Race and ethnicity are significant factors in measuring family stability, but family stability within racial groups varied depending on the partisan political ideologies where they lived, researchers have found.
This new research, from W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Zill and released by Family Studies, came after other data found that “the reddest and bluest states in America are most likely to provide today’s teens with the kind of stable, married family life that fosters optimal child outcomes,” according to the study authors.
Most recently, Wilcox and Zill looked at their data to answer two questions: How does family stability in America vary by race and ethnicity? Does the red-state/blue-state pattern in family stability play out similarly or differently for whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans?
Results found that teens in Asian-American families are the most likely, at 65 percent, to live with their married biological parents. Of white teenagers, 54 percent live with their married biological parents, while 41 percent of Hispanic and 17 percent of African-American teens do.
“Family stability in America clearly varies by race and ethnicity,” the study authors wrote.
However, the red-state/blue-state effect is not the same for each racial group in the U.S. For white teens, the majority in the U.S., it is more likely they will live in more stable homes when living in the reddest (most conservative) or bluest (most liberal) states, Zill and Wilcox reported. The situation is similar for black teens living in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington, which all count as blue states.
“Surprisingly, the link between family stability and Red State Index score is strongest among Hispanics. That is, political ideology explains more state-to-state variance in family stability levels for Hispanics than for any other racial group,” the authors wrote. “Hispanic teens in very blue states are considerably less likely to have grown up with their continuously married birth parents than their counterparts in redder states.”
Further research involving the factors of race and ethnicity took place after Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, who wrote “Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture,” criticized an analysis of Wilcox’s and Zill’s findings by David Leonhardt.
Leonhardt wrote in The Upshot that two-parent families are connected to upward mobility, reporting that high income and religion are the factors that produce these two-parent families.
“There are two problems with these single-minded linkages,” wrote Cahn and Carbone for Concurring Opinions. “First, the geographic analysis of two-parent families and the connection to social mobility is meaningless without taking race into account.”
The second problem is a chart in Leonhardt’s column, showing the area with the least social mobility and some of the highest rates of single parenthood, that runs right through an area in the South heavily populated with African-Americans, Cahn and Carbone wrote.
“These communities are as notable for their high rates of poverty, segregation and isolation. There is sophisticated demographic analysis underlying these figures, but … (Leonhardt) largely dismisses the influence of racial factors, particularly their role in compounding the effects of poverty and isolation, as ‘hardly the only explanation,’ while most observers would make it a critical part of the explanation,” they wrote.
Though there were differences when race and ethnicity was taken into account, “teens’ chances of enjoying a stable family are also shaped by education levels and by culture. That means American children — including white and black children — are most likely to grow up in an intact, married home in the bluest and reddest states in America,” Zill and Wilcox wrote.
Their report of the research also includes charts for the percentage of teens of each racial group that are in two-parent homes, by state.