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Regional Origin and Family Stability in Northern Cities: The Role of Context
Stewart E. Tolnay and Kyle D. Crowder
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 1 (Feb., 1999), pp. 97-112
Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657280
Page Count: 16
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Contradicting earlier studies, some research suggests that families of black southern migrants to northern cities experienced more stability (e.g., children living with two parents) than did the families of their northern-born neighbors. Adequate explanations for this "migrant advantage" in family stability have remained elusive. We examine the effects of metropolitan-level distress on urban black family patterns and explore whether group differences in exposure to these contextual conditions can explain the greater stability of migrant families. A multilevel analysis of the living arrangements of 0- to 14-year-old children is conducted using 1970 data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) and the 1970 Summary Statistic File Fourth Count. Several metropolitan-level characteristics, including poverty, male underemployment, female headship, and welfare prevalence, have significant effects on whether a child lives with two parents. Interestingly, the migrant advantage is not attenuated when these variables are controlled. Supplemental analyses show that migrants are not positively selected for family stability from the southern population, and that their family structures grow more similar to those of the northern-born as their length of residence outside of the South increases. We conclude that context does play a role in the migrant advantage in family stability, but that the advantage is likely to be the result of a northern "disadvantage" resulting from prolonged exposure to a social environment that destabilizes families.
American Sociological Review © 1999 American Sociological Association