Session 5: Historical Changes in Life Course Patterns. Karl Ulrich Mayer Life Course Research: Theoretical Issues, Empirical Applications and Methodological Problems Sociological Methodology Workshop Series, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan September 20-24, 2004. Outline. Macro-Theory
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Session 5:Historical Changes in Life Course Patterns
Karl Ulrich MayerLife Course Research:Theoretical Issues, Empirical Applications and Methodological ProblemsSociological Methodology Workshop Series, Academia Sinica, Taipei, TaiwanSeptember 20-24, 2004
Historical Changes in Life Course Regimes
The Postindustrial Fairy Tale
The historical contexts of the debate: modernization, post-industrialism, globalization
Concepts for changes in life course patterns
Hypotheses and empirical tests
The German Life History Study: Data
Conclusions: School to Work Nexus
In terms of macrosociological theory, the issue is how different societal systems produce different life courses and how societal change transforms the structure of life courses. Empirically, the issue is how historical and cross-national comparative research can show and test such differences.
The following sequence roughly captures the debate:
That lives have become less predictable, less collectively determined, less stable, less orderly, more flexible, and more individualized has become one of the most commonly accepted self-perceptions of advanced societies. Private lives and family forms are said to have become pluralized, and working lives more unstable, including increased firm and occupational mobility. Education and training are perceived to have become more checkered and the traditional sequence of life stages into education, work and retirement is said to have given way to a de-standardized life course where people go back to education after periods of work, take sabbaticals, change occupations in midlife and combine work and leisure in prolonged transitions to final retirement.
“Pathways have become destandardized and employment careers discontinuous, and the ensuing ‘contingent work life course’ … transforms the relationship between social institutions and life domains of education, work and family. Such transformation loosens the coupling between social structure and work biographies …” (Heinz 2003).
Concepts for Changesin Life Course Patterns
The institutionalization of life courses refers to the process by which normative, legal or organizational rules define the social and temporal organization of human lives. It can refer to stages or states in lives which can be formally or informally decreed like marriage, education and the period of retirement. It can also refer to events and transitions like leaving school, entry into and exits from labor contracts, or ages of pension entitlements.
The standardization of life courses refers to processes by which specific states or events and/or the sequences in which they occur, become more universal for given populations or that their timing becomes more uniform. An example of a highly standardized life course pattern would be, for instance, if all workers would retire and all would retire at age 65.
Differentiation refers to the process where the number of distinct states or stages across the life time increases. For instance, Mayer (1991) has claimed that early life courses become more and more institutionally differentiated, i.e. divided up in more publicly defined and recognized periods like pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, secondary education and tertiary education.
The idea of pluralization (Zapf 1987) has mostly been applied to family forms and refers to the rise of non-marital unions, the increase of persons becoming divorced, increases in the number of single mothers or persons living alone due to divorce or widowhood.
The term individualization is a more interpretative concept according to which individuals are assumed to gain greater control over their lives, thus pursuing a wider variety of life designs and life trajectories. Such a more positive meaning of the concept has in recent years become mixed with notions of involuntary “individualization”, i.e. being condemned to pursue and experience trajectories, which are not collectively well-trodden pathways.
If de-standardization is such a pervasive process as claimed, we should expect:
To corroborate a shift towards much higher flexibility we should expect:
Notes: Source: German Life History Study
Conclusions: School to Work Nexus Transitions
Conclusions: School to Work Nexus Transitions
Conclusion: Caveats Transitions