Abstract: Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Association between Parental Wealth and Child Behavioral Problems (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Association between Parental Wealth and Child Behavioral Problems

Thursday, January 12, 2023
South Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Chien-jen Chiang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Sicong Sun, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Darrell Hudson, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO

Racial/ethnic wealth inequities are well documented and historically entrenched. Wealth plays a pivotal role in determining the social context in which children live as wealth provides access to neighborhoods with greater levels and quality of resources such as school quality indicators and perceptions of neighborhood safety. Whereas the existing literature is replete with studies that have examined the association between wealth and child development outcomes, the goal of this study is to examine the association between parental wealth and child behavior problems across race/ethnicity using longitudinal data.


Data for this study were drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (1979-2016). Three self-reported racial/ethnic groups were examined: Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic. The final analytic sample was 8,773. The primary dependent variables were the child behavior problem index (BPI). We constructed a median-dichotomized standardized BPI measure in addition to using the antisocial subscale and depression/anxiety subscales. Parental wealth, defined as net worth, was a time-varying variable calculated as assets minus debt, adjusting for inflation. We further created net worth quartiles within each racial/ethnic groups. To account for the within-person and within-household clustering effects, three-level logistic regression was used. We first conducted the analyses using the whole sample, followed by subgroup analyses by race/ethnicity.


Nearly 42% of the non-Hispanic black respondents were in debt or had zero net worth and had the lowest level of net worth compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Wealth was significantly, negatively associated with all of the BPI indicators. Compared to Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanic children were less likely to have an above-median total BPI score (OR=.740, 95% CI .592-.925); Non-Hispanic Black children were more likely to have an above-median antisocial score (OR=1.533, 95% CI 1.311-1.792); Non-Hispanic black children were less likely to have an above-median anxiety/depression score (OR=.737, 95% CI .634-.857). For Non-Hispanic white children, greater wealth was significantly associated with lower odds of having poor behavior outcomes, compared to those in the lowest wealth quartile. For Non-Hispanic Black children, wealth was only protective against the three different behavioral problem indicators among those in the highest wealth quartile. There were no significant associations between parental wealth and child behavior problems for Hispanic children.


Findings from this study indicated that there are tremendous racial/ethnic differences in wealth and the association between wealth and child behavioral problems was consistent. Findings among the Hispanic sample indicate that wealth functions differently for this group, pointing to social and cultural factors that warrant further research among the Hispanic population. Among Black respondents, the analysis indicates that only Black families in the highest wealth category were observed to be significantly less likely to experience any of the behavioral problems. This finding for Black Americans may provide support to progressive policies needed to achieve equity. Due to historical racial wealth inequities, the findings from this study emphasize the importance of examining the effects of wealth stratified by race/ethnicity. Concordantly, these findings lend further support to progressive asset-building policies to advance racial and socioeconomic equity in child wellbeing.