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Kin Support of the Black Middle Class: Negotiating Need, Norms, and Class Background

Social Problems

In comparison to middle-class Whites, middle-class African Americans disproportionately provide financial support to their low-income family members. Evidence suggests that this practice is both essential for its low-income recipients and economically detrimental for Black middle-class givers. Scholars often oversimplify Black middle-class identity by describing kin support as motivated solely by racial identity. Gathering insight from 41 in-depth interviews, this article interrogates the conditions under which, despite their financial own vulnerability, middle-class Black families offer kin support. This study explores variations in Black middle-class racial ideology and observes how other dimensions of identity, such as class background, influence attitudes and decision-making towards family. This article demonstrates how socioeconomic background shapes the ways the Black middle class negotiates expectations of kin support and details three kin support approaches as either strategies for social mobility, tools reserved for short-term lending, or opportunities to repay unsettled childhood debts. This work contributes to our understanding of how the Black community deploys kin support, illuminates how the Black middle class makes sense of racial norms around giving, and centers class background in our intersectional understanding of identity.