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Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Family Dinner and Inequality

Many posts have discussed economic and educational inequality. The effects of inequality reach many corners of American life.

Daniel A. Cox at the Survey Center on American Life:
The family dinner was once a ubiquitous feature of American life, an experience shared across cultural, religious, and class lines, but it has disappeared in many households. Far fewer Americans report having regular meals with their family during their formative years. Baby Boomers were far more likely to have grown up having meals with their families than Millennials and Gen Zers. Only 38 percent of Gen Zers who are now adults report that their family ate together regularly growing up.

The disappearance of family dinner is not simply a function of generational changes in values and priorities. Increasingly, family dinners reflect the growing class divide in American society. In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert Putnam documents how the class divide in family dinners emerged during the 1990s and has expanded since. Today, college educated Americans are far more likely than those without a college education to have been raised in homes where family dinners were the norm. This wasn’t always the case.
Older Americans, regardless of educational background, report having eaten dinner as a family regularly during childhood. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans age 50 or older without any college education report that they had family meals every day during childhood, roughly as many (79 percent) Americans that age with a post-graduate education who say the same.

For younger Americans, the story is entirely different. Among Americans under the age of 50, education now strongly predicts whether one had regular family meals growing up. Only 38 percent of younger Americans without a college education were raised in homes that shared meals every day. In contrast, more than six in ten (61 percent) younger Americans with a post-graduate education say their family ate together regularly.