Briefed by the Bell — Two-Generation Solutions

Too often, policymakers fail to consider the role circumstances affecting the entire family play in an individual’s success or failure. That’s why two-generation approaches to economic security put the well-being of the entire family at the center of economic mobility strategies. They focus on asking new questions, identifying intersecting systems, and breaking down silos.

Check out our Briefed by the Bell Hub to read our earlier briefs on wages, family securityfiscal policy, the predatory economy, and wealth and income inequality.  

What You Should Know About Two-Generation Solutions

Research from the National Head Start Association shows “interventions in both the quality and quantity of low-income children’s early learning experiences and their parents’ increases in education, employment, and income can contribute to strengthening children’s outcomes — particularly when those interventions are integrated.”

The easiest way to understand two-generation solutions is through the problems they work to solve. Some examples are:

  • A mother cannot get a better paying job because she doesn’t have the right credentials, but she cannot go back to school because there is no available child care or it’s too expensive.
  • A father will frustrate efforts to recover child support for fear of how it will strain his relationship with his child and the larger family.
  • A mother tries to go through drug rehabilitation to address significant trauma in the family, but there isn’t an opportunity for the child to get the support he or she needs to overcome his or her own trauma.
  • A child’s literacy education is impeded by his or her parent’s discomfort with or lack of time to read to him or her at home.

It can be difficult to imagine wholesale policy solutions to these issues. What isn’t difficult, however, is to point out examples of two-generation solutions working well and encourage policymakers and leaders to use these approaches on a larger scale going forward. 

In our latest Briefed by the Bell, we explore what actions Colorado’s policymakers can take to implement more two-generation strategies. Too many families lack the opportunity to achieve the economic opportunities necessary to live a stable life in this state. To truly combat our state’s dwindling economic mobility, we should find ways to engage entire families to ensure a Colorado is a state where everyone thrives. It will take a shift in how we think about these challenges, but in order to keep up with the changing landscape of our state and economy, it’s necessary. Working with parents and children together, we can help both generations attain skills and knowledge to help set them up for success throughout their lives.

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