Race, Poverty, and Foster Care Placement in the United States: Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Perspectives


Although the connections between race, poverty, and foster care placement seem obvious, the link has not in fact been studied extensively. To address this gap, we view poverty and placement through longitudinal and cross-sectional lenses to more accurately capture how changes in poverty rates relate to changes in placement frequency. The longitudinal study examines the relationship between poverty rate changes and changes in the placement of Black and White children between 2000 and 2015. The cross-sectional study extends the longitudinal analysis by using a richer measure of socio-ecological diversity and more recent foster care data. Using Poisson regression models, we assess the extent to which changes in race-differentiated child poverty rates are correlated with Black and White child placement frequencies and placement disparities. Regardless of whether one looks longitudinally or cross sectionally, we find that Black children are placed in foster care more often than White children. Higher White child poverty rates are associated with substantially reduced placement differences; however, higher Black child poverty rates are associated with relatively small changes in placement disparity. Black and White child placement rates are more similar in counties with the fewest socio-ecological assets.


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