Evidence on the effectiveness of two-generation strategies in the United States is mixed, due in part to implementation challenges and the widely varying services provided by different two-generation programs that have been evaluated (see Table 2 below). Of the four evaluations included in this summary, only one found evidence of a detrimental effect,C but evaluations of most two-generation programs showed that they failed to substantially improve outcomes for parents and children. Some evaluations, however, demonstrated positive outcomes, indicating that two-generation approaches can advance children’s wellbeing, increase employment and earnings for parents, and improve parental wellbeing metrics. Two other programs, the CareerAdvance program in Tulsa, Oklahoma14 and the Head Start Family Service Center demonstration15 have been rigorously evaluated, but serve only children ages 3 to 5, so are not included in our analysis.
Table 2: Summary of Two-Generation Parent Employment Programs
|Program||Description of Services||Location||Evaluation Date|
|Enhanced Early Head Start with Employment Services: Hard-to-Employ DemonstrationA||Provided enhanced services to support parent employment, above and beyond the typical services provided at all Early Head Start (EHS) sites, including: a self-sufficiency specialist on staff at the EHS site; partnerships with local welfare agencies and programs that provide employment trainings and other services; trainings for all EHS staff on employment and educational resources; and targeted parent trainings on employment, education, and self-sufficiency needs.||Kansas and Missouri||2012|
|New Hope for Families and ChildrenB||Offered referrals to wage-paying community service jobs for parents who were not able to find employment after an eight-week job search. Also provided monthly earnings supplements to participants working at least 30 hours a week, but earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold; subsidized health insurance and child care to participants working at least 30 hours a week; and an assigned representative to provided guidance and additional information as needed.||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||2003|
|New Chance DemonstrationC||Program model designed to provide educational and vocational training services to young (ages 18-22) single mothers receiving AFDC benefits, while simultaneously enhancing the development of children. Programming was delivered locally by 16 different program operators, with $300,000 in funding over the first three years. Each program defined its own focus, ranging from adult education, health services, counseling, to occupational skill training.||National (16 sites across 10 states)||1997|
|Comprehensive Child Development ProgramD||Program charged local sites with developing a model to deliver: 1) comprehensive services to parents to enhance their ability to achieve self-sufficiency, and 2) comprehensive social services to meet developmental needs of their infant and toddler children. Each program relied on case managers to coordinate service delivery, and in some cases deliver programming directly (e.g., counseling, life skill training).||National (21 sites across 20 states)||1997|
The research discussed here meets our standards of evidence for being methodologically strong and allowing for causal inference, unless otherwise noted. Each strong causal study reviewed has been assigned a letter, and a complete list of causal studies can be found at the end of this review, along with more details about our standards of evidence and review method. The findings from each strong causal study reviewed align with one of our eight policy goals from Table 1. The Evidence of Effectiveness table below displays the findings associated with two-generation programs for parental employment (beneficial, null,iii or detrimental) for each of the strong studies (A through D) in the causal studies reference list, as well as our conclusions about the overall impact on each studied policy goal. The assessment of the overall impact for each studied policy goal weighs the timing of publication and relative strength of each study, as well as the size and direction of all measured indicators.
Table 3: Evidence of Effectiveness for Two-Generation Programs for Parental Employment by Policy Goal
|Policy Goal||Indicator||Beneficial Impacts||Null Impacts||Detrimental Impacts||Overall Impact on Goal|
|Access to Needed Services||Child Care Use||A, B, C||Positive|
|Parents’ Ability to Work||Parent Employment||A*, B||A*, C, D||Mixed|
|Parent Degree Attainment||C||D|
|Likelihood of Combining AFDC With Employment||C|
|Sufficient Household Resources||Earnings||A*, B||A*, C, D,||Mostly Null|
|Household Income||B||C, D|
|Public Assistance Receipt||B, C, D|
|Parental Health and Emotional Wellbeing||Psychosocial Wellbeing||A, B, C||Mostly Null|
|Physical Health||B, C|
|Nurturing and Responsive Child-Parent Relationships||Parenting Behaviors||A, B, D||Null|
|Optimal Child Health and Development||Educational Outcomes||B||A, B, D||Mostly Null|
|Child Health||B, C, D|
|Child Development||A, C, D|
|Child Motivation||A, B|
|Child Behavior||A, B, D||C|
*In the Enhanced EHS study, outcomes for families with infants were positive for earnings and employment, but null for families with toddlers, so the Enhanced EHS study is represented in both columns.
