Economic Circumstances and Family Outcomes: A Review of the 1990s



This review documents the economic context within which American families lived in the 1990s. Despite nearly full employment and growing income and wealth for many Americans, problem areas included persistent racial gaps in economic well-being, growing inequality, and declining wages for young men. Women showed stronger income growth than men in the decade, and 2-earner households became increasingly associated with advantage. We review the consequences of these trends and of economic well-being generally on 4 dimensions of family outcomes: family formation, divorce, marital quality, and child well-being. Despite hypotheses suggesting that women's earnings might have different effects on family outcomes than men's earnings, generally the review supports the expectation that both men's and women's economic advantage is associated with more marriage, less divorce, more marital happiness, and greater child well-being. Important issues regarding measurement, reciprocal relations between family structure and economic well-being, and race and gender effects remain unresolved.