Journal Article

The family safety net of Black and White multigenerational families

The family transmits socioeconomic advantage or disadvantage across generations. One mechanism of transmission is serving as a safety net for individuals experiencing economic hardship. The “family” extends beyond nuclear kin to include multigenerational ties. Black-White differences in fertility, mortality, marriage, and socioeconomic resources suggest their safety nets differ in structure and effectiveness. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine race differences in kin availability and the socioeconomic resources of multigenerational families. We find similarity in the number of vertical ties across generations, but substantial differences in resources. Black Americans have greater contemporaneous economic instability across generations than Whites, are less likely to have kin with socioeconomic resources to draw on when one family member experiences hardship, and may face greater demands to help relatives in need. These findings demonstrate that Blacks’ socioeconomic disadvantage is exacerbated by the lack of resources in their kin networks rather than differential kin availability.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.