, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 569-587

The racial crossover in family complexity in the United States

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This article examines the evolution of the black extended family by documenting a black-white crossover in the proportions of unmarried adults living in complex households after the middle of the twentieth century. We demonstrate significant racial differences in the trends in complex household residence over the life course, characterized by far greater declines in complex living among whites, particularly at younger ages. In this context, the higher level of family extension that recent research has found typifies black families is both a relatively new phenomenon and one that is not just limited to single-parent families; it characterizes all ages, those with and without children, and men as well as women.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of Center Grant P30-HD28251 to the Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University, and Grant P50-HD12639 to the Labor and Population unit of RAND, both from the National Institutes for Child Health and Human Development. In addition, Dr. Bures acknowledges the support of NIA Training Grant T32-AG00243 to the University of Chicago. Thanks are also due to Irene Gravel, Ann Biddlecom, and James McNally, who helped to organize the data; our colleagues at Brown, particularly Calvin Goldscheider and Dennis Hogan; Steven Ruggles; and three anonymous reviewers.