Research Areas

Children, Youth, and Families

The Children, Youth, and Families primary research area grew out of Columbia’s outstanding portfolio of research on all phases of the life course—from fetal development through early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, as well as on overarching family patterns and processes. A particular strength of our work is its developmental perspective, emphasizing the ways in which experiences at one phase of the life course set the stage for effects and transitions at subsequent stages. In addition, our work pays special attention to inequalities and to those who may be particularly at risk, including the poor and under-represented minorities. Finally, consistent with CPRC’s overarching themes, we seek to understand not only how healthy development can be realized, but also how it can be fostered through appropriate public policies.

Integrating research from faculty in the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of Social Work, and the School of Arts and Sciences, the work of the Children, Youth, and Families group covers a wide range of topics, including:
  • prenatal influences on child and adult development, focusing on mental health (Ezra Susser), as well as economic outcomes (Douglas Almond)
  • the adverse impact of prenatal exposure to air pollutants and environmental hazards (Virginia Rauh)
  • the influence of family and neighborhood characteristics on child outcomes and the role of interventions such as IHDP and Early Head Start (Jeanne Brooks-Gunn)
  • work-family policies and child and family well-being (Jane Waldfogel and Wen-Jui Han)
  • teacher- and school-level influences on student achievement (Tom DiPrete)
  • identifying effective teachers (Jonah Rockoff)
  • the costs of inadequate education (Hank Levin)
  • household bargaining and family relationships (Pierre-Andre Chiappori)
  • the capabilities, relationships, and resources of unmarried couples with children and the effects of all these on child well-being (Irv Garfinkel, Ron Mincy)
  • fundamental causes of SES differentials in health and mortality (Bruce Link and Jo Phelan)
  • effects of welfare and child support policies on child and family well-being (Irv Garfinkel, Neeraj Kaushal, Ron Mincy, Jane Waldfogel)
  • effects on children of war and civil strife (Neil Boothby)


Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Professor of Child Development and Education

Lena Edlund, Associate Professor of Economics 

Qin Gao, Professor of Social Work