A new survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that most parents and caregivers in the United States are optimistic about their children’s futures, but see clear barriers to helping them grow up to be independent, financially stable and healthy.
The survey, “Raising the Next Generation: Research with Parents and Caregivers,” explores themes of parents’ optimism for the future, their feelings about parenting, their feelings about their communities and experiences with racism and discrimination, as well as how these factors support or hinder their child’s ability to thrive. Parents and caregivers from five different racial and ethnic groups were surveyed: Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous, Latino and White.
“The findings emphasize that parents and caregivers from all backgrounds share common hopes, and draw on many strengths to raise their families, but it’s clear that hard work alone is not enough,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, a managing director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The caregivers we listened to have experienced many gaps in the opportunities their children have to thrive. That’s an extraordinary burden to carry, especially in these times.”
While at least 90% of parents from each racial and ethnic group were optimistic that their child will experience more opportunity to succeed and thrive than they had, they are clear-eyed about long-standing barriers to opportunity they and their families face. Very few, from 9% of Black parents to 27% of Latino parents, say that all children have the same opportunity to grow up to be independent, financially stable and healthy adults. Indeed, the majority of respondents, from 68% of white parents to 94% of Black parents, worry that America does not offer the same opportunities to all children, despite their own best efforts to help their child succeed.
For parents of color, many of these broader concerns are undergirded by worries about racism. Many parents of color, from 49% of Latino parents to 73% of Black parents, think that racism or discrimination will limit their child’s opportunities to get a quality education, go to college or get a good job as an adult.
Despite these systemic challenges, parents feel that they possess certain qualities that can help their families overcome obstacles, with a majority of parents valuing a strong work ethic, creativity in problem solving and simply feeling they have the power to change their situation. At the same time, the belief that there should be a strong safety net for families when they fall on hard times is nearly universal among parents and caregivers. Over 80% of respondents from each racial and ethnic group think that government policies such as paid family leave, health care, housing and tax credits play an important role in helping families raise children.
To learn more and for full survey findings, visit www.everyfamilyforward.org.
“The health of our nation depends on the health and well-being of our children and families. We need to take down the systemic barriers that limit opportunities and hold our country back, and advance programs and policies that allow all families to thrive,” Ng’andu said.