Life course dynamics: trajectories and transitions, 1968-1980.

Elder GH Jr
Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1985. 345 p.

This volume represents a 4 year effort by the Committee on Life Course Perspectives on Human Development, part of the Social Science Research Council, to bring a dynamic life course approach to panel data. The topics of the research papers range from micro-level concerns, such as life events and self-efficacy, to larger population issues, such as income distribution and population change. The 1st 2 chapters describe the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the life course approach, providing the necessary background for the 9 essays that follow. 3 developments have converged in studies of life course dynamics: 1) social discontinuities prompted questions about the relationships between the life course, generations, and historical influences; 2) data sources, such as the Michigan Panel, emerged that could be used to study the life course; and 3) new technics of analysis were developed that could be used to study an evolving life course. The Michigan Panel of more than 6000 US families and 20,000 individuals is 1 of the most ambitious panel studies ever begun. Although it was not designed for studying the life course, it has become a national resource on the life course of individuals and families in a troubled period of economic crises and postwar disillusionment. The Michigan Panel tells us about life course dynamics in this period of historical time; this limitation is a "given" for life course analysis. It explains the process of change. Life course dynamics also take place over a relatively long period of time, as well as over a short time period--for example, events and life transitions. Both viewpoints are essential for a complete study of life course development.

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