Engines of Inequality: Class, Race, and Family Structure

35 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2008 Last revised: 6 May 2008

See all articles by Amy L. Wax

Amy L. Wax

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School


The past 30 years have witnessed a dramatic divergence in family structure by social class, income, education, and race. This article reviews the data on these trends, explores their significance, and assesses social scientists' recent attempts to explain them. The article concludes that society-wide changes in economic conditions or social expectations cannot account for these patterns. Rather, for reasons that are poorly understood, cultural disparities have emerged by class and race in attitudes and behaviors surrounding family, sexuality, and reproduction. These disparities will likely fuel social and economic inequality and contribute to disparities in children's life prospects for decades to come.

Keywords: marriage, divorce, family structure, social class, income, education, race, economic conditions, cultural disparities, social and economic inequality, disparities between groups, average differences between groups

JEL Classification: I30, K19

Suggested Citation

Wax, Amy L., Engines of Inequality: Class, Race, and Family Structure. Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 41, p. 567, 2007, U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 08-11, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 08-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1116691

Amy L. Wax (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-5638 (Phone)
215-573-2025 (Fax)

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