for kin network page

Policies must account for the diverse support systems that vary in their capacities to share help.

Lower-SES adults experienced parental deaths sooner and spent more of their lives with divorced or widowed parents. The inequity has grown dramatically since the late 1980s, and a weaker parental safety net during early adulthood could inhibit upward socioeconomic mobility for single parents. Racial inequities in healthy life expectancies accumulated in families across generations to produce fundamentally disparate kin structures between Black and White Americans. 

The injustice of unequal kin networks stretches beyond death.

Rates of unclaimed bodies in Los Angeles County differ drastically by race, economic hardship, and family ties. Only legal kin can claim decedents’ remains, and families that experience estrangement or financial hardship often leave their dead to the county to cremate and bury in mass graves. Groups that experienced high unemployment, poverty, and marital instability had greater rates of unclaimed deaths (Washington Post; NPR Marketplace). 

National data must be able to capture sharing of risk and resources beyond nuclear households.

Examining how families fit into the broader kin networked reveals large and growing inequalities. With funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, K99/R00 2018-2023), I tackled this puzzle by adapting classic demographic methods that were first developed to measure life expectancies in low-data contexts. My approach used simple questions common in censuses and survey data, (1) how old are you, and (2) is your mother/father alive? to model the life expectancies of parents for all adult survey respondents. I combined this with an adaptation of another technique primarily used to calculate disability-free life expectancies (Sullivan’s Method) to recreate the dynamic family networks that change with each birth, death, and marriage.