Overview: Family Opportunity Project


In the United States today, the majority of families—80.3 percent in 2015—have at least one member who works. Despite their efforts, however, many of these families face significant challenges to achieving economic stability. This has consequences not only for these families but for society as a whole.

Being able to weather unexpected emergencies, plan for retirement and afford higher education are critical steps to ensure the long-term success of families. Building economic stability helps working families to manage unforeseen events such as a health crisis or a car repair and achieve long-term goals such as higher education, homeownership and secure retirement.

“The downturn has hurt families. More are out of work or are having trouble scraping by, and this puts a stress on the state budget as people end up on public welfare rolls. So if we can be proactive and help families succeed and become more independent from the get-go, it helps everyone,” says Senator Joe Bolkcom, Iowa Senate Majority Whip.

As a legislator, you are in a unique position to support the efforts of families to achieve economic security in your district and throughout your state. You are, first and foremost, a policymaker. You are also a community leader. As such, you are uniquely placed to understand and act upon issues at a local level, including forging partnerships with others as they strive to improve the prospects of families.  Your efforts will not only help families, they will benefit your entire state.

Legislators across the country have teamed up with their colleagues, members of the faith community, the private sector and other community groups to create opportunities for families in their states and districts.

Did you know?

  • Although many people are returning to work following the 2008 economic downturn, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security than the jobs they held before.
  • Today’s workers often need to have postsecondary education or credentials in order to compete for middle-class jobs.  By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require education or training beyond high school.
  • The median rent for a two-bedroom unit in the United States is $900 a month.
  • On average, child care expenses for two children in a child care center is more than the median  cost of rent.
  • Employee absenteeism as the result of child care breakdowns costs U.S. businesses $3 billion annually.
  • A person with a college degree earns about twice as much—an extra $25,000 annually—as someone with only a high school diploma.
  • More than 38 million working families—45 percent—do not own any retirement account assets.
  •  Of all families in the United States, 18.1 percent have a zero or negative net worth.
  • Half of all Americans cannot get $2,000 in 30 days, leaving them financially unprepared and more likely to accumulate debt when faced with unexpected expenses like major car repairs or emergency hospital visits.

Additional Resources

Refer to this website for information about state legislative actions that lay the groundwork for families to succeed.