, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 75-90

Understanding racial differences in the economic costs of growing up in a single-parent family

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This article examines whether the economic consequences of growing up in a single-parent family differ for black children and white children. It is important to understand whether the costs differ across racial groups because although much of the rhetoric about poor single-parent families focuses on inner-city blacks, most children who live in such families are white. If the costs of living with only one parent vary across groups, then policies that are aimed at reducing the costs that do not acknowledge this variation will not target resources efficiently. We found that the economic costs of living with a single parent are larger for black children than for white children. Most of the discrepancy can be attributed to differences in remarriage rates, marital stability, welfare participation, and female labor supply.

The authors are grateful to Tom DeLeire, Susan Mayer, and seminar participants at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the Joint Center for Poverty Research, National Bureau of Economic Research, Syracuse University, University of British Columbia, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, and University of Wisconsin for their helpful comments. Much of the work on this project was completed while Marianne Page was a Visiting Scholar at the Joint Center for Poverty Research.