Low-income fathers should be a part of the family policy equation. Men are able to financially contribute to their children's well-being and help lift them out of poverty in the short term. They also provide care and emotional supports that can improve children's life outcomes and help break the cycle of poverty in the long term. Unfortunately, far too many low-income men, and especially men of color, face barriers to playing these roles in their children's lives. They are disproportionately disconnected from some extremely vital domains, and that harms them, their children, and families more generally. These domains are examined in this paper and include: (1) Employment -- Shifts in the economy have decreased low-skilled workers' job opportunities and wages over the last couple of decades. This impairs some men's ability to financially support their children and families. The related financial stress drives wedges between family members; (2) Society -- More than 2 million people are in the nation's prisons, and these are mostly low-income men. Their absence deprives children and families of income and emotional connections. And even after fathers are released, families continue to experience such negative consequences as income-impairing employment barriers linked to criminal records and reconnecting emotionally after a long period apart. Fathers are more likely to recidivate if family disconnections persist; and (3) Housing -- Housing is unaffordable to the lowest-income workers throughout the United States. Spending a disproportionate amount of income on housing depletes resources families have available for other needs associated with childrearing. Low-income families are also at risk of housing instability, which often physically divides families and harms their relationships with one another. The paper also addresses Family violence and abuse, Substance abuse and mental health, and Relationship supports. Finally, it offers recommendations for how the Obama administration's proposed Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund should be used to help low-income families. (Author abstract modified)
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