Lifecourse Priorities Among Appalachian Emerging Adults

Revisiting Wallace's Organization of Diversity

Published in: Ethos, v. 37, no. 2, June 2009, p. 225-242

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Ryan Andrew Brown, David H. Rehkopf, William E. Copeland, E. Jane Costello, Carol M. Worthman

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The authors examine how social demographics (gender, age, or race-ethnicity), census tract characteristics, and family environment during childhood relate to variability in the lifecourse priorities of 344 Cherokee and white youth during emerging adulthood (age 19-24). Analyses were performed using recursive partitioning and random forest methods to examine determinants of prioritizing education, family formation, economic establishment, self characteristics and close relationships, youth independence, conspicuous consumption, and community reliance. Overall, characteristics of census tracts were the most common and influential predictors of lifecourse priorities. Childhood family poverty, parental relationship problems, parental crime, and stressful life events were also important predictors. Race-ethnicity or cultural group (Cherokee vs. white), age, and gender were relatively unimportant. At this developmental stage and in this population, community characteristics and childhood family experiences may be better proxies for developmental settings (and resulting enculturated values and preferences) than social demographic variables (e.g., ethnicity or gender).

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