The Growing Difference in Family Structure: What Do We Know? Where Do We Look for Answers?

Publication Date:
Jan 2001
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

This paper is an attempt to summarize what we know about changing family structure and why these changes appear to have occurred differentially. The changing family patterns have proven to be one of the greatest challenges and frustrations for social scientists. While differential changes by education per se have not been the focus of much literature, altered family structure patterns have preoccupied some of the nations best theorists, including Gary Becker and William Julius Wilson. Yet there is no generally accepted story about why single parenthood became more common or why trends differ across education and race. The most widely cited empirical works may be those that disprove rather than support one or another popular explanation. It is only a little unfair to say that social scientists have done as good a job in proving that nothing caused families to change as they have in finding something that did.


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