Born Poor? Racial Diversity, Inequality, and the American Pipeline


poverty, neighborhood, fertility, ethnic inequality, racial inequality


The authors examine racial disparities in infants’ exposure to economic disadvantage at the family and local area levels. Using data from the 2008–2014 files of the American Community Survey, the authors provide an up-to-date empirical benchmark of newborns’ exposure to poverty. Large shares of Hispanic (36.5 percent) and black (43.2 percent) infants are born poor, though white infants are also overrepresented among the poor (17.7 percent). The authors then estimate regression models to identify risk factors and perform decompositions to identify compositional factors underlying between-race differences. Although more than half of the black-white poverty gap is explained by differences in family structure and employment, these factors account for less than one quarter of white-Hispanic differences. The results also highlight the unmet need for social protection among babies born to poor families lacking access to assistance programs and the safety net. Hispanic infants are particularly likely to be doubly disadvantaged in this manner. Moreover, large and disproportionate shares of today’s black (48.3 percent) and Hispanic (40.5 percent) babies are born into poor families and places with poverty rates above 20 percent. These results raise important questions about persistent and possibly growing racial inequality as America makes its way to a majority-minority society as early as 2043.

Original Publication Citation

Thiede, Brian C., Scott R. Sanders, and Daniel T. Lichter. "Born Poor? Racial Diversity, Inequality, and the American Pipeline." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 4, no. 2 (2018): 206-228.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Sociology of Race and Ethnicity




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor