Inequality and the Transition to Adulthood Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Ryberg, Renee
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • The transition to adulthood has long been thought to play a key role in status attainment processes, but the mechanisms linking the transition to adulthood to family background and adult outcomes are not well understood. A first step in understanding how the transition to adulthood plays into stratification processes is to understand how this period differs for individuals from different social groups. The first chapter of this dissertation examines how the trajectories of events during the transition to adulthood vary by and within race, class, and gender groups. Sequence analysis is used to provide a “longitudinal thick description” of pathways to adulthood for youth in different race/class groups by gender. In the second chapter, these pathways are used to predict young adult income and examine how experiences in this time period serve as mechanisms in the intergenerational transfer of status. The transition-to-adulthood pathways explain about one-third of the intergenerational transmission of status through young adulthood. For men, the pathway characterized by extended education mediates the relationship between parental wealth and young adult income, indicating a potential mechanism for resource hoarding in the upper-middle class. For women, on the other hand, this life stage may contribute to the poverty trap, as pathways related to less advantaged populations link family background to young adult income. The third chapter contextualizes the transition to adulthood and examines how the impact of class on transition-to-adulthood pathways varies across institutional contexts in 20th century Europe. Class operates fairly consistently in Northern, Western, and Southern Europe, where young women with more educated parents tend to delay family formation and avoid rapid transitions to adulthood. The role of class in the transition to adulthood is distinct in Eastern Europe, however. Results are explained according to the welfare states and family systems operating in each region. Together, the chapters illustrate that an individual’s location within society influences how they are likely to experience the transition to adulthood, which has meaningful consequences for long-term outcomes. The influence of class on these pathways, however, may vary by context.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Weisshaar, Kate
  • Pearce, Lisa D.
  • Mouw, Ted
  • Morgan, S. Philip
  • Harris, Kathleen Mullan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

This work has no parents.