Past Research: Professor Waldfogel has published widely on topics related to children, youth, and families. Her dissertation, and several subsequent publications, examined the effect of children on women’s pay in the U.S., the U.K., and across many industrialized countries. This work established that, although the gender gap in pay between men and women has narrowed, a sizable “family gap” in pay between mothers and other women remains. These publications also documented the role of job-protected maternity leave in promoting women’s employment and earnings, again in both the U.S. and other countries. A FIRST award from NICHD provided support for Waldfogel to study a second major topic area, focusing on the effects of parental employment and child care on child outcomes. In a series of studies, Waldfogel and her collaborators found that children have poorer cognitive and behavioral outcomes if their mothers work full-time in the first year of life and that these effects often persist into the school-age years. Waldfogel’s work also showed that when mothers work early in the first year (by 3 months), children are less likely to be breastfed, to be fully immunized, and to receive well-baby visits. A third area of interest for Waldfogel has been child welfare policy and social policy more generally. A former child protective services worker and policymaker, Waldfogel has written extensively about child protection and the child welfare system, as well as welfare and child support.
Present Research: Waldfogel’s current research includes a five-year NICHD-funded study of work-family policies and child and family well-being. The focus of this study is how public policies affect parental employment and care arrangements for children, and how these, in turn, affect outcomes for children, youth, and families. Through this project, Waldfogel and collaborators are using data from the CPS to trace the effects of public policies on parental employment decisions in the months surrounding a birth. They are also using data from the ECLS-B (and the U.K. counterpart, the Millennium Cohort Study) to examine paternity leave-taking and its impact on father involvement. Waldfogel is also a co-investigator on the NICHD-funded Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study. She was a member of the team that designed and implemented the in-home study of child abuse and neglect, as well as the in-home assessment of children. Her work with the Fragile Families data to date includes studies of income and child development, and the effects of parental employment on child cognition and behavior. She is currently using Fragile Families data from birth to age 5 to analyze the predictors of sub-standard parenting and of involvement with child protective services.
Future Research: In recent years, Waldfogel’s work has increasingly focused on the effects of early childhood care and education policies on child outcomes. Her work has established that children who attend preschool have higher levels of school readiness, with particularly large effects for disadvantaged children and children of immigrants. In future work, she plans to study how school contexts affect the persistence of those gains and inequality of educational achievement, looking at factors such as class size, time spent on instruction, and teaching modality (small group or individual versus large group). She also plans to extend her work on the effects of parental employment and care arrangements to examine school-age children and youth. Finally, a newer area of focus for Waldfogel is children of immigrants. She has published several papers related to children of immigrants already and in future work is particularly interested in studying how children of immigrants fare in school using data from longitudinal studies of children in the U.S. and the U.K., as well as several cross-national datasets.
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