Racial/ethnic differences in family formation are well-documented and scholars have often pointed to both structural and ideational factors to explain them. Yet, investigations into the role that ideational differences play have been sparse and limited in numerous ways. Using NLSY79 data, this study investigates whether variations in family formation expectations and preferences explain racial/ethnic differences in family formation outcomes for the occurrence, timing, and sequencing of first marriage and first birth. Significant differences in family formation outcomes, expectations, and preferences are found across race/ethnicity. Expectations and preferences explain as much as 17% of racial/ethnic differences in family formation behavior, although typically they explain 10%, and in the case of nonmarital childbearing, less than 3% of the variation. The limited predictive power of expectations and preferences for racial/ethnic differences is the result of statistically significant yet substantively small differences and substantial incongruence between expectations, preferences and outcomes, especially for Blacks and Hispanics.