Can a Poverty Reduction Intervention Reduce Family Stress Among Families with Infants? An Experimental Analysis.
33 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2022
Date Written: May 6, 2022
Objective: The goal of this study is to examine the causal impacts of a poverty reduction intervention on components of the Family Stress Model.
Background: The Family Stress Model is a theoretical framework explaining the relationship between poverty and child development. Although robust correlational evidence supports this model, few poverty reduction interventions used an experimental approach to understand whether decreases in poverty affect the key elements of the Family Stress Model.
Method: The Baby’s First Years study recruited 1,000 low-income mothers of newborns. Shortly after giving birth, mothers were randomized to receive an unconditional monthly cash gift of either $333 or $20 per month. Follow-up data were collected from 931 mothers approximately 12 months after the birth of their child.
Results: Although the intervention produced a moderate increase in household income and reduced poverty, we observe no detectable improvements in mothers’ subjective reports of economic hardship, psychological distress, the quality of their relationship with a partner, or the quality of play with their infants. However, mothers who received the higher cash gift amounts reported more frequently engaging in enriching child activities during the first year of life than did mothers who received lower cash gift amounts.
Conclusion: We find little support for the hypothesis that the key elements of the family stress model are affected by a moderate poverty reduction among families raising young children.
Implications: Future research needs to further expand, refine, and evaluate how family processes are affected by moderate poverty-reduction interventions for different populations.
Keywords: poverty, child development, stress, economic hardship
JEL Classification: I31, J13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation