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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

This priority area has carried out a series of research and capacity-building activities that together contribute to the field’s conceptualization and understanding of Early Care and Education (ECE) access and utilization among low-income Hispanic families. Additionally, we have assembled a reservoir of tools to facilitate increased research engagement in this area. Across the years, key findings of our work include:

  • Gaps in ECE use among Hispanic and non-Hispanic children may be closing. Research in Chicago, as well as recent national data, suggest that long-observed participation gaps in center-based ECE care between low-income Hispanic preschoolers and their white and black peers are closing (though this may not be the case for toddlers and babies). Read more.
  • Historic generalizations no longer apply. Hispanic parents hold similar perceptions about center-based care than do white and black parents, and are no more likely than these peers to report having relatives available to provide child care. Also, Hispanic children from low-income households who participate in nonparental care are as likely as their white and black peers to be in center- based arrangements. Read more.
  • Publicly funded ECE programs are reaching the hardest to reach groups Sixty one percent of low-income Hispanic preschoolers from immigrant households who participate in ECE are enrolled in centers; this is similar to the rate of Hispanic children from nonimmigrant households as well that of low-income white and black preschoolers. The number is even higher in Chicago. Read more.
  • A one-size fits all approach to ECE is unlikely to fully meet the child care needs of low-income Hispanics. Like other low-income parents, many Latinos currently use multiple child care arrangements and access care during non-standard hours. Nationally, one-third of all low-income Hispanic children in ECE spend time in multiple arrangements and two-thirds experience some care during non-standard hours. Read more.
  • Predictors of quality look favorable for high-Hispanic serving ECE centers. Compared to centers serving few Hispanic children, high-Hispanic-serving centers reported more access to mentors and coaching in the classroom, better retirement and other benefits, as well as more ancillary services and specialists for their programs. Read more.

Looking ahead, we will strive to build upon our work to date by:

  • Looking at implications for research and policy regarding Hispanic families’ ECE access and utilization. As new national and local studies show increased rates of utilization by low-income Hispanic children, and important variation based on nativity status and age of the child, we believe barriers for immigrants and Spanish speakers may be changing in some communities. Our policy analysis project also shows significant state variation in child care assistance policies (via the Child Care Development Fund) that may affect low-income Hispanic populations. This project will develop summaries of findings and implications for policy, research and practitioner audiences.
  • Examining links between parents’ employment schedules and young children’s ECE arrangements. Analyses of the 2012 NSECE data will examine this link for low-income Hispanic parents, as they are over-represented in the low-wage sector where nonstandard work schedules are common yet have high rates of two-parent households, which may provide flexibility in negotiating work and ECE.

PublicationsSee All ›

Why and How Do Low-income Hispanic Families Search for Early Care and Education (ECE)? Read More ›
How Common Are Nonstandard Work Schedules Among Low-Income Hispanic Parents of Young Children? Read More ›
How Well Are Early Care and Education Providers Who Serve Hispanic Children Doing on Access and Availability? Read More ›
Centers Serving High Percentages of Young Hispanic Children Compare Favorably to Other Centers on Key Predictors of Quality Read More ›
Hispanic Children’s Participation in Early Care and Education: A Look at Utilization Patterns of Chicago’s Publicly Funded Programs Read More ›
Hispanic Children’s Participation in Early Care and Education: Amount and Timing of Hours by Household Nativity Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Child Age Read More ›
Hispanic Children’s Participation in Early Care and Education: Parents’ Perceptions of Care Arrangements, and Relatives’ Availability to Provide Care Read More ›
Hispanic Children’s Participation in Early Care and Education: Type of Care by Household Nativity Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Child Age Read More ›
Preparing Low-Income Latino Children for Kindergarten and Beyond: How Children in Miami’s Publicly-Funded Preschool Programs Fare Read More ›
Using Existing Large-Scale Data to Study Early Care and Education Among Hispanics: Families’ Utilization of Early Care and Education Read More ›
Using Existing Large-Scale Data to Study Early Care and Education Among Hispanics: How Hispanic Parents and Children Experience ECE Settings Read More ›
Using Existing Large-Scale Data to Study Early Care and Education among Hispanics: Project Overview and Methodology Read More ›
Using Existing Large-Scale Data to Study Early Care and Education Among Hispanics: Search and Decision-Making Read More ›

Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood

father son boardgame horizontal family with boy horizontal

This priority area advances our understanding of marriage, relationships, and fatherhood among Hispanic families, and generates research-based information on these areas to inform policies and programs.

Across the years, key findings of our work include:

  • Many of the raw ingredients needed for child and family success are present among Latino families. Key among these ingredients is stability and high levels of family functioning, despite limited economic resources. Many low-income Hispanic families have two parents present and their family structures appear to be relatively stable. This is especially true for immigrant Latino families.  Read more here, here, and here.  Across multiple data sets, we also find that evidence of high levels of family functioning.  Both foreign-born and U.S.-born Latina mothers report high levels of co-parenting support and low levels of parenting and economic stress, and low-income, immigrant Latina mothers have especially low rates of reported depression. Read more.
  • Latino fathers have strengths, but also face challenges. Most Hispanic fathers have stable home lives—for instance, they live with all their children and their romantic partner, and have stable and high labor market engagement. Yet the majority have low income and levels of education, which constrain their and their families’ opportunities for upward mobility. Read more.
  • Young Hispanic children are socially strong but lag their white peers academically. Latino boys at preschool age and through Kindergarten have strong cognitive/social-emotional skills, but lag white boys academically. Read more. When we extended our lens to look at all low-income Latino children through third grade, we found further evidence of strong social skills, but also evidence that they lag their white peers in the preschool and early school years. Our work suggests that low-income Latino children, in particular those from immigrant families, may have fewer resources or routines at home that foster academic skills than their low-income black and white peers. Read more.

