Explain why social class is more important than race-ethnicity in determining a family's characteristics.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A family's socioeconomic status determines what resources they will have access to and therefore how they will be able to shape their family. A family who struggles to simply earn enough money to feed everyone will not have the ability to show their children the wonders of national parks on...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

A family's socioeconomic status determines what resources they will have access to and therefore how they will be able to shape their family. A family who struggles to simply earn enough money to feed everyone will not have the ability to show their children the wonders of national parks on the other side of the country. They may be so exhausted from working (and sometimes working more than one job) that there is no energy left in the evenings for reading time with young children. Parents may hold jobs which make it impossible for them to take off work and meet with teachers, and teachers may interpret this as a lack of interest. Studies have found that the way parents in lower socioeconomic groups speak to their children is different, and those differences contribute to lower academic success for their children over time. Because of financial stress, there is more likely to be a feeling of hostility in the home, and children may interpret that personally.

By contrast, parents with a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to be well-educated. They are more likely to have researched or developed beneficial methods of speaking to and guiding their children. They are able to afford tutors when problems arise at school and to intervene directly with teachers and other school personnel when problems arise. These families may work hard, but they are also more likely to have jobs with insurance to help with medical problems and paid vacation time to enjoy time off together. They can often afford private schools and are more likely to homeschool their children; there is a growing trend among upper-middle class and upper-class families to "road school" their children, with the entire family setting off on nationwide or global adventures, completely leaving their homes for a year or more.

In short, families with a higher socioeconomic status are able to afford greater opportunities, and this ability transcends racial classifications. While one's culture and heritage certainly shape parenting practices, purchasing power greatly influences a family's experience. Those families struggling to simply survive from one day and week to the next do not have the luxury of time and money to provide the cultural experiences they desire for their children.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Many elements of culture and environment influence family structure, including ethnic traditions, socio-economic class, religion, location, education, and even personal choices or orientations. For example, whether someone is gay or straight may affect their family structure, with fewer gay couples tending to marry and have children than straight couples, although the numbers have been converging since the legalization of gay marriage. Religion also factors in, with Mormons and members of mainstream Protestant groups being significantly more likely to be married than atheists and agnostics. It should also be noted that the increase in multiracial individuals and marriages make the concept of ethnicity problematic.

Broad overall studies of marriage rates show that in the United States, black women are less likely to marry and remain married than Hispanic women and those less likely to be in stable long-term marriages than white women. According to the article "The Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns," several different factors contribute to racial differences in marriage patterns.

One factor that is important is the high rates of incarceration and unemployment among black men, leading to there being fewer potential eligible partners for black women. Although poverty rates have a major impact on family structure, with marriages being more stable in higher economic brackets, even when researchers control for income, there is still a racial disparity in rates of marriage for black women compared with other women in the United States. While Hispanic women with similar economic profiles are somewhat more likely to be in stable marriages than black women, factors such as gender differentials in education, employment, poverty, and incarceration rates explain much of the ethnic differential in stability of marriages and marriage rates.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, it should be stated that your assertion needs to be proved. Not all people would agree that social class is more important than race in determining a family's characteristics. I happen to agree with you, but in a world of competing claims, we should always seek to prove assertions or at least have good evidence.

With that said, there are several reasons why social class is more weighty in determining characteristics than race.

First and most importantly, we are living in a globalized world. Through modern technology, communications, and travel the world is a rather small place. So, wherever you go, there are tons of similarities. So, what divides people is not so much nations, borders, customs, or race, but wealth. The "haves" live a certain way, and the "have nots" live in another way.

Second, with social class comes a certain disposition and outlook. Wealth and education creates confidence and this frameworkshapes families more than race.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team