Monday, May 07, 2007

Mixed-ethnicity Parents Invest More in their Children

So mixed-ethnicity (“biracial”) couples devote more time and money raising their children than parents of a single ethnicity according to a recent news story. They shell out for more private school, extracurricular activities, tutoring, trips to museums, and other educational and cultural opportunities. That's the major newsflash, the takeaway, the big print from researchers Simon Chen and Brian Powell report in the January issue of The American Journal of Sociology.

But that’s not quite it. Let’s look at the small print. First, mixed-ethnicity parents (e.g., white mother/black father) do not always out-spend, out-do, out-parent other parents. Sometimes they doled out just about the same, especially in the social (think touchy feely) arena. They didn’t spend any more time talking with their children. Nor did they provide more social interactions with other children and adults. Second, all mixed-ethnicity parents didn’t outdo all other parents. They did so in comparison to their single-ethnicity counterparts. So a Black/White couple might spend more than either a Black couple or a White couple.

So how to explain the findings? Cheng and Powell suggest that biracial parents are acting to bolster their children against the inherent obstacles they might face due to their mixed ethnicity. Sounds right, eh? Would be nice to know a little bit about the parents' own beliefs and motives. Are they aware of their own “extra efforts” so to speak. Is it a conscious decision?
Sorry, this study can't get at that issue since the data came from an existing research project, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a large national survey that many researchers have used for a variety of different studies over the years. If you've read lots of child-related research, you might recognize the name.

Seems bi-ethnic couples don't have the market on providing for their children - adoptive parents invest more in their kids than biological parents. But that's for another day.

Read the abstract in the American Journal of Sociology. Unfortunately, like a lot of academic research, the full text is only available to AJS subscribers or those who have access to an institution that subscribes to it.


Chen, Simon, and Powell, Brian. (2007). Under and Beyond Constraints: Resource Allocation to Young Children from Biracial Families. American Journal of Sociology, 112(4), p. 1044–94.

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