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The Black—White Gap in Marital Dissolution among Young Adults: What Can a Counterfactual Scenario Tell Us?

Jennifer Hickes Lundquist
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2006.53.3.421 421-441 First published online: 1 August 2006


One of the most heavily studied subfields of family sociology is that of racial disparities in family formation trends. While divergent black—white patterns in divorce are well documented, their underlying causal factors are not well understood. Debates on whether such differences are due to socioeconomic compositional differences, cultural differences, or some degree of each continue to surface in the literature. In this article, I use the U.S. military as an institutional counterfactual to larger society because, I argue, it isolates many of the conditions commonly cited in the literature to explain race differences in divorce trends. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), I find that, unlike their civilian counterparts, African American military enlistees have low divorce rates, even lower, it seems, than their fellow enlisted Caucasians.

  • divorce
  • family dissolution trends
  • race
  • racial disparities
  • military

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