Moving Forward as a Family: Crafting a 2-Generation Strategy for Central Texas, PRP 192

King, Christopher T.
Motwani, Amit
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LBJ School of Public Affairs

United Way for Greater Austin commissioned this policy research project to guide their focus on helping low socioeconomic families achieve greater financial stability through the development of a Two-Generation (2-Gen) strategy for the Central Texas region. Two-Gen programs emphasize the importance of education as a means for better economic outcomes. High-quality early childhood education programs allow children to make critical neural connections during a period of substantial growth and development, ultimately better preparing them for pre-kindergarten programs and academic success in subsequent years. Adults working low-paying jobs encounter barriers to career advancement due to lacking credentials or relevant education. It is not uncommon for parents working long hours for low wages to have at least one child in need of high-quality early childhood education, yet they are unable to enroll their child in such programs due to issues such as cost, transportation, and time away from work. Two-Gen programs seek to resolve the issues complicating this problem of financial instability by providing high-quality educational and training programs for both parents and children, which are even more effective when intentionally coordinated so that the family develops as a single unit in a positive direction.

The research consisted of a literature review; a program scan at the local, state, and federal levels; and site visits within Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, as well as Boston and Miami. Data collected specific to the Central Texas region include a labor market analysis, a needs assessment, and a mapping of current organizational assets. Obtaining and analyzing this data allowed the team to better understand 2-Gen program development, outcomes, impact measurements, and areas for improvement.

The research team developed practical applications for the information collected, ultimately contributing to the proposed anti-poverty strategy through the intentional coordination of 2-Gen services by leveraging existing organizational assets to best address the area’s most salient needs. In addition, the team proposed an evaluation strategy involving cost-benefit equations, program evaluation metrics, and a screening tool to predict the likelihood of a program achieving successful outcomes. The report concludes with policy recommendations at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as a summary of the populations affected by financial instability and future directions for this field.