The Unequal Distribution of Nuclear Family Deaths by Race and Its Effect on Attaining a College Degree

Naomi Thyden , University of Minnesota
Nicole Schmidt, University of Minnesota
Theresa L. Osypuk, University of Minnesota

Young adults of color may be more likely to experience the death of a parent or sibling, since early mortality is more prevalent among certain racial/ethnic groups than whites. However, little research has investigated whether the devastating experience of nuclear family death varies by race, or how this death may affect important social determinants of health. Multiple logistic regression results using the longitudinal NLSY97 data showed that experiencing the death of a parent or sibling during early adulthood (ages 19-22) was significantly and negatively associated with obtaining a Bachelor’s degree by ages 29-32 (OR=0.55, 95% CI =0.38, 0.81) compared to those not experiencing a family death. Family death during adolescence (ages 13-18) was not significantly associated with obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. Because family deaths during early adulthood are associated with lower educational attainment, an important social determinant of health, this exposure may contribute to subsequent health disparities by race.

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 Presented in Session 2. Children & Youth