Working-class Americans' Views on Family Policy

New Institute for Family Studies Report


Date: September 14, 2021
Contact: Michael Toscano

new report on the work and family policy preferences of black, Hispanic, and white working-class parents reveals that their opinions often cut against the agenda of Washington, D.C., insiders on both the right and left.
The report, Working-Class Americans' Views on Family Policy, is written by Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Patrick T. Brown and co-sponsored by the Institute for Family Studies, Braver Angels, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The findings are based on three different focus groups comprised of about a dozen parents each, representing different slices of life in working-class America: white parents in southwest Ohio, black parents in the Atlanta region, and Hispanic parents around the San Antonio area. 
Their views didn’t comfortably fit a partisan script. Working-class parents were frustrated with unpredictable work schedules and the rising cost of living. At the same time, they took pride in holding down a job and largely thought work should be the price of admission for receiving benefits such as the Child Tax Credit. They wanted government to expand the array of options available to them through flexible assistance, not offer one-size-fits-all, large-scale programs. 
The discussions were proof that the conversation in national policy circles is often disconnected from how public policy is heard and discussed by working-class families. Some of the representative sentiments we heard from participants included: 

  • “I think that a lot of people that don’t work and get the [child] benefit, it’s a little unfair…It’s going to just allow them to abuse it, [to] not have to work.”
  • “I think the middle class is struggling more than the lower class, because the lower class has so many more opportunities for programs, then the working [or] middle class.” 
  • “[As a working mom,] I would love not to work. I think my kids would [too]. I noticed that when I’m home more from not working, they thrive.”

This report offers a fine-grained look into how working-class parents think through different aspects of family policy, work and welfare, gender roles, fertility decisions, and more. 

“Policymakers often talk about working-class families, but rarely to them,” writes report author Patrick T. Brown. “The issues and proposals that get the most media headlines are not always the ones that families feel would benefit their lives, and that disconnect motivates our work in this report.”

To download the full report, click here
For more information or for an interview Patrick Brown, please contact Michael Toscano


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