HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Professor of Sociology, FAS


Individuals’ life outcomes are rooted in their parents’ and grandparents’ experiences, which, in turn, are rooted in the places where they grew up. In the U.S., Black (grand)parents were more likely than White (grand)parents to grow up in the South. Intergenerational theories predict that this racial difference in southern family lineages will shape racial differences in many life outcomes. We test this hypothesis using marriage as a case study. Linking Panel Study of Income Dynamics’ data to external sources, we document that southern family lineages positively predict marriage, we trace the implications of this prediction for marriage inequalities, and we provide some insights into the factors driving this prediction. Within each birth cohort, greater exposure to southern lineage’s marriage pressures among Black than White people associate with smaller marriage inequalities. Across cohorts, larger declines in this exposure among Black than White people, due to the Great Migration out of the South, associate with larger marriage inequalities. We show how family dynamics channel historical place-based inequalities into contemporary racial inequalities, by combining intergenerational and contextual approaches. Other researchers could employ this combined intergenerational–contextual approach to further illuminate how the past shapes the present


Bloome, Deirdre, and Garrett T. Pace. "Family Tree Branches and Southern Roots: Contemporary Racial Differences in Marriage in Intergenerational and Contextual Perspective." American Journal of Sociology .