Please join us for a talk being given by Christina Cross from the University of Michigan.
Square Pegs in Round Holes: Extended Family Households Among Children in the United States
Decades of research have shown that children fare better on a wide array of outcomes when they are raised in a two-parent nuclear family. While informative, this research typically overlooks the experiences of millions of children, particularly those from minority and/or low-income households for whom coresidence with extended relatives may be crucial for survival. This lack of attention to the potential influence of extended relatives on child wellbeing limits our ability to fully understand the ways in which family structure impacts children’s daily experiences and future life chances, and how it may operate differently across racial and class lines. Drawing on nationally representative data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (N=4,484), this study examines the prevalence and predictors of extended family households among children in the U.S. and explores variation by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES). It also investigates the association between extended family coresidence and one important indicator of children’s future life chances: educational attainment. I find that contrary to popular academic and policy perceptions, extended family households are a fairly common living arrangement for children, and differences by race/ethnicity and SES are striking. Economic capacities and family needs are key predictors of extended family coresidence and living in an extended family is associated with children’s educational attainment. Overall, findings suggest that the two-parent nuclear family model does not fit all families, particularly those minority and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.