Black and White Kids More Likely to Avoid Poverty and Incarceration in Two-Parent Families

New Report by the Institute for Family Studies

Charlottesville, Virginia, June 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --
June 17, 2021

(Charlottesville, VA)—A new report from the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) finds that black and white children do better when they are raised in stable, two-parent families. The report is authored by IFS senior fellow Brad Wilcox, IFS research director Wendy Wang, and American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Ian Rowe.

“What the data indicate is that kids of all races are more likely to rise academically, economically and otherwise if they are raised in strong and stable families most frequently characterized by two parents,” said report co-author Rowe, who is CEO of Vertex Partnership Academies.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Black and white children are three times more likely to be poor and almost twice as likely to end up in prison if they are from a single-parent family, compared to a stable, two-parent family. They are almost twice as likely to graduate from college if raised in a stable two-parent family, compared to a single-parent family.
  • Black children do better than white children when it comes to poverty, prison, and college when they are raised in intact, two-parent home and white children are raised in a single-parent family. Specifically:
    • 36% of young black women from intact, two-parent families have graduated from college compared to just 28% of young white women from single-parent families.
    • 14% of young black men from intact, two-parent families have been incarcerated, compared to 18% of young white men from single-parent families.
  • The association between family structure and child outcomes is similar across racial lines for poverty and prison. But the association between graduating from college and family structure is more modest for black young adults than white young adults.

“As Father’s Day approaches, we set out to investigate the value of stable, two-parent families,” said Brad Wilcox, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and senior fellow at IFS. “We find that young adults who grew up in a stable home are significantly more likely to graduate from college and avoid incarceration compared to young adults in a non-intact family. In most cases, stable families have a father. This suggests having a dad in the home on a day-in-day-out basis is of real value to the average American kid regardless of their race.”

Finally, the report authors acknowledge that family structure is not a cure-all for the challenges facing black children in America. Wang noted, “whites are more advantaged within each family structure category,” which indicates “a stable two-parent family is not a panacea” when it comes to addressing racial inequalities in America.

Download the full report here.

For an interview with one of the authors, please contact Michael Toscano at


College or Prison for Black Young Adults, by Family Structure

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