FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN IN CALIFORNIA: FINDINGS FROM THE CALIFORNIA HEALTH INTERVIEW SURVEY, 2011-2014.
The first five years of a child's life are a critical period of development. Often, this is also a time when the child's parents are in the beginning stages of their careers and face the competing demands of working and caring for young children. In 1998, California passed the California Children and Families Act to improve development for children from the prenatal stage to five years of age. One goal of this commitment is to expand our understanding of the social and physical environments that can impact a child's well-being and school readiness. This report presents data that reflect the strengths and challenges facing families of young children in California.
Data are drawn from the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 California Health Interview Surveys (CHIS). CHIS is an ongoing, random-digit-dial telephone survey of California's non-institutionalized population living in households, and is the largest statewide health survey in the nation (approximately 20,000 households per year). CHIS is conducted in seven languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog (beginning in 2014). Additional information on CHIS methodology is available at www.chis.ucla.edu.
For this report, we analyzed data from CHIS adult respondents aged 18 and over who were the parent or legal guardian of at least one child age 0-5 years. Data are presented for the total sample of 6,600 parents of young children, and by urban (n=4,500), suburban (n=967) and rural (n=1,133) residence. We also describe parents of dual language learner families (n=3,493), defined as those where the parent-respondent reported speaking a language other than, or in addition to, English in the home.
Demographic characteristics include family structure (marital status, family size), parental education, household income (% of US Federal Poverty Level (FPL)), race/ethnicity immigration status, and language(s) spoken in the home. Immigration status is defined as US-born, naturalized citizen, green card holder or no green card. The no green card category includes respondents with valid visas and those not lawfully present in the U.S.
We report estimates of young families enrolled in public programs: food stamps (CalFresh), Medi-Cal (California's version of Medicaid), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) among female respondents with incomes below 200% FPL. The study sample does not map precisely to the WIC population because we exclude women who were pregnant and did not have a child under age five. The study sample included women with a five-year-old and no other child under age five, as well as those with household incomes below 200% FPL (WIC income eligibility is 185% FPL).
Neighborhood characteristics include the breakdown of urban, suburban and rural residents. Urban, suburban and rural designation is based on the Claritas definition, which uses census block population sizes. We used the four level Claritas and combined "urban" and "second city" categories into urban. Additional neighborhood characteristics are perceived neighborhood safety, cohesion and civic engagement. Respondents were asked how often they felt safe in their neighborhood and whether they agreed that their neighbors helped one another, could be trusted, and watched out to make sure neighborhood children did not get into trouble. Civic engagement during the past 12 months was measured by asking respondents whether they had performed any volunteer or unpaid community service, had volunteered for an organization that addressed community problems, or had met informally with others to address community problems.
The final sample is weighted to California's non-institutionalized population by adjusting for sampling design and error. Determination of reliability of reportable estimates was based on analysis of the coefficient of variation (CV), using a criterion of 30%. Descriptive statistics include weighted percents and the 95% confidence interval (95% CI). We did not formally test for statistical differences, but highlight some differences in results where the confidence intervals did not overlap.
CHIS is a collaboration between the University of California Los Angeles' Center for Health Policy Research (UCLA CHPR), the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Healthcare Services. UCLA CHPR is responsible for CHIS data and maintains standards to protect respondent confidentiality. CHIS protocols have been reviewed and approved by UCLA's Institutional Review Board and the California Committee for Protection of Human Subjects.
Parents and legal guardians surveyed (hereafter referred to as "parents") spanned a wide range of ages, with a mean of 34.5 years. Approximately 92% of respondents were under age 45. Over half (55.8%) of the respondents were women (data not shown in tables). Other characteristics of young families in California are presented in Table 1.
Most parents of young children were married or living in a marriage-like relationship. Family size ranged from 2 to 12, with 4 being the average family size across all demographic groups. 60% of parents had more than a high school education. More than one-third had a bachelor's degree or higher, and an additional 22.2% had completed some college. Almost 20% had less than 12 years of education.
