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J Youth Adolesc. 2014 Jul;43(7):1134-50. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-0030-6. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Social status attainment during the transition to adulthood.

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Department of Community Health Sciences, Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA,


The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a critical time for status attainment, with income, education, work experience, and independence from parents accruing at varying speeds and intensities. This study takes an intergenerational life-course perspective that incorporates parents' and one's own social status to examine the status attainment process from adolescence into adulthood in the domains of economic capital (e.g., income) and human capital (e.g., education, occupation). Survey data from three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (analytic n = 8,977) are analyzed using latent class analysis to capture the ebb and flow of social status advantages and disadvantages from adolescence (Wave 1) through young adulthood (Wave 3) into adulthood (Wave 4). The analytic sample is composed of 50.3 % females and 70.2 % Whites, 15.3 % Blacks, 11.0 % Hispanics, and 3.5 % Asians ages 12-18 at Wave 1 and 25-31 at Wave 4. Four latent classes are found for economic capital and five for human capital. The importance of parents' social status is demonstrated by the presence of large groups with persistently low and persistently high social status over time in both domains. The capacity of individuals to determine their own status, however, is shown by equally large groups with upward and downward mobility in both domains. These findings demonstrate the dynamic nature of social status during this critical developmental period.

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