Working Class Americans’ Views on Family Policy

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The Institute for Family Studies, in conjunction with Better Angels, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, organized three focus groups in Spring 2021 to talk to working-class parents about different family policies being proposed and what they wished politicians knew about the challenges facing them and their communities. The focus groups consisted of white working-class parents in southwest Ohio, Black parents in the Atlanta region, and Hispanic parents around San Antonio. Although each focus group expressed unique concerns and perspectives, researchers found that the three key themes of frustration, fairness, and flexibility were consistent across the sessions. Parents universally expressed frustration as many felt that “you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t,” and lamented the lack of a safety-net for the middle class. A major source of tension among the participants was balancing the heavy emphasis placed on work with taking care of the needs of less-well-off families. Parents also wanted the option of taking advantage of some benefit programs without giving up on work, and prized optionality in the delivery of in-kind and tax programs. In the EITC and CTC discussions, for example, parents generally preferred being given the choice between delivery of monthly benefit payments or annual lump sums.

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