Changing experiences of work

Authored by: Jeylan T. Mortimer

Routledge Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804357
eBook ISBN: 9781315753058
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619895


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Change in the experience of work in youth and young adulthood is tied to broad historical shifts in the transition to adulthood, educational and occupational structures, and the economy. During the past several decades, the process of becoming adult has lengthened with the expansion of higher education. There is no longer a single, well-recognized and institutionalized ‘pathway’ to adulthood. In comparison to prior generations of young people, today’s youth acquire the role markers of adulthood, e.g. finishing school, establishing independent residence, obtaining a full-time job, marriage, and parenthood, in more variable timing and sequence (Shanahan 2000; Eliason et al. 2015). With the contraction of manufacturing in the United States, the decline of well-paying, blue-collar employment makes it no longer feasible for young people to anticipate a middle-class life style with only a high school education. Today’s youth and their parents understand that good, high paying jobs necessitate education beyond high school, and most adolescents aspire to obtain college degrees.

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