Chris King Delivers Lecture at Washington University 

​Dr. Christopher King is a senior research scientist and Director of the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, as well as a lecturer at the University of Texas—Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he holds the Mike Hogg Professorship of Urban Management.

Dr. King’s lecture, entitled “The Promise of Two-Generation Anti-Poverty Strategies: Existing and Emerging Evidence,” proposed a framework to combat poverty and its negative consequences by supporting entire families, rather than parents or children separately. This “two-generation” approach is based upon a large body of research suggesting that child development is shaped by six major pathways: stress, parental education, health, income, employment, and asset development. Addressing the physical and mental health, education and skills training, and productivity of parents is therefore crucial to ensuring the wellbeing of children.

Dr. King discussed prior research showing that two-generation approaches implemented in the past have produced benefits through parenting education and childcare, workforce and postsecondary training, and employer engagement. There are now a number of two-generation initiatives in progress throughout the country including Tulsa’s CareerAdvance, 2-Gen Austin, and the Jeremiah Project in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Austin, TX, and Fargo, ND. 

Dr. King outlined a number of lessons learned from two-generation projects around the country. Underlying the approaches is the understanding that poor families are resilient and come with their own strengths and assets. However, many families face powerful barriers such as bad credit, criminal backgrounds, domestic violence, and chaotic everyday lives. Findings from two-generation programs show that simply referring families to services does not generally work; instead, engaged career coaches and peer supports are crucial. 

Overall, Dr. King concluded that there is reason for optimism but that work remains to be done. While there exists empirical consensus about which approaches work for parents and children independently, further research is needed on how to connect services to serve the whole family together. These programs tend to entail high upfront costs, but are likely to yield high returns over time.