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Living Arrangements and Children’s Development in Low-Income White, Black, and Latino Families


  • Support for this work was provided in part by a grant from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (#R01 HD40935-01). We thank E. J. Kang for research assistance and Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Miao Jiang, and Cindy Chambers for editorial assistance. We also thank Christina Gibson-Davis for thoughtful comments on an earlier draft.

concerning this article should be addressed to E. Michael Foster, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Rosenau Hall, Campus Box #7445, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7445. Electronic mail may be sent to


This article uses longitudinal data from approximately 2,000 low-income families participating in the national evaluation of the Comprehensive Child Development Program to examine the associations between preschool children’s living arrangements and their cognitive achievement and emotional adjustment. The analysis distinguishes families in which children live only with their mothers from children who live in biological father, blended, and multigenerational households. Linkages are examined separately for White, Black, and Latino children. Fixed effects regression techniques reveal few significant associations between living arrangements and child development. These findings suggest that substantial diversity exists in the developmental contexts among children living in the same family structure. Policies seeking to change the living arrangements of low-income children may do little to improve child well-being.