"One of the biggest determinants of the outcomes of any individual is their level of education and income," says Teresa Eckrich Sommer, a research associate professor at Northwestern University. Unlike many human services programs that treat each member of a household individually, Sommer's research is focused on designing programs for families. This "two-generation" approach aims to improve human capital outcomes for parents and children simultaneously.
Sommer's current research pairs career support and workforce training for parents of low-income households with high-quality early education programs for their children through Head Start. "This kind of work tells us that you can really create changes within how services are delivered and that you can better coordinate and align them in ways that serve the interests of parents and children at the same time. And we know that is critically important to improving family wellbeing," she says.