Unstable Childhoods: The Prevalence of Childhood Family, Economic, and Residential Instability across Two U.S. Cohorts
Jake Hays1, Kammi Schmeer1
1The Ohio State University
Family-level instability, and the stress it induces, during childhood is a key element of disadvantage that has received widespread academic and policy attention due to the potential to affect child health and development, with lasting consequences throughout the life course. In this study we examine the prevalence economic, family and household, and residential instability during childhood (ages 0-12). We further compare exposures across two cohorts of children—one who grew up before the Great Recession, and another who grew up during the Great Recession—and across key social groups (race and social class). Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1983-2017) and its Child Development Supplements (1997-2007; 2014), we develop prospective measures of instability during childhood. Preliminary results suggest that many children experience at least one type of instability during childhood. We situate these findings in a context of growing inequality and diverging destinies among today’s children.