Close to half of the families with young children had incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is the income eligibility cutoff for many public programs in California. Among these parents, 46.6% reported that they were enrolled in Medi-Cal and 37.8% received food stamp benefits. Among female respondents whose incomes were below 200% FPL, 67.1% participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Nearly half of parents surveyed for this report were Hispanic. More than half of the interviewed parents had been born in the United States, and an additional 15.9% were naturalized citizens. 13% were legal permanent residents with a green card, and 14.4% were neither citizens nor permanent residents. 40% of households spoke English and another language, and 20.3% did not speak English in the home.
Three-quarters of the families in the survey were urban residents, 14.5% lived in the suburbs, and about 10% lived in rural areas. 80% of parent respondents felt safe in their neighborhood all or most of the time, and the same percentage agreed or strongly agreed that their neighbors helped one another. More than three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed that their neighbors could be trusted, and there were similar responses to the statement that neighbors "watch out that children are safe and don't get into trouble."
Perceived neighborhood safety and cohesion differed by income category (data not shown in tables). 30% (95% CI: 26.3, 33.6) of parents with house-hold incomes below 100% FPL felt safe only some or none of the time. By contrast, only 6.9% (95% CI: 5.3, 8.49) of those with incomes at or above 300% FPL said they felt safe some or none of the time. Similarly, only 60% (95% CI: 55.9, 64.0) of those in the lowest income category said their neighbors could be trusted, compared with 89.5% (95% CI: 87.9, 91.2) of those in the highest income category.
Characteristics of Urban, Suburban, and Rural Families
California's population is diverse in its geographic distribution, and geographic variation is seen across several characteristics (Table 2). Suburban and rural areas have higher proportions of Whites compared with urban areas, and suburban areas also have a higher percentage of Asian families than do rural or urban areas. Half of the urban parent respondents were Hispanic, compared with 31.9% of suburban parents and 40.9% of rural parents. In terms of income, 70% of suburban parents with young children had house-hold incomes at or above 200% FPL, compared to 51.1% of urban households with young children and 46.4% of young rural families. A smaller proportion of suburban families were enrolled in Medi-Cal or WIC compared to urban families.
California is diverse, especially in cities. Sixty-two percent of urban families with children ages 0-5 spoke a language other than or in addition to English in the home, compared with 48% of young suburban families and 44.9% of young rural families. Fifty-four% of urban respondents were born in the U.S., compared with 61.8% of suburban parents and 66.3% of rural parents. The proportion of rural parents who were naturalized U.S. citizens (8.4%) was about half that found among urban (16.5%) and suburban parents (17.9%). The noncitizen proportion was highest among urban parent respondents, at 29.5%.
A greater proportion of urban than suburban parents had fewer than 12 years of education, and suburban parents were more likely to report having more than 12 years of education (72.1% vs. 57.8% and 57.7%, respectively). While more than half of families living in all areas reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods all or most of the time, the percentage of urban parents who reported feeling safe only some or none of the time was almost double that of parents living in suburban or rural areas (18.9% vs. 9.4% and 10.7%, respectively). Perceptions of neighborhood safety were highest in rural areas. Similarly, while neighborhood cohesion was high across all three areas, it was slightly higher in suburban and rural areas. Indicators of neighborhood cohesion (trusting, getting along with neighbors, and believing that neighbors watch out for the welfare of neighborhood children) were also higher in suburban and rural areas.
Characteristics of Dual Language Learner (DLL) Families
Figure 1 shows the language distribution of dual language learner families, who comprise 60% of California families with children ages 0-5.
