Getting by with a Little Help from (Family and) Friends?: The Link between Family Support and Residential Attainment
Whitehead, Ellen M.
Doctor of Philosophy
In the context of increasing wealth inequality and work insecurity, the burdens of economic instability have been overwhelmingly offloaded onto American families. This instability and exposure to disadvantage represents a salient sphere of racial inequality, with these disparities often manifesting in access to housing and high-resourced neighborhoods. Simultaneously facing reductions to the public safety net, individuals have increasingly turned to their own private networks for help in times of need. Housing support, in the form of coresidence with a relative or friend, represents a key feature of this “private safety net.” While kin support is often conceptualized as a means to ameliorate resource gaps in the short-term, this study investigates whether support from family can have lasting effects, facilitating improved socioeconomic attainment in the realm of housing and neighborhood outcomes. In this dissertation, I draw on data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the residential outcomes of individuals after an exit from coresidence. Results from the first chapter reveal that transitioning into an independent housing status (i.e. owning or renting) is a pathway disproportionately available to former coresiders who are white, with black and Latinx individuals more likely to transition to and from public and private sources of housing support. In the second chapter, I find that while coresiding with family members predicts higher neighborhood attainment, relative to non-coresiders and once accounting for socioeconomic and demographic controls, this does not persist after moving out of the family member’s home. Finally, I find that former coresiders are more likely than non-coresiders to live near family members, with close proximity tied to receiving forms of instrumental support; this suggests access to familial support may shape residential outcomes even after an exit from coresidence. While coresidence can operate as a form of social support across racial groups, relying on private support networks does not disrupt racial inequalities in housing and neighborhood outcomes. While some individuals may exhibit social mobility as they transition away from coresidence, others, mostly Black and Latinx adults, demonstrate a continued reliance on support and lower levels of locational attainment.
coresidence; kin support; housing; neighborhood attainment; racial inequality