What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

Edited by Edward N. Wolff

The contributors to this volume investigate to what extent welfare has increased in the United States over the postwar period and provide a rigorous examination of both conventional measures of the standard of living, as well as more inclusive indices. The chapters cover such topics as: race, home ownership and family structure; the status of children; the consumer price index; a historical perspective on the standard of living; worker rights and labor strength in advanced economies. In addition, they explore two economic systems delivering the goods – the free enterprise system of the United States and the European social welfare state. They then present international comparisons and highlight the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two systems.

Chapter 7: Race, Home Ownership, and Family Structure in Twentieth-century America

William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo* INTRODUCTION More than 35 years ago, the Moynihan Report (or The Negro Family: The Case for National Action) ignited a firestorm of controversy regarding allegedly detrimental changes in the structure of American families, and in particular, regarding the social implications of the rise in female-headed households among African Americans (US Department of Labor 1965). Since then, the rate of female headship and the proportion of children raised in female-headed households, has risen for both whites and blacks. In previous work, we have undertaken a series of investigations of the historical evolution of racial gaps in homeownership rates and in the value of owner-occupied housing based on samples of male household heads (Collins and Margo 2001, 2003). Concerned that the exclusion of femaleheaded households might have affected our interpretation of long-run racial change in housing outcomes, we have extended our analysis to consider the influence of changing household composition on housing market outcomes for household heads and also, importantly, for young children. Although labor economists and economic historians have devoted substantial effort to measuring and understanding the evolution of racial differences in income (Smith and Welch 1989; Donohue and Heckman 1991), the historical development of racial gaps in other economic outcomes has been studied far less intensively. This relative neglect is unfortunate because income is only one of several ways to gauge economic well-being. The underlying premise of this chapter is that ‘wealth matters’ in that differences in wealth...

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