Family Structure and the Reproduction of Inequality: A Decomposition Approach

Julia S. Goldberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Over the past fifty years, family patterns have become more diverse by social class, raising concerns about the role of family structure in the reproduction of inequality. The aim of the present study is to provide a direct test of the extent to which differences in family structure by social class explain class differences in children’s educational attainment at the population level. Using data from the NLSY97 and decomposition models, this study addresses whether differences in children’s educational attainment by parents’ social class are attributable to class differences in family structure, as well as how much of this “family structure effect” is due to class differences in family structure composition versus class differences in the association between family structure and children’s attainment. In doing so, this study sheds light on how the organization of family life serves to perpetuate and exacerbate economic inequality across generations.

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Presented in Session 67: Family Demography and Economic Inequality