2Gen History: the United States
In the history of the U.S. social safety net, the 2Gen model has received varying degrees of investment and support, with the first implementation being the 1964 launch of Head Start. In the 1980s, many state- or locally-based 2Gen programs, often referred to as “Two-Generation 1.0,” focused on early childhood, with the occasional program providing adult education or job training. Another wave of programs was aimed at young mothers and their children to reduce long-term welfare participation. Yet results from these demonstration programs varied. The 1996 welfare reform act introduced stricter requirements for welfare recipients including workforce participation and the disincentivization of parental education.
Today, due to cross-sectorial investments and commitments, we are seeing a resurgence in 2Gen programs, “Two-Generation 2.0,” that build on the work from 1.0 to create stronger and more effective outcomes for families. 2Gen 2.0 programs are designed by looking at the data and engaging with families and communities to better align with or fill in the gaps of public programs. With the near stagnation of the percent of people below the federal poverty line, a number which has fluctuated only a few percentage points around the 14 percent mark over the past 40 years, it is evident that there are unmet needs. Programs are also using research findings today which show social and economic determinants for later life outcomes, to better work with underserved families and communities. A child’s race, gender, location, and caregiver education are some of the strongest predictors of the later-life socioeconomic outcomes. By looking across generations and races, ethnicities and genders, those on the ground have found that it is imperative to use the 2Gen lens in their work.