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Focus Areas

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families (Center) is a hub of research to improve the lives of Hispanics across three areas. Each of these areas informs the other, as the experiences of Hispanic children and families cannot be understood without discussing the interconnectedness of family economics, family structure, and early child care and education.


Early Care and Education

3-kids child-eating The primary goal of this area is to advance understanding of early care and education (ECE) issues for low-income Hispanic families, including related issues such as: a) improving the quality of ECE services and coordination across ECE systems to support early learning for the heterogeneous population of Hispanic children; and, b) increasing access to ECE and promoting informed ECE choices among Hispanic parents. Research in this area addresses key questions regarding how ECE experiences support low-income Hispanic working families, while also enriching culturally and developmentally appropriate contexts for low-income Hispanic children. During the first year, the Center launched four projects in this area:

  • A descriptive portrait of the lives of a sample of low-income Mexican-origin couples as they experience raising children in an emerging immigrant community in the Southeastern United States.
  • A study examining the early school success of urban, low-income Latino children, which explores whether there are short- and long-term outcomes for children participating in subsidized ECE programs.
  • An exploration of the features of integrated data systems (IDS) that examines how cost-efficient analysis of IDS data might inform policies and practices to best support the growing Hispanic population within the U.S.
  • A review of the strengths and limitations of several major national data sets in terms of understanding Hispanic families’ engagement and utilization of ECE services.

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Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood

father son boardgame horizontal family with boy horizontal The primary goals of this area are: (1) to advance our understanding of marriage, relationships, and fatherhood, including parenting, family stability, and family functioning among Hispanic families; and (2) to generate research-based information to inform policies and programs that are culturally appropriate and responsive to the needs of Hispanic families. The research projects in this area aim to provide a comprehensive description of the demographic, social, cultural, and economic characteristics of low-income Hispanic fathers, mothers, and children; shed light on how Hispanic families’ characteristics shape program needs and involvement; and identify promising strategies for serving Hispanic families. In this area, the Center launched several key research projects during the first year:

  • The development of a demographic portrait of low-income Hispanic families through a series of briefs: The first focused on family structure and family formation among low-income Hispanics, and the second focused on household composition.
  • A review of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs to identify promising practices for programs serving Hispanic fathers and families.

Poverty and Economic Self-Sufficiency

roofer tailor The primary goal of this area is to advance the understanding of poverty and economic self-sufficiency among Hispanic families, and the implications of these conditions for children’s developmental outcomes and the programs and policies aimed to support the positive development of Hispanic children. The initial projects in this area focus on measuring and characterizing the economic conditions of Hispanic families, while shedding light on the ways in which those economic conditions intersect with employment, receipt of social assistance, material hardship, family processes (including utilization of early care and education), and children’s developmental outcomes. The projects examine the range of Hispanic children from birth to adolescence. This research aims to fill important gaps in our understanding of the economic experience of Hispanic families beyond the characterization of poverty, and conventional socioeconomic indicators that map trends and experiences in the aggregate, by considering dynamics of income change, and the ways in which stability of economic resources influences family and child well-being. Initial projects in this area, to the extent possible, consider native language, nativity, and regional variation, and include the following:

  • Documenting experiences of income change, by income level, and subsequently examining how such income changes impact aspects of family and child well-being. This project uses panel data from the 2004 and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation and experimental data from the Opportunity New York City study.
  • Examining employment behavior and its interactions with community characteristics and characteristics of early care and education providers related to non-parental care decision-making, search behavior, and non-parental care utilization among Hispanic households. This project uses the 2012 National Survey of Early Education and Care, including a detailed time use calendar of employment and use of non-parental care.


Our work also spans across the contexts we focus on—income and employment, family/household composition and processes, and early care and education settings—to understand how they interact shape children’s development and family well-being, and to examine what factors can account for such linkages.

Our work also capitalizes on the diversity of our investigators’ areas of expertise to bridge our research across priority areas. Doing so reflects our desire to capture the different experiences Hispanic families experience across contexts.