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Family Transitions, Economic Status, and Voter Turnout Among African-American Inner-City Women


  • *Direct correspondence to Eric Plutzer, Department of Political Science, 219 Pond Laboratory, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802〈〉. The data used in this study were obtained from the archive at the Henry A. Murray Research Center and code needed to replicate the study is available from the first author on request. The authors thank Susan Welch for comments on an earlier draft of this article, and the Liberal Arts Research and Graduate Studies Office (RGSO) at Penn State for financial support.


Objectives. We examine voter turnout of inner-city African-American mothers, many of whom are single parents and endure long-term, economic hardship. Previous research suggests that income is a more important factor among these groups than in the general population. We seek to understand the interplay of family structure, income, and voter turnout.

Methods. We explore these ideas using panel data on 754 mothers living in Chicago and interviewed as part of the 1967–1976 Woodlawn Community Study.

Results. We find that marital status has no effect when women are younger but over time single parents' turnout falls behind that of married parents. This is primarily due to factors related to income and income change.

Conclusions. Single mothers have lower rates of participation and, given the high rates of single parenthood in segregated inner-city neighborhoods, this substantially diminishes the political voice of the nation's poor, contributing to class bias in the electorate.