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Opportunity and Uncertainty

Opportunity and Uncertainty: Life Course Experiences of the Class of '73

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 368
  • Book Info
    Opportunity and Uncertainty
    Book Description:

    Based on the longest-running survey of its kind in Canada, this book examines events in the lives of a generation of Ontario residents who graduated from grade 12 in 1973 and recreates the world in which these high school students faced the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7810-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Walter R. Heinz

    In the last decades of the twentieth century, social commentary often has concentrated on the changing relationship between youth and society: catchwords like ‘Generation X,’ ‘the post-materialistic generation,’ and ‘the individualistic generation’ have become prominent, reflecting changing values and the pluralization of lifestyles. These characterizations of a generation, however, have tended to be misleading generalizations, in the sense ofpars pro totoportraits.

    Opportunity and Uncertainty: Life Course Experiences of the Class of ’73delivers a different message because it redirects youth research by putting it into a life-course framework. It is an important study, based on careful and sensitive...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introducing the Class of ’73
    (pp. 3-11)

    Reviewing the experiences of previous generations of adolescents can help us understand the problems and challenges facing today’s generation of young people as it moves inexorably toward adulthood. This book outlines and analyses the experiences of a group of late ‘baby-boomers’ that was first contacted in 1973 when enrolled in grade 12 classes in different regions of Ontario. Over twenty-two years elapsed between our first survey of these respondents and our last study in 1995. We now refer to this study group affectionately as the ‘Class of ’73.’¹ When we contacted them again in 1995, they were 40 to 42...

  6. Chapter One Navigating the Life Course: School-to-Work Transitions in the 1990s
    (pp. 12-26)

    There is a widely held perception that young people in the 1990s faced a greater degree of early career instability and uncertainty than their counterparts in previous decades (Marquardt, 1998). Statistical studies support these impressions. In 1995 almost 20 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 25 – some 400,000 – were unable to find either full-time or part-time employment (Human Resources Development Canada, 1995). Many of those who were able to find employment found themselves confined to entry-level positions because the competition from older workers for better jobs was so fierce. Since employers gave preference to experienced workers, young...

  7. Chapter Two Setting the Stage: The Past and the Future
    (pp. 27-46)

    What were the key characteristics of the world facing Ontario high school students in the early 1970s? Whether they realized it or not, they were living in a period of significant social change. Born to parents whose own educational opportunities had been constrained by depression and war, young people in Canada were now completing high school and going on to college or university in unprecedented numbers. Staying longer in school meant living most of one’s adolescence in the family home under the ever-watchful eye of parents or guardians. Yet at the same time, in the wake of an unprecedented social...

  8. Chapter Three Educational Pathways
    (pp. 47-82)

    Education is a formative experience for Canadians, as school experiences occupy a significant proportion of the life course. Schooling is also a collective experience, especially at the primary and secondary levels. Classrooms not only develop our skills, knowledge, and intellectual capacities, but also expose us to the wider culture and its value orientations, albeit in competition with other socializing agents such as families, mass media, and religion.

    As children become adolescents and enter secondary school, educational routines change. They must now move between classrooms according to timetables, with each classroom being specifically subject-oriented. Schooling becomes explicitly competitive, and students are...

  9. Chapter Four The World of Employment
    (pp. 83-117)

    The employment world encountered by young people in Canada has changed greatly over the past fifty years (Driver, 1985). In the immediate postwar period, employment was experienced mainly in terms of either a ‘steady state’ career concept, which required a lifelong commitment to a specific field, with little actual job movement (e.g., doctors, clergy), or a ‘linear’ career concept, which was associated with climbing a career ladder through promotion. More recently, a third concept, that of the ‘spiral’ career, has become more predominant in the corporate world. This career track is associated with occupational flexibility; movement is predominantly horizontal, and...

  10. Chapter Five Social, Career, and Geographic Mobility
    (pp. 118-158)

    In a society that promotes the myth of individual success, there is bound to be some curiosity about how people have progressed with their lives, particularly with respect to their jobs and careers. In this chapter we focus on the occupational pathways taken by members of the Class of ’73, noting how their attainments in 1995 compared with those of their fathers.¹ Social mobility refers to the shifts by individuals or groups from one status position to another within a system of social stratification. Sociologists argue that all societies are stratified, meaning that social positions are differentially structured in terms...

  11. Chapter Six The Experiences of First-Generation Canadians
    (pp. 159-188)

    The upward trend in non-British European immigration to Canada began in the 1950s and continued well into the 1970s. During this period immigration to Canada increased dramatically from a low of 73,912 in 1950 to a high of 222,876 in 1967. By 1971 that number had dropped to 125,000 (Richmond and Kalbach, 1980). The steady increase in the number of immigrants to Canada up to 1967 was fuelled by the strongly held belief that immigrants were crucial to the economic growth of the country. In 1967 the federal government dispensed with the preferential categories based on nationality; it also expanded...

  12. Chapter Seven Family Life
    (pp. 189-219)

    During the early 1970s, members of the Class of ’73 were in the process of differentiating and separating themselves from their families of origin, yet they were still dependent on their families in important respects. It was a time of transition, the experience of which was mediated by the positions of individual families in social, economic, and geographical space. As King and Elder (1995) note, a central principle of the life course perspective is that of ‘linked lives,’ through which the values and experiences of different generations are melded in important ways. Thus, the social, economic, and cultural capital that...

  13. Chapter Eight Constructing the Life Course: Five Biographies
    (pp. 220-251)

    To this point we have reviewed a range of issues within a framework that seeks to identify the interplay between structure and agency in the life courses of members of the Class of ’73. We have explored educational pathways after high school; school-to-work transitions; intergenerational and career mobility; the special impact of having been raised by foreign-born rather than Canadian-born parents; and the family experiences of the Class of ’73, both as children and subsequently as parents. Our analysis has addressed their status passages from adolescence to adulthood in terms of two fundamentally important themes: the relationship between social forces...

  14. Chapter Nine Conclusion
    (pp. 252-260)

    The preceding chapters charted the twists and bends in the life course pathways of the Class of ’73 from grade 12 to the leading edge of middle age. The interplay between structure and agency, and between stability and change, was carefully examined as we followed the lives of this baby-boom cohort. We expected that our findings would provide benchmarks for comparing the Class of ’73 with more recent generations. We contend that though transitions from schooling to employment are admittedly more complex, more uncertain, and more nonlinear for contemporary youth than for previous generations, the importance of gender, class, cultural...

  15. Appendix A: Sample Attrition over the Six Phases of the Class of ’73 Study
    (pp. 261-276)
  16. Appendix B: Class of ’73 Project
    (pp. 277-280)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 281-294)
  18. References
    (pp. 295-318)
  19. Index
    (pp. 319-327)