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Coming of Age in America

Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century

Mary C. Waters
Patrick J. Carr
Maria J. Kefalas
Jennifer Holdaway
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Coming of Age in America
    Book Description:

    What is it like to become an adult in twenty-first-century America? This book takes us to four very different places-New York City, San Diego, rural Iowa, and Saint Paul, Minnesota-to explore the dramatic shifts in coming-of-age experiences across the country. Drawing from in-depth interviews with people in their twenties and early thirties, it probes experiences and decisions surrounding education, work, marriage, parenthood, and housing. The first study to systematically explore this phenomenon from a qualitative perspective,Coming of Agein America offers a clear view of how traditional patterns and expectations are changing, of the range of forces that are shaping these changes, and of how young people themselves view their lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95018-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    What is it like to become an adult in twenty-first-century America?

    While there are many answers to that question, one thing is certain. The journey to adulthood that today’s twentysomethings make is not the same as the one completed by their parents or grandparents. Becoming an adult in America in the immediate postwar period of the 1950s was envisioned as a remarkably uniform, swift, and unproblematic process: finish school, get a job and get married, set up an independent household, have kids, and settle into a career as a single-earner, two-parent family. But almost as soon as this “Leave It...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Straight from the Heartland: Coming of Age in Ellis, Iowa
    (pp. 28-58)

    In 2001, we followed in the footsteps of Robert and Helen Lynd, the husband-and-wife ethnographers who studied Muncie, Indiana, for the landmark Middletown series, and moved our family to a farming community in the northeastern corner of Iowa, a town we have renamed Ellis to protect the inhabitants’ confidentiality. We wanted to learn as much as we could about how young rural Iowans navigate this time between adolescence and adulthood and how growing up in rural settings shapes these young people’s life chances.

    Ellis (population 2,000) is located in the northeastern part of the state in Liberty County. Although Ellis...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Transitions to Adulthood in the Land of Lake Wobegon
    (pp. 59-105)

    If any place in America would seem to provide the setting in which to live out the traditional, idealized coming-of-age model in today’s America, St. Paul, Minnesota, would be that place. The capital city of a prosperous and generally progressive upper-midwestern state, St. Paul is relatively homogeneous, has a strong economy, and boasts of excellent public schools and generous welfare benefits. The city also has high levels of religious identification, participation, and belief, and a long history of civic participation and public consciousness. In short, St. Paul appears very much like Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegon: a community where everyone...

  8. CHAPTER 3 If You Can Make It There …: The Transition to Adulthood in New York City
    (pp. 106-132)

    If the transition to adulthood in the twenty-first century is marked by delay and diversity of paths, New York is an excellent place to examine these contours. Home to almost 9 million blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, and with more than a third of households headed by someone born outside the United States, by the time of the 2000 Census it was already one of very few cities in which no one ethnic group constitutes a majority of the population. This chapter explores the ways in which young people from different immigrant, racial, and ethnic backgrounds navigate the transition to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Coming of Age in “America’s Finest City”: Transitions to Adulthood Among Children of Immigrants in San Diego
    (pp. 133-168)

    “Coming of age,” a familiar phrase but an elusive process, can mean many things, but fundamentally it connotes the manifold changes that accompany the exit from adolescence and the entry into adult roles and responsibilities. As previous chapters have shown, those changes typically entail status transitions from school to work, from dependence to (relative) independence, from one’s family of origin to the formation of new intimate relationships, notably marriage and parenthood. However it is measured, coming of age is taking longer these days. One reason for the prolongation of the transition to adulthood is the length of time now required...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Becoming Adult: Meanings and Markers for Young Americans
    (pp. 169-190)

    The prior chapters of this book have reinforced the fact that the process of becoming an adult now takes longer, occurs in more varied ways, and for some young people is accompanied by significant uncertainty about the future (see also Settersten and Ray 2010a; Settersten et al. 2005). These changes have also resulted in young people relying more on others, especially their parents, for support along the way. In light of these circumstances, how do young people come to think about themselves as “adults”? This chapter unearths young adults’ perspectives on what adulthood means, what experiences mark its passage, and...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 191-204)

    The narratives that tell the story of becoming an adult in different parts of America were gathered at the dawn of the twenty-first century, after 9/11 but before the invasion of Iraq, and several years before the Great Recession. It has become a cliché to say that 9/11 “changed everything” and that, in terms of an epoch-defining event for America, it ranks alongside the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Certainly the lives of young adults as well as everyone else have changed because of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the...

  12. APPENDIX: Methods
    (pp. 205-224)
  13. References
    (pp. 225-234)
  14. Contributors
    (pp. 235-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-242)