By Mary Margaret Olohan
A study released Friday demonstrates a “clear connection” between incarceration for black young adults and family structures.
Children of all races are much more likely to go to college and to avoid both poverty and prison if they are raised in a two-parent family, a study conducted by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) found. Forty-eight percent of black children live in single parent homes, the study said, citing data from the March 2020 Current Population Survey, while 37% of black children live in homes headed by both their biological parents.
Black children and young adults from two parent families are more likely to flourish than white children and white young adults from single-parent families, the study found, and on average, black young adults from families with both a mother and father are “more likely to be flourishing educationally than black young adults from non-intact homes.”
The most striking pattern in our new study:
Black children from intact, two-parent families *do better* than white children from single-parent families when it comes to poverty, prison, and college graduation. @WendyRWang @IanVRowe @FamStudies https://t.co/FhUgAtJI8m pic.twitter.com/LHKAVkJ7kB
— Brad Wilcox (@BradWilcoxIFS) June 18, 2021
The study was conducted by Brad Wilcox, a senior IFS fellow and director of the National Marriage Project; IFS director of research Wendy Wang; and American Enterprise Institute fellow Ian Rowe. The study drew on data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2015-2019 Five Year Estimates and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997 cohort).
Compared to peers from homes with two biological parents, black young adults who grew up in a home with only one parent are around 1.8 times more likely, by their late twenties, to have spent time in prison or jail, according to the study. Black young adults from stepfamilies are also more likely to have spent time in jail or prison, the study found.
“In a multivariate context with the same controls noted above, young black adults in non-intact homes have about two times the odds of having ever been incarcerated compared to their peers in intact homes,” the Institute for Family Studies researchers said.
Young black men from two-parent families that are intact are significantly more likely to graduate college than peers who are raised by a single parent or a stepfamily are and significantly less likely to be incarcerated.
This pattern was also seen among young black women: “More than one-third of young black women (36%) from intact families have had a college degree by their late twenties; the share among black women raised by single parents is 18% and among stepfamilies is 25%.”
The researchers emphasized that these findings demonstrate that “children are significantly more likely to avoid poverty and prison, and to graduate from college, if they are raised in an intact two-parent family.”
“In sum, it is no ‘myth’ to point out that boys and girls are more likely to flourish today in America if they are raised in a stable, two-parent home,” the study stated. “It is simply the truth that white and black children usually do better when raised by their own mother and father, compared to single-parent and stepfamilies. Our results, then, also suggest the fraying fabric of American family life, where more kids grow up apart from one of their two parents — usually their own father — is an ‘equal opportunity tsunami,’ posing obstacles to the healthy development of children from all backgrounds.”
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