Not Having Enough: The Determinants And Consequences Of Household Material Hardship

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Family background has a strong and well-established predictive effect for individuals' lifecourse trajectories. Material hardship is often thought of alongside other measures of family background, particularly when considering low income or low human capital circumstances. There is rather limited research on factors that predict material hardship, and limited research on its effects. In this dissertation I explore some of the factors that affect households' experience of material hardship and some of the consequences of material hardship that bear on the individuals long-term mobility trajectories. For this research I use data drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which includes a rich set of material hardship measures. I use the data first to predict the influence of household structure and of immigrant headship on the likelihood of financial and material hardship. I next consider how material hardship affects mobility trajectories, examining the relationship between material hardship and children's experience of in-grade retention. Finally, I consider how the relationship between material hardship and in-grade retention changes over time, and how it is affected by variation in state welfare policy. With respect to determinants of hardship, I find that extended family households offer protection against financial hardship and against some forms of material hardship, and that extended family households formed among immigrants offer additional protection against hardship. With respect to mobility trajectories, I find that material hardship, particularly food insufficiency, is predictive of in-grade. Food insufficiency is associated with an increase in the likelihood of in-grade retention comparable to that seen for disadvantaged minorities. The implications of this research are twofold. First, as extended family households have become more common in recent years and more common among disadvantaged families, household extension may serve to lessen the incidence of hardship or may lessen its severity. Second, material hardship, especially food insufficiency, is an important component of individuals' backgrounds in determining children's outcomes. As the food insufficiency effect is comparable to that of minority status - which is well established as a predictor of poor outcomes, material hardship is a component of background that should be considered in examining other consequential steps in mobility processes.
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Morgan,Stephen L.
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Lichter,Daniel T.
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Ph. D., Sociology
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Doctor of Philosophy
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