Figure 1. Languages Spoken in the Home, Dual Language Learner Families with Young Children, California Health Interview Survey 2011-2014 English & Spanish 47.3 Spanish only 24.5 English & Asian language other than Chinese 9.2 English and Chinese 3.6 English & other language (non-Spanish, non-Asian, non-European) 2.7 English & European language 2.5 Chinese only 1.6 Vietnamese only 0.9 Other Asian language (1 only) 1.5 Other non-Asian language (1 only) 0.9 2 or more other languages not previously mentioned 5.5 English Proficiency Very well/Well 63.0% Not well/Not at all 37.0% Note: Table made from bar graph.
Most of the children in the respondent families who were dual language learners (DLLs) were in Spanish-speaking families, followed by families speaking an Asian language. 10% of respondents spoke only another language in the home, excluding Spanish. More than 60% of the parent respondents said they spoke English well or very well, and 37% said they spoke English "not well" or "not at all."
Of the parents in DLL families, 69.7% were Hispanic, 17.9% were Asian, 10.2% were White non-Hispanic, and 2.2% were other races (including African-American). About two-thirds of the parent respondents in these families were born outside the U.S., and 23.4% had been naturalized (data not shown in tables).
Although the overall picture of families with young children in California is one of two-parent families with high educational achievement and strong perceived neighborhood cohesion, there is a significant percentage who are struggling. 46% of the families with children ages 0-5 years in the survey had household incomes below 200% FPL, and 20% of the parent respondents had not finished high school. Addressing these economic and educational inequalities must be a high priority for California as we prepare the next generation to enter the labor force. To that end, a bill recently passed by both the state assembly and senate declares California's commitment to reduce child poverty by 50% over the next 20 years (Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force (CA), 2017).
More than half of the children under age six in the survey were dual language learners (DLLs), many them from homes in which Spanish or an Asian language were spoken. These findings indicate a tremendous potential for foreign language capability among children who will be entering school in California in the next five years. Learning more than one language can increase analytical ability, concept formation, and cognitive flexibility in young children(Castro and Espinosa, 2014; Espinosa, 2015).
The number of dual language learners presents California with opportunities and challenges, since dual language acquisition is not uniform across all families with young children. Children from low-income families and those whose parents have not graduated from high school are more likely to enter kindergarten with less developed primary language skills than children from middle- and upper-income families and from families in which the parents have more education. This difference becomes more pronounced as children grow older and advance through school (Olsen, 2010; Reardon and Galindo, 2006).
Children who enter school without strong skills in their primary language have more difficulty becoming proficient in English, and they often end up as long-term English-language learners. This puts them at a significant disadvantage when they reach high school, diminishing their higher education and career opportunities (Olsen, 2010; Castro et al., 2011).
Research has identified some successful strategies for strengthening language competence in young children before they enter school (Olsen, 2010; Castro et al., 2011). Such strategies include encouraging parents to read often to their child in their primary language; promoting storytelling in group settings to develop vocabulary; and using visual aids, gestures, and repetition of key words to reinforce learning (Castro et al., 2011). The Talk. Read. Sing.[R] campaign conducted by this study's funder, First 5 California, encourages parents and caregivers to engage with young children in order to promote healthy brain development. More resource-intensive recommendations include providing dual language instruction in preschools and schools, training teachers in best practices for DLL children, and using curricula specifically developed for these students (Olsen, 2010).
This profile expands our understanding of the strengths and challenges of families with young children in California. The strengths lie in high levels of trust and compatibility with neighbors, and with a generation of young children who speak both English and another language. The challenges are in reducing poverty among the 46% of young families living below 200% of the federal poverty level, improving these families' perceived neighborhood safety in California's cities, and enhancing school readiness among dual language learners so that the benefits of being multilingual can be optimized.
The authors would like to thank Kelly Wu, who conducted the data analyses at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. We are also grateful to David Dodds, Stacy Rilea, and Robert Dean of First 5 California for their guidance in preparation of this policy brief. Valuable reviews were provided by Josie Ramos, MA, principal investigator and senior program manager at the Public Health Institute, and Christy McCain, MPH, research scientist and project director at the Public Health Institute.
