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Family Stability: A Comparison of Trends between Blacks and Whites

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds, and Albert Hermalin. 1970. "Family Stability: A Comparison of Trends between Blacks and Whites." American Sociological Review, 36: 1-17.

From the 1890s to the present, writers have commented upon the instability of Negro family life. Most have observed that discrimination in the job and housing markets have made it difficult for black men to support their wives and children. As a result, desertion occurs commonly. Family stability has been of interest because of the belief that children who grow up apart from their parents will be adversely affected. Indeed, some investigations imply that being raised in a home which did not have both parents is linked to lower rates of achievement in school, higher rates of delinquency and lower occupational status. While commentators have discussed family stability, there has been little consensus as to how this concept should be measured. Moreover, there are only a few demographic indicators available for operationalizing this concept, particularly if one desires to study long-term trends or to compare blacks and whites. The major portion of this paper examines Negro and white trends on a number of indicators related to a specific definition of family stability. This study concludes that (1) the majority of both blacks and whites are in the statuses indicative of family stability. Contrary to the images which are sometimes portrayed, most black families are husband-wife families, and the majority of black children live with both parents. (2) In every comparison, the proportion of people in the status indicative of family stability is greater among whites than among blacks. (3) In recent years there have been changes in family status, although most of them have been small. Some changes suggest a trend toward greater stability while others indicate a trend in the opposite direction.


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