Becoming an adult: what does it mean and how it has changed in the past 20 years?

Elisabeta Minca, Brown University

This paper tests the “de-standardization of the life course” and “emerging adulthood” hypotheses, the two major arguments explaining the recent shift that young adulthood has undergone, by comparing 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. In contrast to previous studies which examined various markers of adulthood (e.g.,marriage, employment) ) independently as single outcomes, we use a second-order hierarchical latent class model which allows us to examine these transitions simultaneously, taking into account their relationships of one another. Our results indicate strong support for the emerging adulthood hypothesis, as we see a lot more dependence on parents, prolonged schooling and delay of family formation in the later cohort compared to the earlier cohort. In contrast, we find no support for the de-standardization thesis, as the young adults in the later cohort do not follow a larger number and more diverse pathways than their counterparts in the earlier cohort.

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Presented in Poster Session 1