For America’s low-income population, financial help comes in many forms and from a wide amalgamation of sources. Most certainly, our public safety net assists the American poor, but often undiscussed, is the vital role friends and family play in assisting poor families to make ends meet. Recent reports suggest that women with just a high school diploma can anticipate roughly $5,000 of their annual income to come from family members; while not the bulk of personal earnings, money from family members can make a real difference in keeping a low-income family afloat. But what determines whether or not a family members does choose to extend a helping hand?
Results from a recent qualitative study suggests that at least in the African American community, class background plays a significant role in shaping one’s sense of responsibility in helping family members financially. Conventionally, African Americans have been described as particularly oriented toward collectivist behaviors, however, results from the study suggest that African Americans born to affluent means often defy these stereotypes.
With African Americans being both the most likely to have class heterogeneity within the immediate and extended family networks, this research sheds light on how Black haves and have-nots relate and support one another.
Following the footsteps of sociologists Mary Pattillo and William Julius Wilson, who study Black family class heterogeneity and the interplay between the Black middle class and urban poor respectively, this works deepens our awareness of divides among African Americans of different means. In the present movement for Black lives, these findings suggest that for African Americans, and even African American families, things may not be as united as they seem.
[Note: This is merely a writing exercise to better articulate my work.]