Looking ahead, we will build upon our work to date with the following projects:

  • Employment profiles of low- income Hispanic parents: This project will provide a rich and multidimensional portrait of the employment characteristics of low-income Hispanic parents and identify the ways in which these differ from that of other low-income parents.
  • Disentangling the effects of native status, education, and employment on children’s pre-academic skills: This project examines mediating effects of parenting behaviors on the associations between parents’ immigrant status, education, household income, and preschoolers’ cognitive and social skills.
  • A review of family data sets: This project will document strengths and limitations of over 20, mostly national, surveys with a sizeable sample size of Hispanics to provide information critical to understanding the characteristics and experiences of our country’s Hispanic population.
  • Latinos in the Supporting Healthy Marriage Evaluation Study: This project will examine how Hispanics in the Supporting Healthy Marriage evaluation data set compare to representative datasets containing a sizeable number of Hispanics with similar characteristics.

PublicationsSee All ›

A Guide to Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Programs for Hispanic Couples and Families Read More ›
A National Portrait of the Health and Education of Hispanic Boys and Young Men Read More ›
A Portrait of Latino Fathers: Strengths and Challenges Read More ›
Family Stability and Instability among Low-Income Hispanic Mothers with Young Children Read More ›
Family Structure and Family Formation among Low-Income Hispanics in the U.S. Read More ›
The Complex and Varied Households of Low-Income Hispanic Children Read More ›
The Development and Early Home Experiences of Young Latino Boys Read More ›
The Development and Home Environments of Low-Income Hispanic Children: Kindergarten to Third Grade Read More ›

Poverty and Economic Self-Sufficiency

roofer tailor

This priority area has produced a cluster of findings focused on the dynamics of income, the receipt of public assistance, and variations in these economic circumstances by racial/ethnic group and by characteristics that capture heterogeneity among Hispanic child households. Key findings include:

  • Low income but stable. Although many Hispanic children are living in poverty or are low income, they live in income stable households. Read more.
  • Source of stability is earnings. The source of this income stability appears to be earnings and not public assistance receipt. Read more.
  • Lack of knowledge may hinder uptake of public assistance programs. Hispanic parents (like other low income parents) are likely to report lack of knowledge about public assistance. Read more.
  • Immigration concerns also play a role. Low-income Hispanic parents are more likely than their white or black peers to report immigration related concerns as a reason for not applying for aid, even among those who reported naturalized citizenship. Read more.
  • Policies may not affect all families the same. A scan of policies and practices for up to 7 states related to CCDF, TANF and SNAP uncovered areas that could facilitate or deter utilization among Hispanic families and, subsequently impact their economic well-being. Publication forthcoming. 
  • Parents’ time with children varies by race/ethnicity. Our analysis looks at the time that Hispanic mothers and residential fathers spend with their children (as well as in other activities) compared to other ethnicities, and also compares time spent pre- versus post-recession. Publication forthcoming.

Our future research will continue to build upon research related to time spent with children, variation in policy and practice, and more detailed descriptions of low-income Hispanic families’ economic circumstances. Questions for this research include:

  • Does more stable income, even at low levels, and lack of reliance on public assistance supports, exacerbate or have neutral influences on the home environments of Hispanic children?
  • Is more earnings stability among income poor Hispanic households coming at the cost of juggling multiple jobs and more chaotic family routines, which impose on the quantity and quality of parental time spent with children?
  • What are the potential ways that policy and practice are affecting utilization of public assistance among Hispanic families? And is (and if so, how) this low utilization affecting children’s developmental outcomes?
  • How can available data about inflows and outflows of income deepen our portraits of the economic circumstances –including a consumption and expenditure perspective—of Hispanic families?



PublicationsSee All ›

How Hispanic Parents Perceive Their Need and Eligibility for Public Assistance Read More ›
Income Instability in the Lives of Hispanic Children Read More ›
Low and Stable Income: Comparisons Among Hispanic Children, From 2004 Through the Period Following the Great Recession Read More ›


The work of the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families 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.

PublicationsSee All ›

A National Portrait of Hispanic Children in Need Read More ›
Developing Culturally Responsive Approaches to Serving Diverse Populations: A Resource Guide for Community-Based Organizations Read More ›
Improving Data Infrastructure to Recognize Hispanic Diversity in the United States Read More ›
Integrated Data Systems: An Emerging Tool to Support Services for Low-Income Hispanic Families with Young Children Read More ›
Making National Data Local: Using American FactFinder to Describe Local Hispanic Communities Read More ›
Mexican Immigrant Family Life in a Pre-Emerging Southern Gateway Community Read More ›
Online Data Tools for Exploring Local Demographics: A Focus on Hispanics Read More ›
The Changing Geography of Hispanic Children and Families Read More ›