With the enactment of welfare reform in 1996, encouraging and supporting marriage became priorities for the federal government and the states. Research findings that children in married families generally fare better than those in single-parent families on measures of poverty, hardship, and well-being have provided the rationale for marriage promotion policies. In this brief, we examine racial and ethnic differences in children's living arrangements. We give special attention to racial and ethnic variation in the characteristics of single-parent households and the implications for child well-being. Current proposals to promote marriage, we suggest, may be too narrow to benefit most low-income black children, the group of children least likely to be living with two married parents. To analyze racial and ethnic variation in children's living arrangements, we use data from the 1997 and 2002 National Survey of America's Families (NSAF). Because marriage promotion efforts aim to increase the share of children living in married two-parent families, we classify children's living arrangements according to the number of biological or adoptive parents in the household and their marital status: (1) Married-parent families -- Children living with two biological parents who are married or two adoptive parents who are married, (2) Married-blended families -- Children living with a biological parent who is married to an adoptive parent or stepparent, or an adoptive parent who is married to a stepparent, (3) Cohabiting-parent families -- Children living with two unmarried biological parents or two unmarried adoptive parents, (4)Single-parent families -- Children living with one unmarried biological, step, or adoptive parent, or (5) No-parent families -- Children living independently or under foster or kinship care. (Author abstract)
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