Funder Information: This paper was made possible by funds received from First 5 California, which is working to ensure that California's children receive the best possible start in life and thrive.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Castro, Dina C., Mariela M. Paez, David K. Dickinson, and Ellen Frede (2011). "Promoting Language and Literacy in Young Dual Language Learners: Research, Practice, and Policy," Child Development Perspectives 5(1): 15-21.
Castro, Dina C., and Linda M. Espinosa (2014). "Developmental Characteristics of Young Dual Language Learners: Implications for Policy and Practice in Infant and Toddler Care," Zero to Three 34(3): 34-38.
Espinosa, Linda M. (2015). "Challenges and Benefits of Early Bilingualism in the United States' Context," Global Education Review 2(1): 40-53.
Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force (CA) (2017). AB-1520. Available at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1520
Olsen, Laurie (2010). "Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California's Long Term English Learners," Californians Together. Available at: https://www.californianstogether.org/reparable-harm-fulfilling-the-unkept-promise-of-educational-opportunity-for-californias-long-term-english-learners/Accessed November 28, 2016.
Reardon, Sean F., and Claudia Galindo (2006). Patterns of Hispanic Students' Math and English Literacy Test Scores in the Early Elementary Grades: Report from the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics. Available at: https://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/patterns-of-hispanic-students-math-and-english-literacy-test-scores-in-the-early-elementary-grades.pdf. Accessed November 28, 2016.
Public Health Institute, Capitola, CA
email@example.com Public Health Institute, Capitola, CA (corresponding author)
Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Health Policy Research & Center for Global and Immigrant Health, Fielding School of Public Health, The University of California, Los Angeles
NINEZ A. PONCE
Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Health Policy Research & Center for Global and Immigrant Health, Fielding School of Public Health, The University of California, Los Angeles
How to cite: Holtby, Sue, Nicole Lordi, Royce Park, and Ninez A. Ponce (2017). "Families with Young Children in California: Findings from the California Health Interview Survey, 2011-2014," American Journal of Medical Research 4(2): 168-178.
Received 15 June 2017 * Received in revised form 28 September 2017
Accepted 29 September 2017 * Available online 18 October 2017
Table 1 Parents with Young Children, California Health Interview Survey 2011-2014 (n=6,600) (a) Characteristics % (95% CI) Marital status Married 71.8 (70.0-73.2) Living with partner 13.4 (12.0-14.7) Widowed 0.4 (0.1-0.6) Divorced 2.2 (1.7-2.7) Separated 3.4 (2.7-4.0) Never married 9.0 (7.9-10.1) Family size Mean 3.9 (3.9-4.0) Range 2.0-12.0 Education <12 years 19.5 (18.0-21.0) 12 years/GED 20.6 (19.0-22.2) Some college 22.2 (20.6-23.8) BA/BS or higher 37.7 (35.8-39.6) Income (percent US Federal Level (FPL)) 0-99% FPL 24.7 (23.0-26.4) 100-199% FPL 22.0 (20.3-23.7) 200-299% FPL 13.3 (12.1-14.6) 300% FPL and above 40.0 (38.1-41.8) Public program participation (income is < 200% FPL) Medi-Cal 46.6 (43.4-49.8) Food Stamps 37.8 (34.8-40.8) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (b) 67.1 (63.4-70.7) Race/Ethnicity Hispanic 47.1 (45.3-48.9) White, non-Hispanic 32.9 (31.3-34.5) Asian 13.3 (12.1-15.6) African-American 4.3 (3.6-4.9) Two or more races 1.5 (1.1-1.9) Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 0.5 (0.2-0.8) American Indian/Alaska Native 0.3 (0.2-0.5) Immigration status U.S.