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A Q&A on Hispanic Household Complexity

We were thrilled to have more than 430 individuals attend the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families’ (Center) inaugural webinar on February 11th:  Characteristics and Experiences of Low-Income Hispanic Families and Households. The webinar explored two fundamental questions regarding low-income Hispanic families: how are they formed and structured, and what do those households look like?

Speakers included Lina Guzman and Michael López from the Center; Richard J. Noriega of AVANCE, Inc.; and Ann Rivera from the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation and Charisse Johnson from the Office of Family Assistance, both offices of the Administration for Children & Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Speakers discussed findings from the Center’s briefs, Family Structure and Family Formation among Low-Income Hispanics in the U.S. and The Complex and Varied Households of Low-Income Hispanic Children (both available here)and the implications of these findings for programs and policies.

We receive a number of questions throughout the discussion.  Below, we include a sampling of those insightful and thoughtful questions, along with our responses.

We encourage you to keep in touch with your questions and ideas! In order to help programs and policies better serve low-income Hispanic children and families, we want to know what you want to know about serving this population. You can reach us @NRCHispanic on Twitter or via email at Info@HispanicResearchCenter.org.   Also, in addition to the below, you can hear more Q&A on the webinar recording starting just after minute 47 – these questions include: Why do we see some advantages to family with at least one foreign-born parent? How do we define low-income, and how are same-sex couples accounted for in this data? And, what, if any, are the implications of this work for programs serving non-Hispanic groups?

We look forward to being in touch,

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families

Questions about Our Research in General

  1. Are the figures in the reports and webinar national or state based? 

    All analyses presented in the briefs are based on recent nationally-representative data.  Future analyses will provide state-level data, where possible.

  2. Are the speakers’ respective centers and institutions interested in supporting work focused on specific Hispanic groups (e.g., Mexican- or Dominican-American) or the low-income Hispanic population in general? Speakers addressed layers of specificity regarding nativity and gender, but not parent’s foreign country of origin. 

    Speaking for the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families, we believe that in order to develop responsive policies and programs that better serve Hispanic families, we must recognize the considerable variability that exists within the Hispanic population across a range of characteristics. Our hope is that our future work will dig deeper into questions of country-of-origin or heritage. However, our ability to do so will depend upon available data.  To date, most nationally representative surveys provide a large enough sample size that we can distinguish between Hispanics of Mexican origin and Hispanics of other origins. Some data sets, such as the American Community Survey, provide greater flexibility and have larger Hispanic subsamples that allow us to look at some of the largest Hispanics subgroups, such as those from Mexican, Salvadorian, and Cuban ancestry. Still, few, if any, nationally representative data sets allow us to fully examine the rich diversity of Hispanic population by specific country-of-origin. Keep a look out later this year for a Center brief that examines the potential existing within our national surveys to measure the full range of diversity within the Hispanic population in the U.S. 

Questions about Household Complexity

  1. Can you speculate on the differences in crowded housing that you observed for the four low-income groups? For example, for the group of Hispanic children with at least one foreign-born parent, do you have thoughts as to whether crowded housing is by necessity/economic hardships or by choice? 

    Although crowded housing can stem from both choice and need, our analysis focused on children in families experiencing economic need – children in families in the bottom quintile of the income distribution (or in families with annual incomes less than $23,000). Even among Hispanic children in need, we find differences in the crowdedness of living conditions for those with immigrant and U.S.-born parents. The prevalence of crowded housing among low-income Hispanic children with at least one foreign-born parent is twice that of their peers with only U.S.-born parents and nearly four times that of their white peers. Although crowded housing is associated with a host of adverse outcomes for children, in some cases, these housing arrangements can also have benefits to children. This suggests that choice may also be at play here. For example, additional adults in the household may contribute resources, if these adults work or help provide child care or other vital assistance to children and other family members.   

  1. Does your research on households indicate any trends among low-income Hispanics as to the types of housing accommodations these populations are seeking? 

    In this project, we focused on the size and composition of Hispanic children’s households rather than the types of housing units in which they live. We find that low-income Hispanic children not only live in larger households than their white and black peers, but low-income Hispanic children, on average, have both more children and more adults in their households.

Questions about Family Structure and Language

  1. Do we know if there are significant differences in family structure based on Hispanic subgroup (e.g., Mexican vs. Puerto Rican, etc.)? 

    This is not something we were able to look at with these data in our publications; however, please reference our answer to question #2 for related information.Other research–notably that of R.S. Oropesa and Nancy Landale–do show differences by country of origin. We plan to examine differences by country of heritage in future work. 

  2. Did your survey provide information on how likely parents are to speak and read English fluently (especially foreign-born)? 

    Both the American Community Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth provide self-reported information about the language spoken in the home and fluency of adult members of the household. Although this is an important source of variation, especially among Hispanic families, we did not explicitly explore difference by English fluency in these briefs, but will in future work.

Questions about Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood

  1. As a Healthy Families program, we are seeking ways to encourage participation of the fathers of children in our program. I’d like to hear more about the grant program that we might access to fund dad focused services. 

    For an overview of the HMRF initiative, visit this website and read about forecasts for future program funding here, here, and here. 

  2. Do you have any suggestions on how to best outreach/recruit fathers to participate in an educational program (healthy living)?
    We recommend searching the Resources pages on these two websites, which provide information about healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programming:
    ACF’s Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Resources
    Fatherhood.gov’s Resources for Programs 

    Also, here are links to specific reports on the topic which may be helpful:
    Report – Evidence-Based Research Findings on Programs for Fathers
    Practice Brief – Evidence-Based Research Findings on Programs for Fathers
    Recruiting and Retaining Men in Responsible Fatherhood Programs: A Research-to-Practice Brief 

  3. How do you get Hispanic fathers to engage into a responsible fatherhood program? We find it difficult to get them to commit. 

    One goal for the Hispanic Research Center’s Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood focus area is to help support programs in their efforts to recruit and engage Hispanic fathers and families in HMRF programs. We’ll be exploring the issues/challenges associated with serving Hispanic families and will work to identify and communicate successful strategies as part of the Hispanic Research Center’s work.  The Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative explored many of these issues, and a number of relevant publications can be accessed from this website.Additional resources you may find helpful are:

    Hispanics and Family-Strengthening Programs: Cultural Strategies to Enhance Program Participation
    HHMI Grantee Implementation Evaluation: Marketing, Recruitment and Retention Strategies 

  4. You spoke about fatherhood and marriage programs – where can I find more about these programs? 

    We suggest visiting the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse where you can search for relevant programs in each state. You can also search the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood website for OFA-funded healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs. 

  5. Regarding eligibility – are foreign-born parents eligible for Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs? What are some of the other requirements? 

    Program participation is voluntary, and all families are eligible. Programs are not need based, and both foreign-born and U.S.-born individuals can participate. You may find the following related resource helpful – it discusses immigration status (among other characteristics) and the needs of Hispanic families: HHMI Grantee Implementation Evaluation: Understanding Hispanic Diversity: A “One Size Approach” to Service Delivery May Not Fit All.

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