as relatives, supportive friends and neighbors, and community organizations (churches, family resource centers, safe recreational settings), affects parenting and child development (Coleman, 1985; Edin and Lein, 1997; Jarrett and Burton, 1999; Jencks and Mayer, 1990; Sampson, 1992; Yoshikawa, 1999). We reserve discussion of resources outside the family for Chapter 12.

In this section, we describe what is known about the extent to which parental employment, income and poverty, parental schooling, and family structure affect the developing child. We couch the discussion in the context of trends that have altered, in many instances dramatically, the socioeconomic landscape of young children in the United States. We close our discussion of connections between socioeconomic resources and child development by addressing the challenges raised by behavioral geneticists (e.g., Rowe and Rodgers, 1997), who argue that genetic factors are at the heart of associations between family resources and child outcomes. In the final section, we review evidence on the various ways in which socioeconomic resources affect young children 's development.

Work and Children's Development

Maternal and paternal employment play a powerful role in determining the time and money that families devote to their children. Long-standing concerns about the developmental impacts of fathers' unemployment and mothers' employment have now been supplemented by research focusing on the developmental consequences of how parents configure their work, the circumstances of parental work, and the increasing decoupling of work and economic security, illustrated by the growth in working-poor families.

Increases in paid maternal employment over the past quarter-century are one of the most dramatic—and best-known—social trends. Between 1975 and 1999, the proportion of children under 6 years of age with mothers in the labor force increased from 38.8 percent to 61.1 percent—a 36 percent increase (Figure 10-1).1 The proportion of young children with mothers working full-time and year-round nearly tripled, from 11 to 30 percent. The increase in maternal employment (including both full- and part-time workers) over this 24 year period was most rapid for infants, rising from 24 to 54 percent, compared with older children. The proportion of young children with a mother working part time changed relatively little (ranging between 36 and 40 percent) over that period. A much larger share of young Hispanic (48 percent) than white (29 percent) or black (26 percent) children lived with mothers who did not work for pay in 1997.


These data are based on all young children who are living with their mothers.

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