A Social Network Comparison of Low-Income Black and White Newlywed Couples

Published in: Journal of Marriage and Family, v. 76, no. 5, Oct. 2014, p. 967-982

Posted on RAND.org on November 11, 2015

by Grace L. Jackson, David P. Kennedy, Thomas N. Bradbury, Benjamin Karney

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Relative to White families, Black families have been described as relying on extended social networks to compensate for other social and economic disadvantages. The presence or absence of supportive social networks should be especially relevant to young couples entering marriage, but to date there has been little effort to describe the social networks of comparable Black and White newlyweds. The current study addressed this gap by drawing on interviews with 57 first-married newlyweds from low-income communities to compare the composition and structure of Black and White couples' duocentric social networks. The results indicated that low-income Black couples entered marriage at a social disadvantage relative to White couples, with more family relationships but fewer positive relationships and fewer sources of emotional support (for wives), fewer connections to married individuals, and fewer shared relationships between spouses. Black couples' relative social disadvantages persisted even when various economic and demographic variables were controlled.

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