Social Capital

A Big Idea for 2012: Two-Generation Strategies for Struggling Families

February 14, 2012  • Anne Mosle

The Aspen Institute’s Ascend program is based on a simple but critical idea: that a powerful way to help struggling families move beyond poverty is through a “two-generation” strategy, which addresses the needs of and opportunities for parents and children together. We believe educational success is core to achieving economic security. Over the last year, Ascend has landscaped, listened to, and learned from the field, including:

  • focus groups with low-income parents;
  • analysis of Census data using a two-generation lens;
  • national roundtables on applying two-generation strategies to programs, policies, systems, and research;
  • and learning trips to visit promising programs.

For Ascend, this research has illuminated both emerging and established leaders who are working across sectors – in very different roles and capacities – with a clear common purpose: they are each committed to advancing the educational success and economic security of parents and children together. On the one hand, the economic context for many American families looks grim:

  • Unemployment has remained high, exacerbating conditions for families who were already poor or low-income before the 2008 recession.
  • Nearly three-fourths of children living in single-mother families are low-income, compared to just under one-third of children living in married-couple families.
  • Low levels of educational attainment and poverty are strongly correlated. Only 10 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree are poor. More than 30 percent of those with a high school diploma or less are poor.

Yet, I am a firm believer in the notion that out of challenges great innovation and opportunity can emerge. The time is ripe for bold approaches to addressing poverty that foster new collaborations across sectors. I am thrilled to share the 20 extraordinary women and men who emerged over the last year as dynamic leaders who live the values, goals, and aspirations of Ascend’s “Two Generations, One Future,” approach. Learn more about the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute’s Ascend Fellowship.

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