Poverty in the family: Race, siblings, and socioeconomic heterogeneity

Colleen M. Heflin*, Mary Pattillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to characterize siblings of middle class and poor blacks and whites, testing for racial differences in the probability of having a sibling on the other side of the socioeconomic divide. In support of theories in the urban poverty literature about the social isolation of poor blacks, we find that poor African-Americans are less likely to have a middle class sibling than poor whites, controlling for individual and family background factors. For the middle class, being black is positively correlated with the probability of having a poor sibling, challenging the notion that the black middle class is separated from the black poor, but supporting recent research on black middle class fragility. Overall, we find that African-Americans are less likely than whites to have siblings that cross important social class lines in ways that are beneficial. Racial differences in the composition of kin networks may indicate another dimension of racial stratification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-822
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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