Access to Needed Services
Three studies looked at the impact of two-generation programs on access to child care for participating families, and all three found increased child care use.A,B,C The Enhanced Early Head Start (EHS) Hard-to-Employ Demonstration evaluation found participants used formal care for 3.6 more months than the control group, and were 44.3 percentage points more likely to receive Early Head Start or Head Start child care or family services.A In the Enhanced EHS evaluation, families in the control group were not able to access Enhanced or traditional EHS services in their communities, and instead were encouraged to seek alternative services. The New Hope evaluation found participants used formal child care for 0.8 more months during the school year and 0.3 more months during the summer, as compared to the control group.B Finally, the New Chance evaluation found a 17.8 percentage point increase in the likelihood children were ever in a child care or preschool center 42 months after enrollment, and a 7.4 percentage point increase in the likelihood that children were in regular child care before age 1.C These two-generation programs either directly provided (EHS,A New ChanceC) or subsidized (New HopeB) child care for participating families, so the outcome of increased access to child care is expected.
Parents’ Ability to Work
Overall, evidence on the impact of two-generation programs on parents’ ability to work is mixed. The New Hope evaluation in 2003, which paired services with subsidized health care, child care, and income support, found participants were 8.2 percentage points more likely to be employed in year one of the program, though effects diminished after the program ended.B The Enhanced EHS evaluation also found that though parents of toddlers saw no significant improvement in employment, for parents who were pregnant at the time of enrollment and parents of infants, the program had a significant positive effect on employment.A The study found that for families with infants, maternal employment increased 13.3 percentage points in the third year after enrollment. The New ChanceC and Comprehensive Child Development Program (CCDP)D evaluations examined program effects on both parent employment and workforce certification attainment, and found no significant effect on either outcome.
Researchers hypothesized that the lack of significant findings related to employment may be due in part to the long-term impact of some of these training programs and the low or inconsistent service receipt. For instance, the Enhanced EHS evaluation found that participation consistency was relatively low across sites, and especially parents of toddlers chose not to engage in the intensive employment services, which study authors expect may have contributed to the lack of outcomes for that population.A
Findings related to education were also mixed. The New Chance evaluation found participants were 8.1 percentage points more likely to receive a GED or high school diploma, as compared to the control group,C but the CCDP evaluation found no consistent evidence of an association between program participation and GED or diploma attainment.D
Finally, the evaluation of New Chance, which was a program specifically for young mothers receiving public assistance, found that participating mothers were 4.4 percentage points more likely to combine Aid for Dependent Families and Children (AFDC) benefits with employment at some point over the first 42 months after enrollment, as compared to the control group.C Effects on public assistance receipt were concentrated in the first six months of program participation.
Sufficient Household Resources
Impacts on earnings largely mirrored the impacts measured on employment. The Enhanced EHS evaluation found that for parents who were pregnant at the time of enrollment and parents of infants, the program increased annual earnings by $2,908 by year three, but there were no significant effects for parents of toddlers.A New Hope, which offered broader wraparound supports, was the only program that showed a positive impact for all groups on parental earning, with participants earning on average $1,088 more than the control group in the first year after enrollment and total income (earnings, EITC, supplement) $1,615 greater for participants.B Effects of the New Hope program on annual earnings and income diminished over time. The New ChanceC and CCDPD evaluations also looked at program effects on parental earnings and overall household income, but did not find any significant impact.
