Top Ten Policies to Lift Parents and Children Together out Of Poverty Released by Ascend at Aspen Institute

October 8, 2014

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Ascend at the Aspen Institute
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Top Ten Policies to Lift Parents and Children Together out Of Poverty Released by Ascend at Aspen Institute  

89 percent of Americans favor two-generation programs to raise families out of poverty, and 70 percent would strongly favor the approach even if their own taxes were increased

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Washington, DC, October 8, 2014 – Federal and state policymakers can pursue ten effective policies immediately to help parents and children break out of the cycle of poverty, according to a new report by Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

These policies are strongly supported by the American public according to a 2014 national poll by Lake Research Partners. They focus on “two-generation approaches,” which work with parents and children together rather than in isolation. Pioneering communities across the country are using these strategies to boost their efforts on behalf of low-income families.

According to the poll, 89 percent of Americans favor two-generation program to raise families out of poverty, and 70 percent would strongly favor the approach even if their own taxes were increased. Moreover, support for the ten policies cuts across party lines, gender, race and geography.

“We can begin using these policies today, within current programs and existing resources,” said Anne Mosle, vice president at the Aspen Institute. “While legislative and regulatory changes are sometimes necessary, these policy changes show how we can immediately provide stronger support for families by adjusting our programs to meet the needs of parents and children together.”

The report, Top 10 for 2-Gen, outlines six principles and ten specific policies to guide the design and use of two-generation approaches. The recommendations span early education, post-secondary education, economic assets and health and well-being. Informed by a growing field of innovative practitioners and policymakers, the policies work within the existing legislative and funding landscape rather than seeking new funding or legislation.

The recommendations include:

  • strengthening family and parent supports in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs;
  • increasing support for economic security outcomes in home visiting programs;
  • reforming financial aid programs to better help enrolled student parents; and
  • redesigning Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for 21st century families; and
  • leveraging provisions in the Affordable Care Act for family health and economic security.

Organizations and leaders nationwide are already using the two-generation approach to attack intergenerational poverty. On the frontline of that movement is the Aspen Institute Ascend Network, made up of 58 leading organizations from 24 states and the District of Columbia. They range from community colleges seeking to better serve student parents and their children, to early childhood centers engaging parents in pathways to employment, to two-generation partnerships spearheaded by Promise Neighborhoods, United Way and women’s foundations.

Some Western pioneer states – Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Washington – are on the leading edge of two-generation policies. In Colorado, for example, the Department of Human Services is developing an approach to employment for both custodial and non-custodial parents, increasing college savings options for low-income children, and expanding the percentage of low-income children in high-quality early education.

“Our job in Colorado is to make it easier for programs and communities to implement effective two-generation practices and also drive opportunities to more effectively assist families in obtaining economic security.” said Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services. “The big bang that we get from a two-generation approach is blending together the strengths of our multiple programs, braiding them in a way that serves the whole family.”

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move vulnerable children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. We take a two-generation approach to our work – focusing on children and their parents together. We bring a gender and a racial equity lens to our analysis. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

National Poll: Lake Research Partners conducted a survey of 1,005 adults 18 years of age and older in the continental United States on September 18-21, 2014 by telephone using professional interviewers, including 40 percent reached on a cell phone. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.


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