-born 56.3 (54.4-58.2) Naturalized Citizen 15.9 (14.4-17.4) Green Card 13.4 (12.0-14.8) No Green Card 14.4 (13.0-15.8) Languages spoken in the home English only 41.7 (39.8-43.6) English and another language 38.0 (36.2-39.9) Other language only 20.3 (18.7-22.0) Area of residence Urban 75.6 (74.0-77.2) Suburban 14.5 (13.0-15.9) Rural 9.9 (9.0-10.9) Neighborhood cohesion How often feel safe in neighborhood All of the time 43.8 (42.0-45.7) Most of the time 39.5 (37.5-41.4) Some of the time 14.9 (13.4-16.4) None of the time 1.80 (1.3-2.3) Neighbors help each other Strongly Agree 19.5 (18.0-21.1) Agree 59.3 (57.2-61.3) Disagree 17.6 (15.9-19.4) Strongly Disagree 3.6 (2.8-4.3) Neighbors can be trusted Strongly Agree 15.0 (13.8-16.3) Agree 62.3 (60.4-64.2) Disagree 18.9 (17.3-20.5) Strongly Disagree 3.8 (3.0-4.6) Neighbors watch out that children are safe and don't get into trouble Strongly Agree 17.9 (16.5-19.3) Agree 60.3 (58.3-62.2) Disagree 17.8 (16.3-19.3) Strongly Disagree 3.2 (2.3-4.1) Civic engagement, past 12 months Volunteer/community service 36.7 (34.8-38.6) Volunteer in organization addressing community problems 10.2 (9.1-11.2) Meet informally to address community problems 14.1 (12.7-15.4) (a) Estimates are weighted to represent the California Population and adjusted for survey design effects. (b) Female respondents with income below 200 percent FPL and children age 0-5 years CI = confidence interval Table 2 Parents of Young Children, Urban, Suburban and Rural Households, California Health Interview Survey 2011-2014 (a) Urban Suburban Characteristics (n=4,500) (n=967) % (95% CI) % (95% CI) Marital status Married/living with partner 84.0 (82.3-85.7) 90.2 (87.1-93.3) Never married 9.7 (8.3-11.0) 5.2 (2.5-8.0) Widowed/divorced/separated 6.4 (5.3-7.5) 4.6 (2.8-6.3) Family size (mean) 3.9 (3.9-4.0) 4.0 (3.9-4.1) Education <12 years 20.7 (18.7-22.6) 13.6 (9.3-17.9) 12 years/GED 21.6 (19.5-23.6) 14.3 (11.1-17.5) >12 years 57.8 (55.6-60.0) 72.1 (67.3-76.9) Income (% Federal Poverty Level (FPL)) Less than 200% FPL 48.9 (46.6-51.1) 30.5 (25.4-35.7) 200% FPL or greater 51.1 (48.9-53.4) 69.5 (64.3-74.6) Public program participation (income <200% FPL) Medi-Cal 48.1 (44.3-51.9 35.0 (26.8-43.2) Food Stamps 39.2 (35.7-42.7) 30.2 (21.4-38.9) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (b) Race/Ethnicity Hispanic 50.9 (48.7-53.0) 31.9 (27.2-36.5) White, non-Hispanic 28.9 (27.0-30.7) 44.8 (39.7-49.9) Asian 13.4 (11.9-14.8) 18.7 (14.9-22.4) African-American 5.0 (4.1-5.8) 1.8 (0.8-2.7) Other 2.0 (1.4-2.5) 2.9 (1.3-4.6) Citizenship status U.S.