Material hardship, public assistance, and child wellbeing: a panel data study
MetadataShow full item record
Material hardship has emerged as a direct measure of deprivation in the United States and an important complement to income poverty, providing different evidence about the ways in which deprivation may affect wellbeing. This study addressed gaps in our knowledge about deprivation as the first to examine how families experience concurrent sets of material hardship, patterns of material hardship over time, and consequences of material hardship exposure for children’s wellbeing. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, I examined five material hardship types (food, housing, medical, utility, and bill-paying) experienced at five timepoints over 15 years. Employing latent class analysis and latent transition analysis, I identified three cross-sectional classes of material hardship characterizing families’ experiences at each point in time, and six longitudinal patterns of material hardship experience, characterized by trajectories and relative severity of material hardship over time. The study then examined social positioning characteristics and public assistance participation as correlates of material hardship class and pattern membership. Those findings suggest that structural inequities, including racism, debt inequality, and multigenerational resource deprivation, present risks for increased material hardship intensity. Additionally, the results highlight group-specific risk and protective factors, including lower risk of more intense material hardship among those families with Latinx mothers. Finally, I conducted a series of multivariate regression analyses examining material hardship as a predictor of child health status and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Results from those models suggested material hardship had consistent, detrimental effects on child health status and internalizing and externalizing behavior outcomes. Last, results from a stratified propensity score analysis indicated longitudinal material hardship had consistent, harmful impacts on children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors but not on child health status. The stratification analyses indicated SNAP participation was associated with exacerbated detrimental effects of material hardship on externalizing behaviors, and Medicaid participation was associated with attenuated harmful effects of material hardship on internalizing behaviors. Together, this study’s findings improve our conceptual understanding of deprivation; move us towards understanding the impacts of material hardship on wellbeing; and inform policy approaches to effectively respond to, mitigate, and prevent the negative consequences of material hardship.
RightsAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International