A few studies looked beyond parental employment and earnings to examine overall material hardship in families. The New Hope evaluation looked at self-reported material hardship outcomes, and found no significant effect.B The New HopeB and CCDPD evaluations examined public assistance receipt and amount as indicators of economic self-sufficiency, and found no evidence of program impact. The evaluation of New Chance measured overall AFDC participation, duration of AFDC receipt, and movement off of AFDC at the 42-month follow-up and found null effects across all metrics, though the program did increase the likelihood of simultaneously receiving AFDC and being employed, as mentioned above.C
Parental Health and Emotional Wellbeing
Findings on parental wellbeing were largely null across evaluations. Of the three studies that evaluated parental wellbeing metrics, none found consistent evidence of a significant association between program participation and parent wellbeing. The New Hope evaluation found positive, but not statistically significant effects on self-reported metrics of parent physical health and depression (significant at p=0.10).B
The Enhanced EHS,A New Hope,B and New ChanceC evaluations, however, found null effects on parental psychosocial wellbeing metrics, including self-reported psychological distress and measures of parental depression. Additionally, the New HopeB and New ChanceC studies collected information on self-reported parental health and did not find evidence of a significant impact.
The New Chance evaluation found that participating parents were 6.2 percentage points more likely to report feeling stressed, demonstrating some negative effect of programming.C Study authors suggest that this outcome may be tied to feelings of increased pressure or frustration with continued unemployment even though they participated in employment training – known as the “frustrated expectations hypothesis.” The New Hope evaluation also examined parental stress, but did not find evidence of a significant effect.B
Nurturing-and Responsive Child-Parent Relationships
Three studies evaluated impacts of two-generation programming on the parent-child relationship through changes in parenting behaviors. None of the three evaluations (Enhanced EHS, A New Hope, B or CCDPD) found a consistent positive relationship between two-generation programming and parenting behaviors for families in the programs. The New Chance study looked at program impacts on the home environment, measured using the Home Observation for Measurement of Environment assessment, and also found null effects.C
Optimal Child Health and Development
Impacts on child health and developmental outcomes were also mostly null. Of the four evaluations that evaluated impacts on child health and development, only one found positive effects. The New Hope evaluation found positive impacts on some educational outcomes, demonstrating a 0.2 point difference in a five-point scale of parent-reported reading outcomes, but no significant impact on reading and math test scores.B The Enhanced EHSA and CCDPD evaluations also examined the impact on academic achievement tests and found no evidence of a significant association between program participation and academic outcomes. Finally, the New Chance study evaluated program effects on school readiness scores, and found null effects.C
The New Hope and New Chance evaluations examined effects on parent-reported child health outcomes, and found no significant effect.B,C Similarly, the CCDP evaluation found no evidence of a consistent relationship between health outcomes, measured through doctor visits and mortality rates, and program participation.D Evidence on the impact of two-generation programs on child developmentiv was also null, with evidence from the Enhanced EHS,A New Chance,C and CCDPD evaluations showing no program effect on child developmental metrics.
The evidence also found no consistent association between two-generation programming and child motivation and behavioral measures. The Enhanced EHSA and New HopeB evaluations examined both child motivation and behavior metrics and found no evidence of impact, and the CCDPD study evaluated only behavior, but also found no significant effect. The New Chance evaluation also examined child behavior, using the Behavior Problems Index (BPI) and Positive Behavior Scale (PBS), and found a slight negative effect of program participation on parent-reported child behavior (1.5 points higher on 100 point BPI, 5.3 points lower on the 250 point PBS).C The negative impact on child behavioral ratings was concentrated among women who were at risk for depression at baseline, and authors suggested that the measured adverse effects on behavior may be due to higher levels of parental stress and depression among participating parents.
Researchers hypothesize that the null effects on child-related outcomes may be due to a lack of substantial differences in children’s service receipt across families that engage in the full two-generation approach, compared to control group families who enrolled their children in early childhood education only, as well as increased parental stress related to work required from employment programs.B,C
- State counts include the District of Columbia.
- An impact is considered statistically significant if p<0.05.
- EHS study used survey results on parent-reported social and emotional development to measure child development, the New Chance evaluation used the Brackens Basic Concept Scale, and the CCDP evaluation used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children