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Community development strategies to strengthen families

Community development and financial security strategies can improve access to employment, increase financial stability, and foster greater family wealth building.

Children raised in financially stable families see better outcomes at every life stage.

How can community development strategies impact family well-being?

Financial security is essential to family well-being. 1

Financial instability can create material hardship, increasing the likelihood of families having trouble paying for essentials like rent, utilities, medical care, and adequate nutrition. It can also cause higher levels of stress for low-income families, leading to higher rates of divorce or separation and negatively impacting parent-child relationships.

Children in financially secure families tend to experience better academic and social outcomes. 2

Experiencing material hardship negatively affects children’s social-emotional, cognitive, and academic outcomes. Young children are more affected by experiencing material hardship than other age groups. Children from low-income families are more likely to fail courses, experience grade retention, receive special education services, drop out of high school, and experience poor health outcomes as adults.

Access to adequate nutrition is critical for children’s development. 3

Children who experience food insecurity have higher rates of school absenteeism, are more than twice as likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, have lower reading and math scores by third grade, and more likely to experience negative health outcomes.

Family assets create a “psychological buffer” from economic instability. 4

During an economically stressful event (like losing a job), the possession of assets has been shown to reduce the sense of family strain and mediate the experience of toxic stress.

Categories of successful interventions

  • Financial literacy programs: Educational programs that focus on budgeting, bank use, credit management, and other personal finance topics
  • Financial navigators: Trained professionals who help individuals and families with financial decisions
  • Safe and secure banking: Initiatives that ensure residents have access to a safe, affordable bank account

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level
Alcohol outlet density restrictions Policy
  • Community health programs
  • Substance use prevention programs
Proven (highest tier)
Bike and pedestrian master plans Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Strong (second-highest tier)
Community fitness programs Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier)
Community gardens Strategy
  • Built environment improvements
  • Community health programs
  • Nutrition programs
Strong (second-highest tier)
Community-based social support for physical activity Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier)
Competitive pricing for healthy foods Policy
  • Health-related financial incentives
  • Nutrition programs
Proven (highest tier)
Complete streets and streetscape design initiatives Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Proven (highest tier)
Farmers markets Strategy
  • Community health programs
  • Nutrition programs
Strong (second-highest tier)
Financial Empowerment Centers Strategy
  • Financial navigators
Promising (Third-highest tier)
Financial literacy programs Strategy
  • Financial literacy programs
Promising (Third-highest tier)
Fruit and vegetable incentive programs Strategy
  • Health-related financial incentives
  • Nutrition programs
Proven (highest tier)
Green space and parks Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Strong (second-highest tier)
Healthy home environment assessments Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Housing rehabilitation loan and grant programs Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Inclusionary zoning policies Policy
  • Affordable housing creation and preservation
Strong (second-highest tier)
Individual incentives for public transportation Policy
  • Transportation access
Strong (second-highest tier)
Lead paint abatement programs Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Places for physical activity Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Proven (highest tier)