Families and Households

We have investigated the issues affecting Australian families for nearly two decades. Our work helps to reduce inequality and equip families to make positive decisions for their long-term prosperity.

Sound and impactful investment in families is of fundamental concern to the Australian Government. Family plays a crucial role in community, society and the economy, with parents being the most important influence on a child’s long-term development and lifelong economic contribution.

At the Melbourne Institute, we work with partners, including the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services,  to address important issues such as deep and persistent intergenerational disadvantage, homelessness and the impact of economic and social policy on family decision-making.

Much of our research in this area is informed by our Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey – a longitudinal panel study that has collected valuable information about family life, wellbeing and economics since 2001.

Latest publications

Our research focus

  • Families experiencing poverty and disadvantage

    Our research informs the development of efficient and appropriate policies that aim to reduce inequality, limit the time families spend in vulnerable situations and break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage. Our goal is to help establish a welfare system that reduces the risk of welfare dependency and maintains a strong welfare safety net.

    The Melbourne Institute is part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (the Life Course Centre), a nationwide initiative studying deep and persistent disadvantage in Australian families.

  • Household economics, decision-making and wellbeing

    Our research probes issues related to economic decision-making within households, investigating the effect of policy decisions on families’ financial outcomes and wellbeing. We provide policy-relevant insights to government departments and financial institutions on matters including:

    • Paid parental leave, mothers’ return to work after childbearing and the impact this has on long-term outcomes for mothers and children
    • Decision-making and the division of labour in various types of families
    • Female labour force participation, including participation in low-paid work and the gender pay gap
    • Income support, including the impact it has on children and youth
    • Childcare and early childhood education
    • Financial wellbeing in adults and children
    • The effect of parental behaviour on children’s development.
  • Family formation and dissolution

    We’re investigating concerns related to the formation of families and significant life events such as childbearing, marriage, nest-leaving, and relationship breakdown and divorce. Our researchers are studying:

    • The effects of unstable employment on family formation
    • Teenage motherhood
    • Financial hardship following relationship breakdown
    • Changing attitudes towards marriage
    • The effects of divorce, relationship breakdown and parental feuds on children’s outcomes.
  • Housing and homelessness

    The Melbourne Institute has a long history of working with the Australian Government and community organisations to tackle issues related to housing and homelessness.

    Journeys Home: A Longitudinal Study of Factors Affecting Housing Stability was a national survey of Australians who were either homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless. Designed by our researchers at the Melbourne Institute, the survey collected information on the complexities of homelessness by tracking the same people over a two-and-a-half-year period. The findings from Journeys Home have assisted researchers, government agencies and community organisations in the development of strategies that aim to improve the circumstances of people facing living and housing challenges.

    Our researchers are currently working with Aboriginal Housing Victoria to investigate how the transfer of housing stock ownership from the government to a private, Aboriginal community organisation is affecting tenant wellbeing and housing quality.

    We’re also leading an evaluation of the Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW strategy for the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice. This work will assess whether the strategy provides better opportunities for people to achieve housing independence, while also optimising the experience of those unable to live in private housing.

Program Details


Program Coordinator: Professor Mark Wooden

Research staff

Partnerships and Funding

This program is funded through grants and research contracts provided by a variety of sources, including the ARC. The Melbourne Institute is part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (the Life Course Centre), a nationwide initiative studying deep and persistent disadvantage in Australian families.


Working Papers

Research Insights