The Transition to Adulthood of Two Cohorts: Over Time Success or Decline?

Elisabeta Minca, Brown University

This paper compares two cohorts of U.S. adolescents, one born in the 1960s (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 NLSY79)) and the other born in the early 1980s (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth , 1997 (NLSY97)) in how they transition into adulthood, and shows how various sub-groups of these two cohorts differ in their transitions. Results show six life-paths of transitioning to adulthood that are predominant in the NLSY97 cohort: (1) becoming a dependent worker, (2)becoming an independent worker, (3) becoming a dependent working student, (4) becoming a dependent parent, (5) becoming an independent adult, and (6) prolonged studies. Important gender, racial and family background differences were found in the proclivity of population sub-groups to follow various life-paths, reflecting both their ability and also their acceptance of the different life-paths. This paper investigates whether similar life paths characterize the cohort born during the 1960s and trends in gender and racial differences between the cohorts.

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Presented in Session 149: Changes over Time in the Transition to Adulthood