Class Inequality and the Adult Attainment Project among Middle-Aged Men in the United States, 1980-2010

Jeremy Pais, University of Connecticut

The idea of an adult attainment project (AAP) builds on a literature that examines traditional milestones of adulthood as a series of status attainments. This study treats adult status indicators as parts of a long-term project that is assessed in mid- adulthood (ages 35-45). Several hypotheses guide our expectations concerning class inequality and the changing nature of AAP. Divergence hypotheses maintain that the constraints have gotten disproportionately tougher for those at the bottom of the income distribution, thus creating greater class divergence in the rates of AAP success over time. Alternatively, convergence hypotheses posit that an increasing cultural tolerance for non-traditional family forms and more individualized pathways into adulthood have diminished class distinctions concerning AAP. This study uses factor analytic models with CPS data in conjunction with formal invariance testing to evaluate AAP as a latent construct, and to and provide evidence in support of divergence or convergence hypotheses.

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 Presented in Session P8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality/Gender, Race and Ethnicity