Building an Equity-Focused Policy Research Agenda in Support of Children’s Health and Well-Being

Oct 10, 2018

Today’s Forum Highlights Four New Issue Briefs

Father's hand holding a child's handMany low-income people—often families of color and rural families—lack access to programs that support children’s health, development, and well-being. These programs can focus on nutrition, income support, or early care and education (ECE). For example, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and Head Start each aim to serve low-income families. Yet disparities in program access and participation suggest programs do not always reach the populations they seek to serve. Mathematica and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are developing an equity-focused policy research agenda to generate research questions about how to access nutrition and income supports, as well as ECE, can better support low-income families with young children.

This initiative will fill gaps in the following areas: (1) understanding disparities in access and participation by income, geographic location, and race and ethnicity; (2) identifying and assessing innovations to reduce disparities; and (3) for ECE, identifying and testing strategies to scale up effective programs. Four new issue brief summarize the findings:

  1. Improving Access to Early Care and Education. Although barriers to program access are more prominent among certain racial and ethnic groups, many states have launched initiatives to increase supply and access to ECE through subsidy policies, behavioral interventions, and co-location of services that provide business supports to ECE providers.
  2. Nutrition Supports for Families with Young Children. Nutrition support programs such as WIC and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) aim to help lower-income families, but some low-income families still lack adequate nutrition. More research on peer counseling, behavioral interventions, and strategies to promote healthy eating could help to address this issue.
  3. Income Supports and Work Requirement Policies. Income support programs provide important financial benefits for low-income families in the form of tax credits, such as the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and cash transfer programs, such as TANF, but eligibility requirements and program structure create geographic disparities. The research community can help move the knowledge base forward on how to create and expand state EITCs, increase EITC awareness, and offering services for children alongside TANF.
  4. A short synthesis brief, Developing an Equity-Focused Policy Research Agenda for Low-Income Families with Young Children, summarizes these three topics.

To share what is known and encourage decision making that leads to high-value, high-impact policy change that can help low-income families support the healthy development of their children, the Foundation and Mathematica will co-sponsor a policy research forum, Reducing Disparities: An Equity-Focused Research Agenda to Improve Children’s Well-Being, on October 10. Read more.


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