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Are the Benefits of Economic Resources for Socioemotional Functioning Shared across Racial/Ethnic Groups?

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Growth in economic disparities, economic segregation, and racial/ethnic diversity have occurred in tandem in the U.S., leading to essential questions concerning whether the benefits of economic resources are shared across diverse groups. Analyzing a sample of eighth grade early adolescents (age 14 years) drawn from the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (N = 7625; 59% White, 12% Black, 19% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 2% Native American, and 2% multiracial; 47% female), lagged regression models assessed links between family, neighborhood, and school income and adolescent emotional and behavioral functioning. The results found that family income was associated with heightened emotional and behavioral functioning, and school income with improved behavioral functioning for White adolescents, whereas no benefits emerged for Black or Hispanic youth. In contrast, mixed associations emerged between income and early adolescent functioning for Asian and American Indian youth, with predominantly negative links appearing for multiracial youth. These patterns highlight diversity in the potential benefits and costs of economic resources, and suggest the need to better specify mechanisms through which economic disparities affect youth from varied backgrounds.

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Authors’ Contributions

R.L.C. developed the idea for the study, led methodological decision-making and interpretation of the data, and contributed to the drafting of the manuscript. B.S. participated in study development and design, performed the statistical analyses, contributed to data interpretation, and participated in manuscript preparation. J.S. participated in study development and design, and contributed to methodological decision-making, data interpretation, and the drafting of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The data analyzed in the current study were drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (ECLS-K) study public-use files which can be accessed from the National Center for Education Statistics.


This work was supported in part with a grant from the National Science Foundation (1650035) to the first author.

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Correspondence to Rebekah Levine Coley.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Coley, R.L., Spielvogel, B. & Sims, J. Are the Benefits of Economic Resources for Socioemotional Functioning Shared across Racial/Ethnic Groups?. J Youth Adolescence 47, 2503–2520 (2018).

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  • Income inequality
  • Poverty
  • Neighborhoods
  • Schools
  • Socioemotional functioning