Gassman-Pines, Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Sandra Nay

      So far in part 2 of the book we have been generally silent about the role of partners in the lives of the New Hope mothers. It is clear from numerous studies that partners and relationships are inextricably intertwined with the work experiences of low-income women and represent a central aspect of how work and family influences together shape children’s development. Partners can not only provide love and emotional support to mothers and children but also bring a vast array of supports or barriers relevant to work, including extra household income, child care, coparenting, pressures to work or not to...

    • Chapter Ten Child Care and Low-Wage Employment
      (pp. 235-255)
      Edward D. Lowe and Thomas S. Weisner

      Thus far, in parts I and II of this book, we have considered how employment trajectories and work-family issues are experienced by low-income mothers and how these experiences influence children. In part III, we turn to the question of how parents find support, from both informal and formal sources, for their efforts in the low-wage labor market. We consider three types of support: child care; informal social support from family, friends, and coworkers; and formal work support services.

      We begin part III with the topic of child care, high on every working parent’s list of concerns and high on the...

    • Chapter Eleven The Informal Social Support, Well-Being, and Employment Pathways of Low-Income Mothers
      (pp. 256-272)
      Eboni C. Howard

      We began part 3 with a look at child care, perhaps the most prominent work support in the daily lives of low-wage working mothers. In this chapter, we turn to the broader topic of informal social support. What is the quality of the social support sources in the family lives of mothers embarking on the uncertainties of work in low-wage labor markets? Employment can induce stress and conflict as mothers attempt to balance work demands, home life, and parental responsibilities. Because social supports can buffer the negative repercussions of low-wage employment, the role of social support is an issue central...

    • Chapter Twelve Do Formal Work Support Services Work? Experiences of the New Hope Project and the Wisconsin Works Program
      (pp. 273-304)
      Erin B. Godfrey and Hirokazu Yoshikawa

      We have seen thus far in part 3 that child care barriers and the unavailability of social support are related to difficulty finding sustained employment over time. In this chapter, we turn to the relationship of formal work support services to employment dynamics and pathways. Of course, we cannot embark on an analysis of these services without acknowledging that the New Hope Project and study, spanning the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, unfolded in the midst of historic policy change in Wisconsin and the nation. Welfare is now provided only in return for work, and only for a limited amount...

    • Chapter Thirteen Summary and Policy Implications: Improving the World of Work for Low-Income Parents and Their Children
      (pp. 307-335)
      Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Anna Gassman-Pines, Thomas S. Weisner and Edward D. Lowe

      We began this book with descriptions of one neighborhood and three mothers. Our description of the North Side neighborhood, one of two in Milwaukee in the New Hope study, raised the question of how children fare in a community where work opportunities have largely disappeared. On streets with little but boarded-up storefronts, bars, dusty groceries, and only the occasional child care facility, the successful integration of work and family seemed difficult to imagine.

      The stories of three mothers—Evelia, Iris, and Allison—began to provide some answers to this puzzle. Their stories suggested that successful child development in the context...

    • Chapter Fourteen Epilogue
      (pp. 336-344)
      Johannes M. Bos

      The research presented in this book is based on data collected as part of an ambitious demonstration project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This project, New Hope, recruited over 1,300 volunteers to participate in a program that would give them some of the benefits associated with high-quality employment if they worked thirty hours or more a week: subsidized health insurance and child care, a wage supplement that would lift their family out of poverty, subsidized HMO health care, and a six-month community service job if they could not find work or did not already have work. The simple unifying idea behind this...

  10. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 345-356)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 357-387)
  12. References
    (pp. 388-412)
  13. Index
    (pp. 413-427)