Postdoctoral Fellow and Incoming Assistant Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
Color, Class, and Context: Examining the Heterogeneous Effect of Family Structure on Children’s Academic Success
Over the last six decades, the U.S. has experienced a major decline in the share of children living in two-parent families, a widening racial gap in the proportion of youth who live apart from a parent, and a persistent negative effect of parental absence on child outcomes. Combined, these trends have sparked a national debate about whether racial differences in family structure exacerbate existing inequalities in children’s life chances. However, there has been little research to explain an important finding: living apart from a biological parent is less negatively consequential for children of color than their white peers. In this talk, I investigate how and why family structure matters differently for the academic success of racially and economically disadvantaged groups. I empirically test hypotheses that have been put forward to account for racial differences in family structure effects and identify factors that explain variation in outcomes. I also move beyond a focus on cross-group differences to consider within-group heterogeneity in family structure effects among one minoritized group: African Americans. Lastly, I consider how we can expand the existing conceptual framework linking family structure and children’s educational outcomes to incorporate the significance of structural position, specifically racial and class membership.
About Christina Cross
Christina Cross is a Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Harvard University (beginning 2022). Her research falls at the intersection of families, race/ethnicity, and educational inequality. She examines how family structure, change, and dynamics influence children’s educational outcomes, particularly those from minoritized and/or low-income backgrounds. Her work has appeared in outlets such as Social Problems, Demography, and the Journal of Marriage and Family. Her research has been supported by organizations including the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. It has received numerous awards, including the American Sociological Association’s 2020 Dissertation Award and the Population Association of America’s Dorothy S. Thomas Award. Cross holds a PhD in Public Policy and Sociology from the University of Michigan.