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Pew Report: Financial Gap Between American Families Impacting Parenting

The way parents are raising their children and how they experience parenting is strongly linked to their financial circumstances.
Angie and Kami Roe of West Jordan hold hands after leaving the federal courthouse Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer / AP

Child-rearing and the parenting experience are strongly linked to a family’s financial circumstances, states a report released by the Pew Research Center on Thursday.

Parenting in America places real data on the vast differences and divides between American families that for some may have already been obvious.

“The report shows that income is strongly linked, from the worries they have about their children’s safety, to the way they assess their neighborhoods as a place to raise kids, to the extracurricular activities their children participate in,” Juliana Horowitz, associate director of research for Pew Research Center told NBCBLK in an email.

Some of the key findings:

  • Higher-income families, making more than $75,000 a year, are twice as likely as lower-income parents -- making at or less than $30,000 a year -- to consider the places they call home “excellent” or “very good.”
  • A third of the lower-income parents consider their neighborhoods a “fair” or “poor” place to raise kids; just 7% of parents with incomes in excess of $75,000 give their neighborhood similarly low ratings.
  • At least half of the lower-income parents worry their child or children might be kidnapped (59%) or get beat up or attacked (55%), which is about 15 percentage points higher than higher-income parents. Half (47%) of these lower-income parents worry that their children might be shot at some point, more than double the share among higher-income parents.
Pew Research Center

When it comes to the extracurricular activities, far more higher-income parents than lower-income parents say their children are engaged in sports or organizations such as the scouts or take lessons in music, dance or art. About 84% of higher-income parents say their children have participated in sports in the last 12 months, compared with 59% among lower-income parents.

But economics is just one factor impacting American families, Horowitz points out.

“Family structure is also a link. The share of children living with two married parents is at a historic low. Children in single-parent or cohabiting households are more likely to be living in poverty than those living with married parents,” she said. “And in our survey we found that parents who are married are about twice as likely as cohabiting or single parents to say they live comfortably financially.”

The breakdowns are also very telling across racial lines, Horowitz adds.

“Black children are particularly likely to be living in a single-parent household – 54% of black children are in this type of household,” she said. “In contrast, most white (72%), Asian American (82%) and Hispanic (55%) children are living with two married parents.”

The survey also found that black parents are nearly twice as likely as white parents to say they worry that their child or one of their children might get shot at some point.

“More black parents (39%) say this is something they worry about, compared with 22% of white parents,” Horowitz reports. “This difference persists even when looking only at white and black parents in urban areas, where there is more concern about shootings (40% of all parents in urban areas worry one of their children might get shot at some point vs. 29% of parents in the suburbs and 21% of parents in rural areas).”

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But regardless of their socioeconomic status, concerns about bullying and mental health issues are spread equally across income groups, according to the report.

“But we do see a difference by race when it comes to concerns about mental health,” said Horowitz. “White parents are far more likely than black parents to say they worry that their child or one of their children may struggle with anxiety or depression at some point.”

Conducted between Sept. 15 and Oct 13 of this year, a little more than 1,800 parents from single parent, married and co-habitating parents’ households were surveyed for the study. Each respondent had children younger than 18-years-old.

Another report released by the Pew Research Center this month also focused on income and its impact on the middle class. Entitled, “The American Middle Class is Losing Ground: No Longer the Majority and Falling Behind Financially,” the study revealed that the income distribution in the United States is spreading thin.

And while there has been some improvement overall in access and wealth attainment, there were also divides among racial and ethnic demographics within the low, middle and upper classes.

Rakesh Kochhar, author of the middle class report told NBCBLK, “Simply put, people are finding themselves farther apart.”

He points out that while African Americans are still behind the overall population in wealth overall, there are fewer African Americans within the lower income population today than there were in 1971.

“Compared to the overall population, African Americans make up only 43% of lower income households,” he points out. “And in upper income, African Americans make up 12% compared to 21% overall.”

Horowitz believes these reports are important because of the perspectives they provide.

“Over the years we have documented the changes that have been taking place in the structure of the American family,” she said in regards to her report. “Taking a broader look at the experiences of American parents across different demographic groups was a natural extension of our work.”

Other highlights from the parenting report include:

  • Half of lower-income parents worry that their child or one of their children will get pregnant or get a girl pregnant as a teenager, compared with 43% of higher-income parents.
  • The majorities of white (72%) and Asian-American (82%) children are living with two married parents. In contrast 55% of Hispanic children and only 31% of black children are living with two married parents, while more than half (54%) are living in a single-parent household.
  • In 2014, 31% of children living in single-parent households were living below the poverty line, as were 21% of children living with two cohabiting parents.
  • About half surveyed (52%) say they would be very disappointed if their children were average students and 54% say parents can never be too involved in their children’s education.
  • Parents with higher incomes are also more likely to say their children’s day-to-day schedules are too hectic. Among those with incomes of $75,000 or higher, one-in-five say their children’s schedules are too hectic, compared with 8% of those who earn less than $30,000.