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Family Structure, Race, and Wealth Ownership: A Longitudinal Exploration of Wealth Accumulation Processes

  • Lisa A. Keister
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    Researchers have documented racial inequalities in wealth ownership and have offered a variety of explanations to account for these differences. One potentially important contributing factor that has received little attention is racial differences in family structure. This paper explores racial differences in the structure of family of origin and family in adulthood and examines the impact of these differences on wealth accumulation patterns. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that large family size and family disruptions in childhood are negatively associated with wealth accumulation, portfolio behavior, and wealth mobility in adulthood. My analyses suggest that family size is a more important factor determining wealth accumulation for whites than for blacks or Hispanics and that family disruption is most strongly related to wealth outcomes for Hispanics. I find that family structure in adulthood is only modestly associated with overall wealth but strongly related to portfolio behavior and wealth mobility and that these relationships are relatively fixed across racial groups. My findings lend support to arguments about the importance of the role that resource dilution plays in determining life outcomes. They also suggest that efforts to reduce racial inequality in wealth ownership may be most effective if they seek to reduce the impact of deprivation early in life.

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    File URL: http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp304.pdf
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    Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_304.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2000
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    Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_304
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.levyinstitute.org

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    1. Long, James E & Caudill, Steven B, 1992. "Racial Differences in Homeownership and Housing Wealth, 1970-1986," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(1), pages 83-100, January.
    2. Zagorsky, Jay L, 1999. "Young Baby Boomers' Wealth," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 45(2), pages 135-56, June.
    3. Erik Hurst & Ming Ching Luoh & Frank P. Stafford, 1998. "The Wealth Dynamics of American Families, 1984-94," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 267-338.
    4. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2002. "The Transition To Home Ownership And The Black-White Wealth Gap," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 281-297, May.
    5. Francine D. Blau & John W. Graham, 1989. "Black-White Differences in Wealth and Asset Composition," NBER Working Papers 2898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Menchik, Paul L & Jianakoplos, Nancy Ammon, 1997. "Black-White Wealth Inequality: Is Inheritance the Reason?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 428-42, April.
    7. Arthur B. Kennickell & Martha Starr-McCluer & Annika E. Sunden, 1997. "Family finances in the U.S.: recent evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-24.
    8. Arthur B. Kennickell & Martha Starr-McCluer, 1994. "Changes in family finances from 1989 to 1992: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Oct, pages 861-882.
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