Socioeconomic Reach and Heterogeneity in the Extended Family: Contours and Consequences

Joshua R. Goldstein, John Robert Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The extended family is a potential source of contacts and resources with implications for inequality and the formation of status groups. In this paper, we analyze the social and economic characteristics of extended families in the General Social Survey and the newly available Study of American Families, focusing on the diversity and reach of the kin network. We find that there is a strong status gradient: those with the highest education and occupational earnings tend to have the most diverse and far-reaching family networks. Network diversity and reach are found to improve financial security, even after controlling for individual characteristics. Our findings have implications for the capacity of the extended family to compensate for cutbacks in public transfer programs like social security and welfare. Those who are most vulnerable in terms of their individual characteristics tend to have families that are in a relatively poor position to provide support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-404
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Prepared for presentation at the meetings of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, CA, August 1998. Support for this research was provided by the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for which core support comes from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Data from the Study of American Families are publicly available at


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