Labor Market Outcomes and the Transition to Adulthood

June 2010
Sheldon H. Danziger and David Ratner, University of Michigan

This paper focuses on the labor market outcomes that represent a key marker of the transition to adulthood—the attainment of economic stability and self-sufficiency. Achieving labor market success is a necessary condition for a successful transition to adulthood, even it is not sufficient to guarantee success in achieving other markers of adulthood discussed elsewhere in this volume. We document the divergent labor market experiences of young adult males and females over the past 30 years and the widening gap in labor market outcomes between less educated and more educated young adults. For young men, in particular those without a high school degree, it is now more difficult to earn enough to support a family than it was in the mid-1970s. Young women have achieved remarkable gains in earnings, employment and educational attainment since the mid-1970s. However, young women without a college degree, like their male counterparts, have had great difficulty achieving economic stability success.