Abstract

A substantial body of research has demonstrated links between poverty and family structure from one generation to the next, but has left open key questions about the implications of these associations for aggregate-level change. To what extent does intergenerational inheritance affect trends in poverty and single parenthood over time and, in particular, trends in the relative economic positions of single-parent and two-parent families? This article examines how patterns of intergenerational inheritance play out in the population over the long run, using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys and a model of population renewal that takes into account intergenerational mobility and differential fertility across groups that are defined by poverty status and family structure. Our results suggest that current rates of intergenerational inheritance have little effect on population change over time. They account for only a small share of the recent historical change in poverty and family structure and play no role in exacerbating existing economic disparities by family structure.

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