-born citizen 54.0 (51.8-56.2) 61.8 (56.5-67.0) Naturalized citizen 16.5 (14.8-18.3) 17.9 (14.3-21.5) Non-citizen (green card and 29.5 (27.5-31.5) 20.4 (15.8-24.9) no green card) Language(s) spoken in the home English only 38.0 (35.9-40.1) 52.0 (46.6-57.3) Spanish only 14.9 (13.3-16.4) 7.7 (4.3-11.0) Other language only 6.6 (5.3-7.8) 6.0 (3.6-8.5) English & Spanish 30.3 (28.2-32.4) 19.1 (15.2-23.1 English & other language 10.3 (8.9-11.7) 15.2 (11.7-18.7) Neighborhood cohesion How often feel safe in neighborhood All of the time 41.7 (39.5-44.0) 47.4 (42.7-52.1) Most of the time 39.4 (37.1-41.6) 43.2 (38.2-48.2) Some/None of the time 18.9 (17.1-20.7) 9.4 (5.6-13.1) Neighbors help each other Strongly Agree/Agree 77.0 (74.8-79.2) 84.6 (80.6-88.6) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 23.0 (20.6-25.2) 15.4 (11.4-19.4) Neighbors can be trusted Strongly Agree/Agree 75.2 (73.1-77.3) 83.9 (79.8-87.9) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 24.8 (22.7-26.9) 16.1 (12.1-20.2) Neighbors watch out that children are safe and don't get into trouble Strongly Agree/Agree 76.5 (74.5-78.6) 86.3 (82.5-90.1) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 23.5 (21.4-25.6) 13.7 (9.9-17.5) Civic engagement, past 12 months Volunteer/community service 34.8 (32.6-36.9) 45.3 (39.8-50.7) Meet informally to address 13.8 (12.2-15.4) 14.7 (11.7-17.7) community problems Volunteer in organization 9.8 (8.5-11.0) 10.9 (8.5-13.3) addressing community problems Rural Characteristics (n=1,133) % (95% CI) Marital status Married/living with partner 86.6 (83.6-89.5) Never married 9.34 (6.7-12.1) Widowed/divorced/separated 4.0 (2.7-5.4) Family size (mean) 4.0 (3.9-4.1) Education <12 years 19.5 (15.3-23.8) 12 years/GED 22.8 (18.8-26.8) >12 years 57.7 (52.6-62.9) Income (% Federal Poverty Level (FPL)) Less than 200% FPL 53.6 (48.6-58.7) 200% FPL or greater 46.4 (41.3-51.4) Public program participation (income <200% FPL) Medi-Cal 44.2 (37.5-50.8) Food Stamps 25.4 (20.1-30.6) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (b) Race/Ethnicity Hispanic 40.9 (35.8-46.0) White, non-Hispanic 46.4 (41.4-51.5) Asian 5.3 (2.7-7.9) African-American 2.5 (1.1-4.0) Other 4.8 (2.7-7.0) Citizenship status U.S.-born citizen 66.3 (61.3-71.2) Naturalized citizen 8.4 (5.8-10.9) Non-citizen (green card and 25.4 (20.7-30.0) no green card) Language(s) spoken in the home English only 55.1 (50.0-60.3) Spanish only 19.5 (14.9-24.1) Other language only 1.9 (0.6-3.1) English & Spanish 18.3 (14.2-22.4) English & other language 5.2 (2.8-7.6) Neighborhood cohesion How often feel safe in neighborhood All of the time 54.8 (49.7-59.9) Most of the time 34.6 (29.7-39.5) Some/None of the time 10.7 (7.3-14.0) Neighbors help each other Strongly Agree/Agree 84.3 (80.7-87.5) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 15.7 (12.1-19.3) Neighbors can be trusted Strongly Agree/Agree 83.8 (80.2-87.3) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 16.3 (12.7-19.8) Neighbors watch out that children are safe and don't get into trouble Strongly Agree/Agree 86.4 (82.9-89.8) Disagree/Strongly Disagree 13.6 (10.2-17.1) Civic engagement, past 12 months Volunteer/community service 38.9 (34.0-43.8) Meet informally to address 15.0 (11.5-18.6) community problems Volunteer in organization 12.0 (9.0-15.0) addressing community problems (a) Estimates are weighted to represent the California Population and adjusted for survey design effects. (b) Female respondents with income below 200 percent FPL and children age 0-5 years CI = confidence interval
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|Author:||Holtby, Sue; Lordi, Nicole; Park, Royce; Ponce, Ninez A.|
|Publication:||American Journal of Medical Research|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2017|
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