Does Context Matter? Differences in the Use of Congregate Care by Black, White, and Hispanic Youth

In the paper, we examine the relationship between county context and the use of congregate care by White, Black, and Hispanic youth, aged between 10 and 17. We measure the use of congregate care as the probability a young person will be placed in congregate care during an out-of-home care spell. We define county context in three ways: urbanicity, social disadvantage, and the supply effect on demand. We also include whether states mandate the use of an assessment to regulate entry into congregate care. Our primary interest is organized around differences in county context, the rate of congregate care utilization, and the connection between context and disparity. We find that, regardless of race, congregate care placement rates tend to be higher in counties where supply affects demand. However, in those counties, the Black/White disparity tends to be lower and the Hispanic/White disparity tends to be higher. The association between a mandatory assessment policy and congregate care placement is in the expected direction. After describing the study limitations, we discuss implications for future research and policy.