Although the independent nuclear family remains the ideal family form in most Americans’ minds, rising housing costs have made residential independence increasingly difficult. Sharing a home provdes a common safety net for lower-income mothers, yet we know little about how mothers experience and interpret this household form. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 52 mothers, I find that doubling up as a guest in someone else’s home – though not hosting someone else in their home – threatens mothers’ identities as adults and good parents. Mothers describe doubling up in someone else’s home as incompatible with their ideals of adulthood and family life, which are organized around the independent nuclear family. While mothers expect to control their daily lives and childrearing, householders retain authority over the home and its inhabitants, and there is no taken-for-granted way of reconciling household members’ conflicting expectations. In response to the stress on their identities, mothers who live doubled-up in someone else’s home often seek to establish themselves as head of their nuclear family, even when they are not the household head, by engaging in identity work: defining physical space as their own, emphasizing their contributions to the household, and asserting their status as parents.
Living in a doubled-up, or shared, household is a common experience. Nearly one-half of children in the United States double up at some point during childhood, yet we know little about the cumulative effects of these households on children. This study estimates the effects on young adult health and educational attainment of childhood years spent in three doubled-up household types: (1) those formed with children’s grandparent(s), (2) those formed with children’s adult sibling(s), and (3) those formed with other extended family or non-kin adults. Using marginal structural models and inverse probability of treatment weighting—methods that account for the fact that household composition is both a cause and consequence of other family characteristics—I find that doubling up shapes children’s life chances, but the effects vary depending on children’s relationships with household members. Childhood years spent living with nongrandparent extended family or non-kin adults are associated with worse young adult outcomes, but coresidence with grandparents is not significantly associated with young adult outcomes after selection into these households is accounted for, and coresidence with adult siblings may be beneficial in some domains. By studying the effects of coresidence with adults beyond the nuclear family, this research contributes to a fuller understanding of the implications of family complexity for children.
Previous research, primarily using survey data, highlights preferences about neighborhood racial composition as a potential contributor to residential segregation. However, we know little about how individuals, especially parents, understand neighborhood racial composition. We examine this question using in‐depth interview data from a racially diverse sample of 156 parents of young children in two metropolitan areas. Prior scholarship on neighborhood racial preferences has mostly been animated by expectations about in‐group attraction, out‐group avoidance, the influence of stereotypes, and perceived associations between race and status. However, we find that a substantial subset of parents expressed a desire for racially and ethnically mixed neighborhoods—a residential preference at odds with racial segregation. Parents across race conceptualized neighborhood diversity as beneficial for children's development. They expressed shared logics, reasoning that neighborhood diversity cultivates skills and comfort interacting with racial others; teaches tolerance; and provides cultural enrichment. However, these ideas intersected with racial segregation and stratification to shape parents’ understandings of diversity and hinder the realization of parents’ aspirations. Beliefs about the benefits of neighborhood diversity were rarely a primary motivation for residential choices. Nonetheless, parents’ perceptions of the advantages of neighborhood racial mixing reveal the reach of discourse on the value of diversity and suggest a potential opportunity to advance residential desegregation.
Residential selection is central in determining children’s housing, neighborhood, and school contexts, and an extensive literature considers the social processes that shape residential searches and attainment. While this literature typically frames the residential search as a uniform process oriented around finding residential options with desired characteristics, we examine whether individuals may differentially conceive of these searches in ways that sustain inequality in residential attainment. Drawing on repeated, in-depth interviews with a stratified random sample of 156 households with young children in two metropolitan counties, we find that parents exhibit distinct residential search logics, informed by the constraints they face. Higher-income families usually engage in purposive searches oriented around their residential preferences. They search for “forever homes” that will meet their families’ needs for years to come. In contrast, low-income parents typically draw on a logic of deferral. While they hope to eventually search for a home with the unit, neighborhood, and school characteristics they desire, aspirations for homeownership lead them to conceive of their moves (which are often between rental units) as “temporary stops,” which justifies accepting homes that are inconsistent with their long-term preferences. In addition, because they are often “pushed” to move by negative circumstances, they focus on their immediate housing needs and, in the most extreme cases, adopt an “anywhere but here” approach. These logics constitute an unexamined mechanism through which economic resources shape residential searches and ultimate attainment.
Men who have children with several partners are often assumed to be “deadbeats” who eschew their responsibilities to their children. Using data from the nationally representative National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (NLSY-97), we show that most men in complex families intensively parent the children of one mother while being less involved, or not involved at all, with children by others. Repeated qualitative interviews with 110 low-income noncustodial fathers reveal that men in complex families often engage with and provide, at least to some degree, for all of the biological and stepchildren who live in one mother’s household. These activities often exceed those extended to biological children living elsewhere. Interviews also show that by devoting most or all of their resources to the children of just one mother, men in complex families feel successful as fathers even if they are not intensively involved with their other biological children.
This article offers two theoretical contributions. First, we develop the concept of administrative burden as an important variable in understanding how citizens experience the state. Administrative burden is conceptualized as a function of learning, psychological, and compliance costs that citizens experience in their interactions with government. Second, we argue that administrative burden is a venue of politics, that is, the level of administrative burden placed on an individual, as well as the distribution of burden between the state and the individual, will often be a function of deliberate political choice rather than simply a product of historical accident or neglect. The opaque nature of administrative burdens may facilitate their use as forms of “hidden politics,” where significant policy changes occur without broad political consideration. We illustrate this argument via an analysis of the evolution of Medicaid policies in the state of Wisconsin. Across three Governorships, the level of burden evolved in ways consistent with the differing political philosophies of each Governor, with federal actors playing a secondary but important role in shaping burden in this intergovernmental program. We conclude by sketching a research agenda centered on administrative burden.
Administrative burden is an individual's experience of policy implementation as onerous. Such burdens may be created because of a desire to limit payments to ineligible claimants, but they also serve to limit take-up of benefits by eligible claimants. For citizens, this burden may occur through learning about a program; complying with rules and discretionary bureaucratic behavior to participate; and the psychological costs of participating in an unpopular program. Using a mixed-method approach, the authors explain process changes that reduced individual burden and demonstrate how this resulted in increased take-up in Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin. The findings inform the planned expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A key design principle for Medicaid and other means-tested programs is that it is possible to increase program take-up while maintaining program integrity by shifting administrative burdens from the citizen to the state.